Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Lightning has struck twice for director Jack Heller in the UK, and not necessarily in a good way. Granted, his first two directorial outings HAVE received British distribution, but both have suffered at the hands of cynical title changes. His debut was the excellent Enter Nowhere which I covered in DTV Junkyard 4; an engaging and surprising little feature if ever there was one, complete with a tip of the hat to Rod Serling. Frustrating though, Metrodome saw fit to re-christen it with the yawningly generic The Haunting of Black Wood. Lo and behold, for Heller’s second period in the director’s chair we have a similar situation. The temptingly titled Dark Was the Night, complete with brooding artwork, has become MONSTER HUNTER… yawn. Look past the characterless façade though, and there lies something quite interesting.
Maiden Woods is a remote and quiet town of decent, hard-working people, but something stirs in the dark woods surrounding this isolated community. After a logging company decimates an area of the forest, a rash of increasingly violent and unexplainable events transpire. Sheriff Paul Shields (Kevin Durand) and his deputy (Lukas Haas) struggle to confront their own personal demons, while facing down a new breed of raw terror that is possibly older than humanity itself.
If you’re attracted to renting or buying Monster Hunter in the anticipation of a lame-o CGI-packed SyFy cheese-fest, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The exteriors are shot with a cadaverous level of colour, washed out and bleak, which matches the considered approach of the film. Devoid of humour, except for a moment of brief hysteria during a parent / teacher meeting about the offensive use of the word ‘pecker’, the solemnity of the film cannot be understated. For me though, this is where it succeeds; interweaving the issues of grief, family and separation alongside a police procedural, making it feel a little bit like if James Ellroy did monster movies. How can that not excite you?
It’s so confusing! Tyler Shields gives us Final Girl, Jorg Buttgereit directs a segment called Final Girl for the anthology German Angst, while this week THE FINAL GIRLS drops through the Zombie Hamster mailbox. Damn you Carol Clover! You’d forgive us if our initial reaction wasn’t one of jubilant glee to this case of DTV-déjà vu. Having said that, as soon as ‘from the director of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’ was spied on the artwork, resigned lethargy swiftly turned into a well-founded sense of excitable intrigue.
When Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends reluctantly attend an anniversary screening of Camp Bloodbath, the infamous eighties horror film that starred Max’s late mother (Malin Akerman), they find themselves mysteriously sucked inside the silver screen as fire breaks out across the theatre. They quickly realise that they are actually trapped inside the cult classic, and must team up with the fictional cast to battle the film’s machete-wielding killer. With the body count rising, who will be the final girls left standing and live to escape the surreal environment of schlock hell!
The fact alone that Todd Strauss-Schulson’s film succeeded in playing Bette Davis Eyes multiple times without me wanting to attack the DVD with a sizeable crowbar, should be enough of a compliment to negate any further critical assessment. I’ll press on regardless though, simply because this film was a real blast to watch, in no small part to the excellent Farmiga who is a pleasure to watch, free from the confines of the increasingly tired-looking American Horror Story. The Final Girls could easily have fallen into the trap of a one-trick pony, leaving itself circling the drain with its kooky concept; but it springs vibrantly from scene to scene with an energetic freshness that balances that delicate trifecta of parody, satire and homage perfectly. I noted one IMDb user wrote it’s “what Scream could have been”, which begs the question of whether or not that individual has been committed. However, that does underline the feeling out there for this crazy ninety minutes of fun and bloodletting; it’s not a patch on Wes Craven’s masterpiece, but it can be mentioned in the same sentence… quietly though, and maybe with your hand obscuring your mouth too.