Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

We’re big fans of the Bousman here at Zombie Hamster, and rightly so, for in the last decade the thirty-seven year old filmmaker from Kansas has curated a varied and energetic body of work. From the consistency he brought to three chapters of the Saw franchise, to the operatic wonder of my personal favourite, Repo: The Genetic Opera.

Even when critical success hasn’t been forthcoming with films like The Barrens or 11-11-11, they’ve still retained enough quality to make for an interesting, if flawed, watch. This description seems to apply to his latest film ABATTOIR, which despite aspects of it being maddeningly frustrating, it still remains a feature worth checking out.

When Metro Daily reporter Julia Talben’s sister and nephew are brutally murdered in their suburban home, real estate, crime and family tumble together under the weight of an unimaginable mystery. Joined by detective Declan Grady and plagued by nightmares of her sister, Julia picks up the trail deep into the dark woods of New English, and to a haunted house constructed by a man named Jebediah Crone, a house created from rooms of the deceased.

The concept of a house built from murder rooms is spectacularly unsettling, and that lure of such a bewitching idea certainly holds your attention. There’s plenty else to keep you hooked too, be it the rasping Dayton Callie, creepily resplendent with cane and bowler hat, like an otherworldly Willy Wonka, or the lush press room opening with makes you question whether you might have accidentally slid in Sam Fuller’s Park Row to your DVD player.  

Speaking of which, the straddling of noirish sensibilities with contemporary facets work a little too schizophrenically. It’s a bold move, and one that demands a tip of the hat for its initiative, but on the whole, along with a rather mundane middle third, and a legion of ghosts during the finale that really didn’t work for me, Bousman’s ambition and endeavour falls just short.

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The eagle-eyed DTV connoisseurs among you will have noticed the increasing frequency of ITN Distribution prefixing the credits for a lot of straight-to-video movies. The US sales company seems to have been at the forefront of signing up some of the UK’s smaller labels with a whole host of movies from both ends of the quality spectrum; from the good (ClownTown, Off Piste), to the very, very bad (Werewolf Rising).

THE HAUNTING OF WOODLAND HILLS, or Vacant House as it was previously known, is the latest to be picked up by the agent, with New Horizon distributing it in the UK. Where it sits on that slide rule of success is definitely in the lower reaches, although it’s not without some merit, as we’re introduced to Cameron (co-writer Cris Cunningham), a desperate fugitive on the run who takes refuge in an old, dilapidated house. There he discovers the skeletal remains of Bart, the owner of the house whose death has gone unnoticed for nearly four years.

A promising narrative, albeit one that’s had the usual cosmetic makeover for British DVD market, as it’s been rebranded into some kind of gorefest with the tagline ‘The Hills Have Eyes’. Ironically, Jeremy Casper’s film couldn’t be further from that image as it’s a drama through and through with, dare I say, a Christian theme to it. Forgiveness is central to the picture, enveloped by a storyline that leans heavily on building bridges and the importance of family, not to mention the absence of blood or bad language. For an antitheist such as I, you’d be right to assume it simply wasn’t my bag, but for a project that began shooting in 2008, with three years in production, two years in post and one year on the festival circuit, I’ll give them full marks for tenacity.

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It’s Robert Knepper appreciation week here on Zombie Hamster! In the wake of Matty waxing lyrical on ‘ol T-Bag in his review of Hard Target 2, I have to admit he’s one of the best things about the very average THE BUNKER aka The Hoarder. I must admit I have a real soft spot for Johannes Roberts’ Storage 24, about a group of people trapped in a storage facility who are being stalked by an unknown assailant, so when Matt Winn’s film dropped on the ZH doormat, about a group of people trapped in a storage facility who are being stalked by an unknown assailant, you can imagine my stifled excitement.

In all honesty, I’m being a little overzealous in my criticism there, as there are some notable differences between the two films, with the main one being that The Bunker sees the temporary inhabitants of this cavernous warehouse stalked by a human, as opposed to the slavering creature of Storage 24. Aside from a few of the usual clichés, the script by James Handel (The Last Horror Movie) here is pretty much on point, and there is an appealing assortment of characters played by the likes of Mischa Barton and Emily Atack. There are flashes of a very tidy horror buried deep within owing to some nifty make-up effect, but with its inconsistent pace and a predilection to really drag during a few scenes, it sadly never gains the momentum to really lift you off your seat.

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All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on the 19th September 2016


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