Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

Since Secuestro Express made its DVD debut in late 2006, the past nine years have seen me giving a longing look to my Venezuelan section, populated by that one solitary film. Well now, it can cosy up alongside THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME, a film that claims to be Venezuela’s first horror movie; if that’s so, then I might suggest they produce horror films more often, as this blend of mystery, suspense and intrigue is quite superb.

The film tells the story of Dulce (Ruddy Rodriguez) in 1981, a mother who lives in an old house with her young children and her husband Juan Jose. After terrifying encounters with mysterious apparitions in the dark, the ghost of an old woman leaves Dulce a series of messages warning her that her husband will kill their children. Dulce, desperate, tries her best to avoid this prophecy, however, a terrible tragedy is about to be unleashed. Dulce is sentenced to the maximum penalty of imprisonment for a crime she did not commit. Thirty years later, an elderly Dulce returns home to continue her sentence under house arrest. There, with the help of a Priest, Dulce will struggle to decipher and unravel the mystery that has tormented her for so long.

All of the above occurs within the first fifteen minutes of the film. Whatever you do, be wary of other online reviews, as about fifty percent of the numbnuts have revealed precise details of the plot; while I won’t say there’s a twist, there is more to this flick that initially meets the eye. Needless to say I’ll avoid such spoilers, but I will say that behind the generic DVD artwork hides a lushly atmospheric picture; softly lit, muted colours and a haunting score from Yoncarlos Medina. I’d call it an old fashioned ghost story, albeit with some contemporary characteristics, such as a hint of early Guillermo Del Toro with the vibe of Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone. It’s not perfect; brightly lit exterior shots seem too much in contrast with the grey interior of the house, and Dulce’s make-up to add thirty years to her age is somewhat lacking in credibility. That said, The House at the End of Time holds the record for my number of cuss word utterances in a film this year, it’s a scary little thing, and it comes highly recommended.

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Tony Todd! Angus Scrimm! Linnea Quigley! Brinke Stevens! Bill Moseley! Debbie Rochon! It’s a cast that reads like the guest list of a Horror Convention. It’s also a collection of actors that makes you pine for it to be a well-made production. Director Joe Hollow has used these casting techniques before, with the Scream Queen’s all present in his debut feature Bloodstruck, while his follow up flick The Family saw Kane Hodder, Michael Berryman, and the aforementioned Todd all play a role. ­

I have to confess that the synopsis didn’t exactly sell THE WATCHER to me. It’s one of those intentionally vague descriptions that gives you the impression there’s no clear narrative. A small group of humans and demons prepare for war when an ancient prophecy telling of an angel who will rise to unseat the emperor Lucifer becomes a terrifying reality. As evil grows stronger, alliances are formed and heroes will rise with humanity hanging in the balance.

Any film that starts with a Priest (Tom Lodewyck) inserting his fingers inside Debbie Rochon’s woohoo, only to then taste his blood-soaked digits, certainly piques your interest – if only to ask the question, just what has the luscious Ms. Rochon signed up for. Hollow obviously has a Rolodex crammed with b-movie legends, but The Watcher never achieves the success that should come with such a cast. It’s the simple things where it falls down; a convoluted storyline, too many speaking roles and hammy over-acting. It underlines the fact that you can pack a film with wall to wall schlock-stars, but with no cohesive narrative, such trump cards are largely redundant. For example, Angus Scrimm turns up to rasp his way through some clunky dialogue, but just as you get a little misty eyed at the sight of the sphere chucking legend, he bewilderingly makes a God-awful transformation into a horned devil. For collectors of unintentionally funny dialogue though, nuggets such as this “he ejaculated in the Holy Bible and left. Whatever he wants from you, it cannot be good” might make it worth enduring.

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