Spring Horror Hits and Misses
By Kristin Battestella
Enjoy the spring showers- stay inside and watch horror movies! New treats to enjoy, remakes to skip, monsters to delight. What is this sunlight of which you speaketh?
Outcast – I had to wait a while to finally see this new UK thriller starring a perfectly grizzly James Nesbitt (The Hobbit), the powerfully stern James Cosmo (Braveheart), and a totally wickedly wonderful Kate Dickie (Red Road). Naturally, it will probably be too British in speech and design for some stateside, but the brooding approach and unfolding mystery adds to the creepy. The tight, dark photography is also tough to see at times. However, this askew atmosphere is totally juicy and deceptive when needed. Full nudity and freaky rituals are always good in horror, too. We know something monstery is happening, but the viewer smartly isn’t told exactly what witchy or magic is at play. This isn’t meant to be a complete scare fest so much as complex thriller, but the unknown element is just as jarring for the audience. This unseen, not knowing villainy is actually better than the usual slice and dice contemporary style. Despite some potentially annoying Brit teens, the slightly nasty and fine finale will delight Euro horror fans or any lover of the unique, too weird, or just plain different.
Possessed (2000) – Based on actual events, this slightly elusive Showtime telefilm smartly doesn’t fall into Exorcist before Exorcist was Exorcist trappings as so many in this horror niche do. Yes, there are always the same vomit and demon bed ploys, but the fine poltergeist activity and quiet scares here don’t go over the top with modern saucy and jagged photography. The perfectly damaged, cursing, drinking, needing confessions of his own Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights) carries the focus on introspective brooding with World War II trauma, interdenominational relations and religious politics, segregation, alcoholism, and faith. The weird Piper Laurie (Carrie), serious Henry Czerny (The Tudors), and charismatic Christopher Plummer (Beginners) also lift the pace when the usual annoying creepy kid events enter in. There’s even some unexpected humor thanks to Dalton’s wit, too. These are imperfect priests, fallible men struggling against real frights, and there is no need to flash up the compelling argument of good versus evil with excessive tricks or terrors. The period sixties styles add further dimension as well. Big and reverent Catholic and cathedral designs, suave cars, pillbox hats, duck and cover cartoons- oh how the stuffy old and strict ways cower in the confrontation with demonic profanity! I can even forgive the lack of subtitles here thanks to a neat little interview recalling the original events. This is definitely worth the viewing for exorcism aficionados.
Hard Ride to Hell – There’s little info on this 2010 television movie, but that isn’t too surprising. The weak script is simply too Ride with the Devil wannabe with a one step forward two steps back mentality. Toss in bikers, beer, weird Spanish connections, and 1928 Old West roots and you end up with immortal cannibals biting necks, oh yes! Although there are plenty of guts and gore, nudity, fine isolation scares, weird rituals, and sowing the evil seed/rapacious pregnancies; the Babylon and dark religion/immortality plot is just too dang confusing. It would seem a good premise, but nothing is fulfilled, and the intriguing uses of weapons and fight action do little thanks to over editing and too much intercutting. The on the go close combat filmmaking and contemporary looks are actually not that bad, nor are Laura Mennell (Alphas), Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) and the bemused and slightly warped Brent Stait (Andromeda). Despite some quality sardonics, jefe Miguel Ferrer (Wow, George Clooney’s cousin is in some low budget stuff!) is wasted on too much exposition. Unfortunately, we fall into token black guy trimmings and cell phone horror schemes, too. Flashbacks muddle things instead of explaining, and a mystical underdeveloped twist finale ruins what was mostly relatively realistic action. This was kind of bad, but better than expected, and yet could also have been done damn properly. Sigh.
Night of the Demons (2009)- Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie) leads this direct to video remake along with a not looking too good Edward Furlong (Terminator 2) and a brief Jamie Harris (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Simply put, the chicks here are way too old and trying much too hard to be young and hot college cuties, the toss away nudity is nothing to write home about, and the New Orleans location exists in by being mentioned only. Despite being a short 93 minutes, the silent style attempts, slow motion, warp zooms, and weak supernatural effects are very slow to get going, and none of it looks good. Completely unnecessary music is way too loud, the dialogue is poor, and demon anal sex and girl on girl teases completely cop out. The flashbacks and sepia tone expositions try to be scary but offer nothing new except their own continuity errors. Seriously not even worth the late night dozing.