Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
I’m a little wary about the beatification of horror folk. When DIGGING UP THE MARROW played Frightfest last year, the reaction to Adam Green’s bizarre blend of real-life and fantasy was met with waves of orgasmic glee. Being a curmudgeonly cynic, I genuinely doubted the opinions of my contemporaries. I mean, Green has a damn fine legacy; Spiral, Frozen and the Hatchet trilogy are the crowning achievements of a densely populated CV awash with shorts, TV movies and the series Holliston, but could he really top those?
The genesis of Digging up the Marrow came from two wildly different sources, the first of which dates back to 2010 when Green received a letter that seemed to claim that Victor Crowley – the monster from the Hatchet movies – was actually real. Creatively presented, this notion certainly illuminated a lightbulb inside Green’s head, although colleagues prevented him from travelling to New Orleans for a meeting with the sender, for fear of just how sane he might be! The second event came shortly after this during a convention where Green was approached by artist Alex Pardee, who presented him with a pamphlet entitled Digging up the Marrow. Containing vivid artwork, as well a character called William Dekker, it was the piece of the jigsaw that Green was waiting for.
Green liked the idea of Dekker, a former Boston police detective, but instead of a character who commissions an artist to pain the visons of what he sees, he morphed him into someone who seeks out a horror filmmaker – namely Adam Green himself- to film an underground metropolis of monsters. The film is a really surreal blend of fantasy and reality. We have legions of well-known writers, directors and artists – from Lloyd Kaufman to Tony Todd to Don Coscarelli – all giving their ten cents on the existence of such creatures, then mixed in, we have Adam Green, his wife (at the time), and his cinematographer Will Barratt, all playing themselves as if it was a reality show.
The foil to this charade is Ray Wise, because, well, he’s Ray Wise. He’s superb here; eccentric, secretive and menacing, full of vivid descriptions that segue weirdly into moments of vagueness and confusion. His portrayal of Dekker has more layers than an Eskimo in winter. Therein lies the genius, whereas on paper, the concept of the film sounds ridiculous, in reality it spellbinds you. We consider the idea of monsters and human deformities trawling passageways beneath our feet to be ridiculous, but a look into Wise’s eyes, and with a seemingly invisible swinging pocket watch before our faces, he’s hypnotised us; the clear divide between reality and fiction becomes seamlessly interwoven.
Though Wise rightfully receives a great deal of credit, Adam Green deserves similar plaudits. His infectious enthusiasm carries the film over the hurdles of disbelief. The dialogue between him and Wise has such a relaxed conversational flow to it, with both actors interrupting, talking over each other and ad-libbing. With moments of genius such as a playfully cool cameo from Tom Holland and Mick Garris, as well as a laid back editing room appearance from Kane Hodder, it’s a squealing succession of icon recognition, but above all it’s just an intoxicating piece of originality that dances on the rotting corpse of clichéd horror mockumentaries.
Beginning in 2003, Scare Tactics was a hidden camera show based around typical horror movie scenarios. Running on and off for ten years, and featuring a diverse range of presenters like Stephen Baldwin and Tracy Morgan, it was a ratings hit for the Sci-Fi Channel. HAZARD, out this week from 101 Films, attempts to utilise that format, and include a scenario whereby the set-up turns out to be very real.
For a special behind-the-scenes episode, a group of friends want to set up Jacob (Norbert Velez), a disturbed young man who his having problems adjusting after his father’s death at a chemical factory. Jacob is convinced that the factory is haunted, and now the crew of ‘Scary Antics’ are going to prove him right. However, as everyone is having a good laugh at Jacob’s expense, something is about to go horribly wrong, as the tables are turned and they face the wrath of an axe-wielding maniac.
While this 101 Films release boasts a fine array of cover quotes – from legitimate websites I might add, I notice with head-shaking despair that two of the four websites quoted freely admit they reviewed the film from a screener sent to them by the director herself. Good, honest, full disclosure you might think, well, excuse my cynicism, but most of the flakey bloggers out there crumble into a fawning mess when a mere film company sends a screener. So for the director to wing an advanced copy their way will sadly only take us on a trip down ass-licking avenue.
Hazard is a largely generic affair, choc-full of cartoonish, poorly developed, caricatures of characters who fail to breathe life into a relatively intriguing project. Predominantly a single location film, it’s dependant on the charisma of its cast driving it forward. What worked so well in a similar film like Ghost of Goodnight Lane a few weeks back, is exposed here with its lack of spark and a flat lead in the form of Todd Bruno. Generally speaking though, the rest of the cast are found wanting too; stuck in an enclosed space facing possible death, their emotions are more in tune with the concern of having maybe left their oven on at home when they’ve nipped to the shop.
A weather-beaten actor par excellence, Stephen Rea is that rare commodity in his profession whereby he makes even the most mediocre film bearable. Be it the deeply average The Reaping or William Malone’s turgid Feardotcom, the sight of the Irishman gives you hope of reaching the end credits. The same applies for the good stuff too, which he invariably makes even better, a bracket which certainly applies to OUT OF THE DARK, a surprisingly effective old-school chiller shot in Bogata, Columbia.
When a young family leave their home in the US for South America, to help run the family business, they’re convinced that they are on the verge of a better life. Such hopes of a happy existence are soon cruelly extinguished when they begin to notice strange happenings in their new abode. Determined to get to the cause of supernatural occurrences, sinister secrets hidden beneath the façade of the company come to the fore; secrets that unearth long buried negligence that their peers were determined to keep under wraps.
Style, class and intrigue were admittedly not three adjectives that I envisaged using before taking a look at Out of the Dark. Sneaking onto UK DVD via Entertainment One, Lluis Quilez’ film succeeds in in a low key, old school approach of things that go bump in the night. It’s gorgeously shot by Isaac Vila, and he does everything to capture the beauty of this gorgeous location. Feral children are for me my horror Kryptonite; films like Who Can Kill A Child? and Citadel never cease to run a shiver down my spine, and Out of the Dark further underlines that. The end sequence does sadly enter the realm of the ridiculous, which acts as a bit of downer on a film that genuinely raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Irrespective of any eye-rolling denouement issues though, this is still a recommendable little shocker, with the added bonus of a fist-pumping anti-globalization narrative too.