Now that I’ve officially finished watching and reviewing all the After Dark Horrorfest 4 films, I think some accolades are in order! This would be the first year I’ve watched all the respective After Dark Horrorfest films, and what a blast its been. There were dizzying highs, and nauseating lows. Not all the flicks were good… and not all were that bad either (well except for “The Graves” *shudder*). I promise to watch/review all of next year’s Horrorfest entries within one specific month (most likely March or April) instead of spreading them out over several months so that you don’t have to wait for reviews to slowly trickle in.
Now on to the accolades!
In the “best” category, the three nominees are…
In the “worst” category, the three nominees are…
The Graves (2010)
US (dir. Brian Pulido)
Cast: Clare Grant, Jillian Murray, Bill Moseley, Randy Blythe, Tony Todd
Synopsis: Megan and Abby Graves are inseparable sisters that couldn’t be less alike. Megan just graduated ASU with a marketing degree. She’s a self-assured, naturally attractive rock chick with a black belt that she likes to use. Abby just barely graduated high school. She’s a cute, Hot Topic Goth who’s caustic and afraid of her own shadow. They share one thing: a life-long obsession with comics and pop culture. Simply put, they are beautiful geeks. In a few days, Megan will start a new job at in New York. To send her off in style, the sisters go on a wild, pop culture bender that includes a trip to uncharted Arizona in search of a kitschy roadside attraction. Instead, Megan and Abby happen on Skull City Mine, a weather-beaten, abandoned mine town converted into a self-guided tour. But Skull City harbors terrible, vexing secrets. It appears to be haunted. Its caretakers are murderous. Victims’ souls are ripped from their bodies right before their eyes, and that’s only the beginning. When Megan suffers a near mortal wound, Abby must save her sister, but to do so, she must unlock the mystery of Skull City alone. Can Abby defeat the threats of Skull City and rescue Megan or are they doomed like all the other tourists before them?
Review: And at the bottom of the 2010 Afterdark Horrorfest lies this giant turd of a film which I’m most definitely dubbing as worst of Horrorfest 4. “The Graves” is a great example of how amateur directing, a low budget, and one fucking terrible script can combine to create a perfect shit-storm of… well… crap. I have nothing against first-time directors making an attempt to hone their craft with little money to spare, and I certainly have nothing against far-fetched plots in horror movies (because, let’s face it, so many of them are pretty out there), but when blended together into “The Graves”, the results are embarrassingly bad – so bad that I would suggest you stay the hell away from this crap fest and go watch something better.
Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)
US (dir. Kevin Hamedani)
Cast: Ali Hamedani, Bill Johns, Cooper Hopkins, Doug Fahl, Janette Armand, Russell Hodgkinson
Synopsis: Life is wonderful for the people in the quiet, island town of Port Gamble….until a zombie virus outbreak!
Review: “Zombies of Mass Destruction” is likely the only After Dark Horrorfest entry that is almost entirely comedic. As you may have guessed by the title alone, it’s essentially a political comedy with zombies (a zomedy, as the film’s tagline would suggest). A lot of classic zombie movies are emulated in this film, particularly “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Evil Dead”, and much of the comedy stems from post-9/11 American fears. It’s an interesting combination, one that I originally think wouldn’t work (I initially thought the title was a tad silly), but once I saw the movie, I was sold.
Skjult (Hidden) (2009)
Norway (dir. Pål Øie)
Cast: Kristoffer Jone, Anders Danielsen Lie, Karin Park
Synopsis: Painful memories arise when Kai Koss goes back to his childhood home after 19 years and inherits his dead mother’s house.
Review: “Skjult (Hidden)” is another surprisingly great movie out of Norway. Norway now has +2 points when you consider both “Død Snø (Dead Snow)” and now this fabulously surrealistic, and mildly terrifying entry, into the After Dark Horrorfest 4 lineup.
The Final (2010)
US (dir. Joey Stewart)
Cast: Marc Donato, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hoy, Justin Arnold, Travis Tedford
Synopsis: In the remote county of Rocky Branch, Tex., the Workley ranch house would become the infamous scene known internationally on the internet as “The Final.” Dane, an awkward student with a deadly vendetta and suicidal tendencies, leads a group of outcasts who plot to avenge the years of humiliation they faced by the popular students at Hohn High School. Employing ideas inspired both from their classes as well as from horror films they watched, the outcast turn the tables on the popular students who made sport of them. After receiving a lake-house granted to him in his uncle’s will, Dane and his friends, Jack, Ravi, Andy and Emily prepare for a single night that will leave their tormentors scarred for life — physically and emotionally.
Review: “The Final” is a film that takes the taboo topic of school shootings to an extreme level. You ask yourself, what could be the point of a movie that emulates the Columbine tragedy? “The Final” attempts to address that question in 90 minutes, only to conclude that it is better to torture those that anger you and then kill yourself – likely one of the most confusing lessons in morality ever. This is probably the only movie with supposedly heroic killers (killers that you are meant to root for) which actually leads you to empathize more with the victims instead. In the end, “The Final” provides nothing in the way of a good story, a profound life lesson, or an entertaining film. It truly is a waste of time.
UK (dir. Anthony DiBlasi)
Cast: Carl McCrystal, Elissa Dowling, Eva Wyrwal, Hanne Steen, Jackson Rathbone, Jonathan Readwin , Laura Donnelly , Paloma Faith , Shaun Evans , Vivian Gray , Kirean Murphy , Zoe Stollery
Synopsis: The film tells the story of three students who decide to study people’s fears for a video documentary college class. Initially they simply interview their subjects but then one of the students progresses to setting up situations where the subjects are forced to confront their fears.
Review: The idea behind “Dread” captivated my interest almost immediately. I like when films play around with the concept of people’s specific fears, and “Dread” is a movie which does pretty much just that. The film is based on a Clive Barker story, which at first led me to suspect that there would be some sort of supernatural explanation tacked on to the end of the film to explain the preceding events (as was the case with “The Midnight Meat Train”). Fortunately that wasn’t the case. The film is solidly grounded in reality with the exception of certain psychological breakdown parts where characters lose their grip on reality due to past psychological traumas. The movie is well executed and with the exception of a few minor flaws, it’s an entertaining and fairly horrific horror film.
The Reeds (2009)
UK (dir. Nick Cohen)
Cast: Scarlett Alice Johnson, Emma Catherwood, Geoff Bell, Will Mellor, Anna Brewster
Synopsis: In “The Reeds,” a weekend boating trip through the Norfolk Broads becomes a terrifying, deadly ordeal for six 20-something year old friends as they lose their bearings in the vast reedy tidewaters. The hope of survival and chance of escape diminishes as mysterious forces assault the lost and terrified group.
Review: “The Reeds” is a movie that just barely manages to keep its head above the water, so to speak. It has enough suspense and weird supernatural elements to make it better than the substandard crap of this year’s After Dark Horrorfest (i.e. “Kill Theory”) but it’s nowhere near as good or as memorable as some of the better entries (i.e. “Lake Mungo”). Yup, “The Reeds” is definitely in that meh territory I discussed as being the case with “The Hamiltons”; it’s an entry that is essentially in the middle of being good or bad. It’s basically condemned to horror movie purgatory, and that’s unfortunate because these types of films tend to have such great potential but get bogged down by a messy plot, bad acting or poor production.