Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Sigh. It had all started pretty excitingly for the UK arm of long established American distributor TriCoast. First out of the traps was Bernard Rose’s latest Tolstoy adaptation, 2 Jacks, while not far behind it came the cool adventure movie, Treasure of the Black Jaguar, and the Wes Bentley starring 3 Nights in the Desert. Then, mediocrity took over, and following an awful run which contained the dire Toolbox Murders 2 and Guns for Hire, TriCoast have just released a candidate for stinker of the year – DESECRATED.
Allie (Haylie Duff), a rich heiress, head for a weekend of fun with her friends to an isolated ranch house owned by her father (Michael Ironside). However, before they can make the most of the idyllic and remote surroundings, they find themselves hunted and running for their lives when Ben the groundskeeper, a delusional ex-military operative, goes on a gruesome killing spree and begins to take down each member of the party one by one.
From its limp and badly constructed pre-credits sequence, which exhibits all of the planning of a hastily scribbled set-piece on the back of a beer mat, it’s all downhill as we descend into a narrative which is clichéd to the point of remote-hurling disdain. It’s just so badly written, with forthcoming plot developments signposted from miles ahead with as much subtlety as neon billboards with flashing pink arrows pointing to “next victim”, “bad guy” and “red herring”.
Normally in this scenario the presence of veteran character actor Michael Ironside may in some way ease this eighty-two minute migraine, but even the great man himself flails helplessly. In fact, the only person that seems to come out of this with any dignity is Gonzalo Menendez, who, as cartoonish villain Ben, chews scenery with as much relish as a polar bear chowing down on a baby seal, and in doing so adds an ounce of interest to a horror movie that I’ll be doing my utmost to forget about.
It seems like this week is turning into a full on label trashing session! While in the past Zombie Hamster has been quick to criticise 101 Films and 88 Films, they’re both pretty much regarded as Criterion when compared to the jokers at Three Wolves. Redefining the adjective ‘clueless’ in recent years, they’re renowned for releasing thoroughly shoddy Blu-ray’s of classic films like House on Haunted Hill, while also issuing new DTV fare with the wrong synopsis’ on the sleeve. Of late they’re busy repackaging films with new titles barely six months after the original movies release – see Dark by Noon becoming Earth Apocalypse, with NO caveat on the product description to explain it’s a re-release. Bad form.
Every now and then though, a good film does get acquired by them thus twisting our reluctant arms into handing over our cash. Adam Lamas’ Empty Rooms for one is an outstanding indie horror (albeit with the credits for Snow Queen printed on the sleeve), while the latest to be acquired by this label is the newbie from the Rasmussen boys, Shawn and Michael. Perhaps best known for their screenplay for John Carpenter’s The Ward, these siblings also turned in a very decent direct-to-video title back in 2013 with Dark Feed.
THE INHABITANTS sees a young couple get more than they bargained for when they buy a historic bed and breakfast in New England, only to discover that the old house is hiding a dark secret within its walls. Admittedly it’s hardly the scenario that will get you hot-tailing it to your local video store, but what the Rasmussen brothers’ movie lacks in originality, it makes up for in low-budget ingenuity.
Shot on location in one of New England’s oldest properties, which was actually home to some of the Salem Witch Trials’ children, the movie has a great atmosphere throughout. It may not come close to reaching the tension and general acclaim of Ti West’s The Innkeepers, but it sits comfortably in that framework of deliberately paced horror movies.
Filmed using the Canon 7D, a real bonus is the grainy look of the picture, which separates it from the slightly-too-polished appearance of many micro-budgeters, and elicited much head-nodding approval from this critic. Admittedly, The Inhabitants isn’t likely to have you hiding behind the couch in fear, nor will it send you to bed trembling beneath the bed clothes. It is though quite simply a good movie, made for very little, that’s technically sound and will give you eighty-five minutes of well-shot tension mixed with a wee bit of intrigue.