Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Whilst Second Sight burrows away throughout the year working on some very tidy boutique releases, they’re performing a very impressive sleight of hand over at their DTV arm. Over the last few years they’ve managed to subtly acquire a catalogue of impressive low key horror films; Static, Shiver, Lake Mungo and Paranormal Diaries: Clophill have all raised their head above the rather mundane parapet of straight-to-video schlock.
Their latest is THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET, which succeeds quite superbly in surpassing your low expectations caused by its generic title and unrepresentative photo-shopped sleeve. Jennifer (Emily Goss) and her husband Luke (Taylor Bottles) move back to her hometown in the hope of finding a calm environment for the arrival of their new baby. Luke seems to feel he’s found the perfect house, but it’s an opinion that Jennifer doesn’t share, as she feels uneasy and begins to experience strange phenomena. Luke, being the caring and considerate husband that he is, begins to question his wife’s sanity. Is she really going mad, or is there actually something sinister within these four walls?
I really love this type of movie; one that lets us decide our level of fear, free from the cattle-prod direction that dictates when we need to jump, flinch or cover our eyes. The terror here lies in small subtleties and tiny nuances like a discreet knock or a shadowy figure. Nathan Mathew David and Jeremy Lamb’s spine-tingling score accentuates these moments with aplomb, while the scare-fest reaches a satisfying crescendo thanks to some first class stunt work, and a seemingly malleable body double in Kealani Tosh. I’ve not seen anything hit DVD this year that’s much better.
Horror-comedy – not a fusion of genres that particularly oils my gears. There will be the exceptions, such as Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Night of the Creeps, American Werewolf in London and Kerry Prior’s 2009 gem The Revenant, but otherwise I’d rather keep my horror mean-spirited and butt-clenching; a little bit like my personality. Having said that, there were elements of Michael Steves’ CLINGER that had it on the cusp of chipping its way into that hallowed group of pictures, but by the end of its seventy-seven minute run time, it ultimately fell short.
Fern Petersen (Jennifer Laporte) is a driven high school senior who has her life turned upside down when her overly affectionate boyfriend, Robert Klingher (Vincent Martelle), dies in an embarrassing accident. When Robert returns from the dead as a love-sick ghost, he tries to reunite with Fern – only to have his heart broken. As Robert plots to kill Fern so they can be together forever, Fern will have to fight to stay in the world of the living.
Clinger is a really difficult movie to dislike, mainly due to the infectious likeability of the two leads, most notably Martelle who succeeds in being the most puke-inducingly slushy boyfriend you could possibly imagine; his self-penned song ‘Fern, Fern, Fern’ will give you a wrist-slitting bout of earworm. You share this crazy schizophrenic relationship with him, whereby on the one hand his behaviour warrants a severe punch to the nose, yet on the other you feel a nerdy pang of solidarity! If I have to pick fault with Steves’ film, it lies principally in the tone, which I feels veers too far into the teeny realm, especially during the final reel. If it was delicately poised with a darker, perhaps more knowing vibe then it would have endeared itself to me completely. By the time the credits rolled though, I felt more irritated than awash in misty-eyed admiration.
Signature continue their packed 2016 roster this week with AGORAPHOBIA. After the death of her father, agoraphobic Faye (Cassie Scerbo) inherits her childhood home in Florida, moving in to it on the advice of her psychiatrist (Tony Todd). However, she soon realises that all is not as it seems when strange events begin to unfold and she quickly discovers that there is something far more sinister trapped inside the house with her.
“I’m here to get better” utters Faye – a prophetic pronouncement if ever there was one as she endures a prescribed cognitive behavioural treatment. Agoraphobia fits into the frequently used low budget domain of ‘rent a house and craft a story’, and somewhere deep inside this picture is something good. However, it just struggles to get out of second gear until the final third, by which point you think that with a tighter re-write and a rearrangement of the narrative, it had the potential to be a piece of low budget excellence. This is the second time that Lou Simon has featured in DTV Junkyard after the release of Hazard last year, and both movies have many of the same issues. Therefore it seems fitting to end this with the same four words I wrote about Hazard. Good concept, poor execution.
While we’re on the theme of recurring Junkyard appearances, I’ll also welcome back the gruesome twosome of Bart Ruspoli and Freddie Hutton-Mills. After last year’s World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen, their so-so stab at an overcrowded military horror market, they now deliver something far more original in CRYPTIC, which though flawed, does come with a tentative DTV-J seal of approval.
Eight gangsters meet in a crypt under an old church to guard a strange coffin, but none of them seem to know why they are there, or more importantly what’s in the coffin. As the night progresses, old animosities and rivalries flare up, guns are drawn, insults are hurled, and it becomes harder and harder for everyone to stick to their orders . To make matters worse, there’s a rumour going round that a vigilante who has been killing the assorted gentlemen one by one, is actually a vampire.
I really have an unrelenting adoration for one location movies, but then also I’m fully aware of their marmite nature. Their success is rooted in the writing, and for the most part, that’s where Cryptic succeeds, striking a pleasing balance between witty dialogue and well-edited exposition. Ed Stoppard as the unflappably measured Steve Stevens is a standout performer among the ensemble cast, although Ben Shafik as Walter the posh boy heroin addict with the hyphenated surname is beyond cool. Despite the occasional wince-inducing movie reference – “This is like that film. What’s it called? Something Dogs?”, and a running time that should perhaps be a little trimmer, Cryptic builds to a very satisfying conclusion and offers the bottom shelf some much needed originality.