Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
With our supermarkets laced with campylobacter infected chickens, those bottom-shelf schlock-fests that ooze out undetected into the retail charts should really be the least of our worries. Having said that, it is alarming just how many features barely register on the radar of forthcoming attractions. It’s a common feature of many DTV horrors. They either seem awash with a nauseating level of positive publicity from screener-lubricated bloggers, or they just stumble out unexpectedly like those kittens your cat had, but you just thought she was over-eating. With THE HAUNTING OF GOODNIGHT LANE there’s little press or promo, aside from a rarely updated Facebook page, and a three year-old, fifty five second YouTube production update. The director is Alin Bijan, whose most notable entry on his IMDb page is the Chuck Norris and son, Christianity-tinged horror flick, Bells of Innocence.
Formerly The Ghost of Goodnight Lane, this Second Sight distributed piece of direct to video, centres around the cast and crew of a film working in a newly converted production studio. One morning they’re shocked to find one of their colleagues dead. They soon discover they have disturbed the tortured soul of a young girl who suffered a horrifying fate in the house forty years earlier. Unable to escape, they are soon at the mercy of an unholy presence in a chilling tale of the supernatural.
Billy Zane. Billy… Billy… Zane. He was in Titanic you know, and look at him now, drowning in a sea of DTV purgatory with not even a rubber ring to cling onto. Why is it that EVERY review of EVERY Billy Zane film mercilessly drags up his appearance in that godforsaken James Cameron behemoth. Poor guy. I really like him, so much so that if he’s in a flick, I’ll make sure I give it a spin. You should too, as you might discover something amazing like John Kalangis’ The Mad or Mark Jones’ very passable Scorned.
The Haunting of Goodnight Lane begins with little originality and huge dollops of predictability, which if anything, should cement the gut feelings you had when you took it to the checkout after that impulse pick-up. Having said that, it’s a schlocky-horror that really does grow on you, albeit with an ill-defined tone which occasionally borders on parody. It’s Zane’s film – even above performances from Danielle Harris and Lacey Chabert ; his dry wit and ironic tones suit the film to the tee, and he seems to revel in the idiocy of it all. It gets a little CGI-heavy during the final third, but there’s some inventive on-screen kills, and a doll sequence Charles Band would be stoked with. Bijan’s film doesn’t exactly surpass Scream 3 for film studio based horror frights, but it does benefit immeasurably from low expectations to register as a gratifying cheapy.
The name of Brit-based DVD label Three Wolves on a forthcoming title tends to instil a feeling of overwhelming dread. This social media averse company have recently attempted to enter the boutique Blu-ray business with alarmingly awful results – a terrible release of William Malone’s The House on Haunted Hill, with a jittery subpar picture and Dolby Digital sound as opposed to the advertised DTS HD 5.1 stands out. Meanwhile their DTV releases are renowned for staggeringly unrepresentative sleeves and woeful title changes; Texas Roadside Massacre was a notable miscreant, as apart from not being set in Texas, it lacked the chainsaw that the cover image promised, while also showcasing a woefully bogus cover quote.
Their latest release, THE CUTTING ROOM, is thankfully slightly less contentious. However, the DVD case does boast the quote of “Terrifying… with a truly shocking finale”, from Chris Summers – BBC Entertainment. Presumably that’s the same Chris Summers who was a crime, and later a current affairs journalist, who has now left the corporation. Ah well, I fully expect the next DTV horror to have “scared the crap out of me” – Nick Robinson, or I’ll be gravely disappointed.
One more thing, and this is a massive bug bear for me, and that’s the manipulation of Amazon reviews. Currently, MORE people have awarded this micro-budget flick five stars on Amazon, than have rated it on IMDb. Twenty-five people. TWENTY FIVE maximum scores. It doesn’t take a genius to dig a little and discover that the majority of these top marks have been awarded by folk who have never in their lives felt compelled to review ANYTHING on Amazon. “Watch it with the lights on”, says Robert Woods. “What an amazing twist”, says Dani M. “Tense, brutal and harrowing” says Neil. “It’s very fishy, and to me it stinks”, says Dave Wain.
To the film, and warm applause is warranted for a great soundtrack during the first ten minutes, with a retro 1930s number, followed by ‘Dickhead’ by Maids of Ace. I wish more indie films would use local bands for their flicks, as it’s relatively kind on budget, and it gives it a really professional edge. For the handheld camera averse among you, we are in that territory for Warren Dudley’s film, but it’s a good opening third, where Jess (Lydia Orange), Charlie (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) and Raz (the very impressive Parry Glasspool) mould their Media Studies project around the subject of cyberbullying. Irrespective of how likeable our investigatory threesome is, it does lack the necessary intrigue to make it truly compelling. The final segment of the film descends into generic shakily-shot nocturnal terror, along with raised voices and over emotional outpourings, and it’s with an element of frustration that it chooses to go in this direction. With a concept rooted in realism, the potential was there for something memorable, but alas it’s found wanting.