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The Box Set Project

From Within

box8filmsimages4From Within starts off with a bang!  With blood and death and pervasive shadows it hits the ground running. In a small religious town, suicides start to break out and yet, one has to wonder if that’s what’s really going on.

We don’t get our first monster in till the half hour mark, but when we do – it’s a doozy. As we continue on, the local town begin to suspect a curse has been laid by the local village witch– she was murdered before the movie begins, But her, children remain.

In a last ditch effort to reverse the curse, the witches son grabs the local pastors daughter to search for the witches last grimoire, but will it be enough?

Despite being wonderfully creepy, I can’t stand behind this one. The film bothers me in its portrayal of Christians in a very red state in a very Hollywood stereotypical display.  I’m never a fan of these sort caricatures, and I get the feeling that someone has an axe to grind. The betrayal of the wiccans isn’t any more accurate, it’s very Hollywood magic. All around it gets up my nose enough to make me pass on this one.

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Dying Breed

box8filmsindexDying breed start interestingly enough with a history lesson, escape, and a beast. It’s definitely trying to get on my good side with the copious amounts of blood, although the CG wolf could’ve been better done.

Fast forward to modern day on an airplane. We’ve got attractive young people heading to an exotic destination – in this case Tasmania – and children creepily recitng nursery rhymes on the trip there. We also get a couple of flashbacks which make it feel very much like this is going to be a beast movie… or is it a backwoods movie with a beastial flavour? Interesting idea, considering Tasmania is not usually thought of as a lost or hidden environment. It’s treated as a mysterious backwater, highlighting the more grimey elements of Australia. Wood walls and Sheetmetal… It’s not that we generally expect from ozploitation.

images2They stay the night at a local pub, and I kind of feel bad when they leave in the morning – the colourful locals are one of the best parts of this movie. Indeed, the standard issue ominous little kid shows up 15 minutes into the movie and you know things are about to go down.

The third act begins slowly. It’s not that it drags, but rather it’s deliberate. I’m not in entirely certain what or who is stalking our group, all I know is that it’s hungry. It’s still 2008, so remember we’re going to get some tortured porn, but it’s tasteful – it’s Texas Chainsaw meets Saw. Indeed, watching this I’m pretty sure the filmmakers have read Jack Ketchum’s books.

imagesAt the end of the day, it’s not the sort of movie that I should like – but the setting and the cast elevated to the point of being something I really enjoy. I’m not certain that I’d ever bother to watch again, but I’m glad I saw it. It’s a sort of movie where if it shows up in the middle of a film festival, say a surprise act of sorts, I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.


Voices

box8filmsindexWe get some j horror up next with voices. It has a strong opening that makes me think of poltergeist with more blood and is a good way to wash the taste of the last horrorfest movie out of my mouth. We head directly to a Japanese high school, complete with all the stereotypes you can expect from one of these films. There is a wedding coming up this weekend. Well there WAS a wedding, until the bride jumped off the balcony and slammed into the floor.

I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m still engaged – in no small part because I wanna get to that scene I witnessed at the beginning. Besides, the hospital the bride is being treated in is incredibly creepy in a ghost story kind of way… and what happens next is quite bloody.

Indeed, Voices is full of brilliant bloody imagery, creepy dream sequences and moves at a nicely quick pace, maybe too quickly as I sometimes give confused as to what was going on.  I’m not sure if the schoolgirl main character is cursed or haunted here, but it’s certainly never drags.

All around our ingenue, people are dying or trying to kill her as she searches for answers. For someone familiar with anime or Japanese film, this movie is comfort food. Everything, the themes, characters, all of it is very familiar. That’s not a bad thing by the way, it’s everything I want from a horror film. Its supernatural with blood and character. Indeed, it’s exactly the sort of thing that made J horror popular in the early to thousands – and I imagine of all the films in this set, this is the ne I’m most likely to revisit!


Backwater

bannerpdindex.jpgBack water starts up with happy music and a happy couple heading into the woods. That shaky cam look is immediately putting me off

It’s weird, I almost get a “Blair Witch” vibe  with the shaky camera, forest and the strange voices coming from the woods. Indeed, when the couple gets attacked in their tent it’s very on the nose. We are left wondering, what’s going on? Is it the creepy fisherman or the suspicious policeman? Are they McGuffins? The first act of the film seriously seeks to keep you off balance, wondering what kind of movie it is.

It’s a very smart personal story being told here, and red herrings do not surprise me one bit. It’s really attempting to draw horror from this young couple being terrorized through the night… until the third act twist, when survival horror turns into a whole other kind of survival horror.

I really don’t want to give anything more away, because this film is not what it seems and its worth watching just for that. It’s not the best movie in this set, but it’s definitely worth a try for something different.

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Pelt

bannerpdindex.jpgPelt lifts it’s intro directly from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, right down to the sound of the photographs. This way we know what kind of film we are getting into before it quickly transitions over to the local bar. A group of party girls and their boyfriends plan a backpacking trip (and getting on the wrong side of the local bikers) following a trail which of course takes the least traveled route… Easier to get them lost, you know? The trail they’re looking for however, goes through private property (That’s what we call foreshadowing).

Once they set up camp for the night, hijinks ensue. The killing starts just before the half hour mark.

The comparison is to TCM aren’t unwarranted though, it’s redneck horror with some images1.jpgscattered influences. The moment one of the girls crashes through a window to escape the killer once again reminds me a lot of TCM – though they take it even further with a glass gag that will make you squirm in your seat. Indeed, there are more than a couple of cringeworthy snares built-in to this film, gore that isn’t cartoonish like “Hatchet”, But crueler and more uncomfortable like in “Saw. For instance, the actual “Pelt” scenes again feel like TCM to me, but cranked up to 11.

images3.jpgPelt maybe derivative, but overall it’s good solid bloody fun. It’s worth a spin on Netflix, might even be worth buying this set for!


The Sacred

bannerpdindexThe Sacred tries to creep us out  right from the beginning, with imagery of spiders and blood and eyes over the credits before dropping us into 1709 and Indian (they say Native American, but they sure look Inuit to me) ceremony hosted by a high priest with cockroaches in his being. The creatures that come from the human sacrifice ramp up the creep factor with a satisfying amount of blood before blasting us back into the present day

A group of geology students sail into the wilderness, guided by a mysterious stranger (The doomsayer that’s in evey slasher film). At this point if feels very “Creature From the Black Lagoon”, but I suspect there’s no monsters here – just ghosts. Indeed, upon finding a totem pole, there are strange voices to be heard in the distance.

Creepy things start to happen once they arrive at their cabin. They discover their grounds were a place of judgement, and execution – they’re not the first to come here, but index2.jpgthe last group didn’t leave alive. The land remembers, the land haunts and the land kills.

The Sacred is haunting and creepy and beautifully executed – one of the best films in the set. They’re proficient with the gore but don’t over use it. The film relies more on atmosphere to support some really well done kills and creature effects. I’m overwhelmingly impressed with how well directed and shot the film is – it may not be original material, but they play in this familiar sandbox really well, and the bloody antagonists of the climax to the entire film justice. This movie alone it’s worth the price of admission and a great reason to buy this collection.


The Lights

bannerpdMV5BMTUwNjY0NDg4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTc4NjcyMw@@._V1_UY268_CR8,0,182,268_AL_.jpgThe fact that the lights opens with credit in a font that I recognize dismays me a little bit. It’s still keeping with the backwood theme of this set, a dead cow in the grass, and woodland countryside all around with mountains in the distance. The heavy metal music that plays over the post credits baseball game seems out of place though.

We finally get the movie started about 10 minutes in, with a group of twenty somethings on their way to the woods to see the meteor shower. By the time the Jehovah’s Witnesses arrive, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what kind of film this is. It’s a lightly cracked redneck killing intruders in his woods. (or more specifically, anyone who knocks on his door). There’s some clumsily interjected lore about mysterious lights that might drive someone mad but it’s not well explained.

This film is full of weird filler, Like our characters pulling off the side of the road to pet ponies or swim in the creek with soft music overdubbed. It’s weird because a movie like this that’s under 90 minutes shouldn’t actually need filler material. It’s a clumsy attempt to build empathy with our group, but it comes off more as a bunch of cheesy 80’s montages.

At 54 minutes in, things finally start to happen – it’s still slow, but at least the story progresses. I make a point to slog it through to the third act of most horror movies because even if nothing else happens to the entire film, the third act usually picks up. Not so much here. The movie dosen’t really get too much of a climax until the last 10 minutes as our protagonists are slowly dispatched one by one.

There are some decent kills in concepts at play here, but ultimately “The Lights” fails to satisfy. More world building and more competent character development would’ve gone a long way towards salvaging this film.


Monsters in the Woods

bannerpdMV5BNjU2OTA3NDM0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjkyNTA1Nw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,777,1000_AL_Monsters in the woods starts off playing to the stereotypes hard. A couple going at it in a tent are murdered bloodily by a masked killer. But almost immediately they turn the tables and go meta, revealing that this is actually a scene in a horror movie being filmed.

I was surprised to see the familiar face of Glenn Plummer. He’s a marvelous actor that I remember fondly frm Strange Days, Showgirls and even a spot on the fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He plays angry well. He’s got a powerful personality and is such a good actor that I wonder why exactly he’s in this movie. But he seriously lends some credibility to what is otherwise a very cheap looking film.

There’s a lot of footage that is all over the place, but it’s trying to be found footage, done as the behind the scenes documentary on this movie set (I use the term “set” lightly since we’re in the woods). The first act drags as they go through the more technical aspects of movie making and set politics.

Right around the thirty minuet mark, the first body shows up, but it’s apropos of nothing as we’ve been given no context. Are  the woods haunted? Is there a psycho crew member (It IS a colorful bunch). The whole “Camera shakes and drops” followed by a dead body dropping into frame gag gets old really quick.

Ultimately it’s attempt to switch between meta and Found Footage detracts from what might be a decent film. Put it on in the background and do something else. It’s not bad, but it dosen’t exactly stand out.


The Lake on Clinton Road

bannerpdMV5BZjExYWQ3Y2QtMmM2Mi00YmI1LWI1ZWUtODk0MGM2ODljYThiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUzMzMwMjE@._V1_UY268_CR44,0,182,268_AL_We start out in a police interrogation room with a woman being questioned about her drowning her son. A glass of water tips in front of her and she goes NUTS, screaming “He’s not dead!”

We dive into credits overlayed on news articles about haunting in Clinton road and the nearby lake and the scene is set. Once we ull out of the credits (complete with the eye rolling addition of “Based on true events”) we dive into the story proper, discovering that the whole interrogation was part of a TV show. We’re then introduced to a bunch of 20-something CW types on a road trip, goofing off in a mini van, in the woods, in the cabin all with the same annoying synthpop running over it. (Could be worse. It could be metal).

Thre’s a half hour of this before we even get a glimpse of creepy. But once you see it, you know exactly who’s going to be heading off on tonight’s killing spree. They get some credit for trying to haunt us a bit before peole start going missing. However, the Grudge, this ain’t and the flat lighting seriously undercuts the fright factor. Even the strobe lit finale is overexposed. The ghosts, or whatever they are, just aren’t that scary, though a number of the haunting effects are quite clever and the use of sped up frames is quite effective.

I really like what they are trying to do here, but the film lacks the necessary tension to make a capable use of it’s fun effects and decent story. Maybe crank up  the contrast on your TV before watching. It’s worth a view, and is the kind of movie that would kill on the festival circuit.


Pretty Dead

bannerpdPretty-Dead-2013Sound mix guys. Say it with me. SOUND. MIX. Boom mic good. built-in camera mic bad.

The movie starts of with a very strong scene explaining the concept. Gun in her hand, our main character declares “I don’t want to be a monster. I don’t want to be an experiment. I’m dead already, I’m just having trouble lying down.” We shift to an interrogation scene in a hospital with the girl in much worse looking shape than what we saw previously…and then we shift into a full on found footage movie (but you know, with a musical soundtrack).

I feel like I’ve been bait and switched.

It actually ends up being a mix of found footage with cuts back to the interview for the main character to narrate the other scenes. She documents the changes in her appetite for medical waste, lack of sleep and super healing.

vlcsnap-2018-11-21-10h40m20s612There’s actually a good story somewhere in here, tying the idea to the “Killer fungus” that kills insects – a news story that was hot a few years ago and all over Facebook. The mix of documentary and found footage reminds me a bit of the “I Zombie” movie that Fangoria put out about 20 years ago. The director makes excellent use of stock footage and filters, but the whole thing is drug down by a the low production values that have been ineffectively put together and make it difficult to get through. I think I want a do-over on this one. I’d really like to see these film makers come back with a little more experience, and see this film done with a little more finesse.