Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Released in 2010 The Ford Brothers’ movie The Dead wowed us with its African setting, while also managing to offer a flesh-eating reminder of classic zombie pictures of old. Unlike the conveyor belt of cash-in’s made during this undead renaissance, the Ford’s movie has an intelligence about it; a measured, thoughtful film, it was the antithesis of something like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Shot for the miniscule budget of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, its visual prowess – it’s shot on 35mm – belies its small scale expenditure, an aspect that wasn’t lost on critics and viewers alike who praised its ingenuity and the desire to bring something original to a tired genre.
For the sequel, the location is India, as the infectious epidemic continues its rapid spread across the globe. An American turbine engineer, Nicholas Burton (Joseph Millson), learns that his pregnant girlfriend is trapped in her home in Mumbai with baying hordes of zombies stalking the nearby streets. On hearing this, Burton decides that must make the three hundred mile trip across a barren wasteland of the undead to rescue her.
The director’s chose to not to carry the story on from the first film, thus meaning you can dive straight into the second. One thing they do carry into the THE DEAD 2 however, are the aspects which made the original so successful, such as the desire to use local actors and naturalistic settings. You have to hand it to the Ford’s for sticking so resolutely to what made the first film so amazing. So many times in horror we’ve seen filmmakers kowtow to the money men in order to greenlight a sequel, as we watch innovation replaced with a generic blandness. There is a slight lean towards the mainstream at times, but generally they’ve kept to the single-minded ambition of the first.
Jaw-dropping vistas, the genuine embrace of a different culture, and such vibrant locations as Delhi and Mumbai, pitch perfectly alongside the cleverly simplistic narrative of The Dead 2. It leaves you wanting a third film for the franchise, yet at the same time it doesn’t. So much of the Ford brothers’ career has been taken up with these films, it’d be interesting to see what they could turn their hand to next. Then again, after Africa and India, I wouldn’t refuse an Antarctica-based end to the trilogy!
Does anyone remember The Slaughter from 2006? I’m sensing silence here! Well, it was one of the last horror flicks that much maligned schlock-merchants Third Millennium put out before their sad demise twelve months later in a sea of MILF-related softcore mediocrity. Granted, it wasn’t one to savour, but shot for twenty five thousand dollars, it did offer up a slice of eighteen certificated low budget carnage to us UK folk, and it also introduced us to director Jay Lee.
Admittedly we’ve seen little of his work since 2008’s Zombie Strippers! with Robert Englund, but here he teams up with Jim Roof to co-direct THE HOUSE WITH 100 EYES. Roof has primarily plied his trade as an actor over the last few years, although the formation of his own production company has seen his name appear on films such as Adam Lamas’ superb Empty Rooms.
Ed (Roof) and Susan (Shannon Malone) seem to be a typical married couple, living in a typical middle class home. Behind the façade of conformity though, there’s nothing typical about the couple or their house. The House with 100 Eyes chronicles Ed and Susan’s attempt to make the ultimate snuff film, complete with behind the scenes footage, director’s commentary, and all other requisite DVD features! All of the former are of course in addition to the main feature – three victims, three murders, all in one night.
I have to admit I elicit a weary sigh of resignation at the prospect of watching anything snuff-themed. Of late it’s just been an excuse to lay on lashings of misogyny coupled with tiresome gore effects. The last film that piqued my interest on the theme was Bernard Rose’s Snuff Movie back in 2005, but even that wasn’t without its flaws. So what do we have here? Well, surprisingly, and defying all expectations, we have something worth recommending.
Roof is the star here. When he first appears on camera we catch sight of this over-enthusiastic guy in a pork pie hat; his demeanour barely suggests the horrors that he’s capable of. It’s this sinisterly cheerful appearance that makes his moments of barbaric behaviour all the more devastating. Malone ably compliments him as Susan; she’s a complex character, with Betty Crocker-esque mannerisms, yet fully complicit in her husband’s actions.
There’s so many aspects to The House with 100 Eyes that make it compelling viewing, be it the way the pair stalk the streets doing their ‘casting’ as they call it, or the sight of Ed masturbating to DVDs of his former victims being tortured. Alas, we’re left with no real idea as to WHY Ed and Susan are caught up in this unrelentingly bizarre lifestyle, but fortunately for Roof and Lee, the film captures your attention to a degree that renders such background extraneous.