Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
If there’s a consistent thread that can be applied to the Blumhouse produced features that have hit DVD in the last year, it’s their unwavering mediocrity. The Gallows, The Lazarus Effect and Mercy have been notable only for their total lack of distinction, while the less said about their Martyrs remake the better. It came as some surprise therefore to discover that CURVE, their latest to grace the UK DTV market is actually pretty good, although perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser seems to be the absence of Iain Softley in any of the promo material. If I had the director of Hackers and The Skeleton Key shooting my new film, I’d be keen to draw attention to that.
Julianne Hough stars as Mallory, a young bride-to-be who deliberately crashes her car off a deserted highway in an attempt to escape from a charming, predatory hitchhiker, played by Teddy Sears. When the plan backfires, trapping her in an overturned vehicle, she is forced to defend herself against a terrorising and relentless psychopath.
Mention the words hitchhiker and horror movie to any genre aficionado, and there’s one film that sets the bar very high. Indeed, Richard Franklin’s Roadgames is practically impossible to eclipse! There is that Rutger Hauer thing of course, but for me that desolated slice of Ozsploitation wins every time! Curve of course falls significantly short of that standard, but with its gorgeous opening vistas, and relentless repetition of Listen to Your Heart by Roxette, it did a damn fine job of bewitching me with its charms.
The crux of the film lies in your tolerance of claustrophobic scenarios. Mallory is trapped in the car for a significant portion of the picture, and we’re with her the whole time. As with Rodrigo Cortes’ Buried and Gabe Torres’ Brake, Softley is wise to the potential stagnancy of this scenario, and keeps things perspiringly tense as if moves deftly from kidnap, to survival to potential retribution. Curve has all the hallmarks of that forgotten DTV’er; the mid-budget nail-biter that dominated the video store in the nineties. A characteristic it should celebrate.
There’s something quite endearing about an IMDb user who writes, “I only created this account with the sole intention of reviewing this film. If I could give it zero stars I would”. While it’s frightening that someone can hate a low budget feature with this level of ferocity, you do have to wonder just how many films people like this guy get around to watching, as to be honest, THE BUTCHER OF LOUISIANA isn’t all that bad.
The story centres around Jesse, a seemingly ordinary boy who was branded ‘The Butcher’ after he committed a gruesome series of murders. Following his imprisonment and subsequent execution on death row, Kate, the boy’s mother, is determined to prove her sons innocence. She alleges that he wasn’t an insane, cold-blooded killer, but was in actual fact possessed by a terrifying demon. Inviting a TV crew into her home, they begin to document the exceptionally strange happenings that she warns of.
Presenting itself initially as an exercise in standard found footage, Paul Catalanotto’s film, also known as Proof of the Devil, throws some black and white sequences into the mix to flirt to exert a little artistic sensibility, which pays off quite nicely. Despite its predictable themes of exorcism and possession, credit has to be given for its whacked-out narrative which flies in the face of low-rent, uninspired dreariness to create something that must be praised for straying from an oh-so-tired formula. True, this micro-budget endeavour won’t be giving any SAG voters sleepless nights, nor will it elicit sweeping romanticised retrospectives ten years from now. It’s passable, schlocky entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
All home entertainment artwork has forever contained a ‘caveat emptor’ watermark since the dawn of VHS. The whole point of funky artwork for trashy DTV movies is to weave a spell of expediency in order to sell more units, and JACOB certainly falls comfortably into that bracket with its eye-catching, axe-wielding, dungaree-wearing hulk adorning the box.
In the small Texas town of Melvin Falls lives lonely and disturbed Jacob Kell. He loves his little sister more than anything on earth, but when an unexpected tragedy strikes, tearing her away from him, it tips his whole world upside down. As Jacob retaliates, it soon becomes apparent that there is an evil contained within him, as anyone who crosses his path soon learns that there is no limit to his brutality.
Earning the dubious accolade of being the first of today’s DTV flicks to hit eBay post-viewing, Jacob never really builds any momentum to pull you out of a badly-postured slumber to the edge of your sofa. Despite its Midwest setting, it rarely harnesses that hicksploitative aspect to get under your skin, instead meandering through its first few reels with a laboured narrative. While credit must be given for its clever flashback aspect, the menacing figure of the titular character rarely enters the realm of iconic horror villain, instead becoming all too forgettable.