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Pretty Dead

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.

 

 


Bunnyman

bannerpdindexBunnyman starts with a low res shot on video bit featuring a girl running from the house and getting murdered. It’s very reminiscent of Texas chainsaw massacre actually, fortunately it’s just the appetizer and the rest of the film is done with a higher quality video. It opens with a girl stuck in a refrigerator and once again, running from something – it’s a weird enough opening to grab your attention and steel you for what comes next

We get some kids on a road trip, who managed to anger the large truck behind them. It’s not a promising beginning and I feel like I’ve seen this before too many times already.

The truck driver begins to stalk them, and action made all the more ominous by the brief glimpse we see of the fur covered hand inside the trucks cab. By the way, the girl we saw running earlier? She is in the back of the truck and about to be chained to a tree.

Eventually the images2kids are run off the road and the Bunnyman continues on to his evil deeds. We’re treated to some excellent gore. It’s our first glimpse of the bunny man, and he won’t be back though until the 50 minute mark.

The kids travel on foot, looking for help, and as the night wears on, things get dire and ominous. It’s a slow strech – not a slow burn, just a middle section that drags. However, when the Bunnyman shows back up and the stalking begins things ramp right back up.

I kind of wonder if there just wasn’t enough in this movie for a full feature. Seriously, imagesthis may have been better off as just a short. The suit is too stark, though it provides a surreal image on occasion and that helps. Still, the film feels weak, and I’d kind of like to see it redone with more care and gore.

Wait, what? What do you mean they made two more of theses things?

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