Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Aside from releasing some of the most drool-inducing special edition Blu-ray’s of a whole host of spectacular cult movies from the last few decades, Scream Factory should also be credited with having a keen eye for a contemporary pick-up. Among their recent output has been The Dead Room, which is undoubtedly one of my favourite DTV’ers of the year, while The Devil’s Dolls (released in the UK as Worry Dolls), and Road Games are also highly desirable acquisitions that show that the L.A based outfit have more strings to their bow than just packing out a classic John Carpenter film with cool artwork and desirable special features.
Chad Archibald’s BITE got its US release back in August, and although the UK version which hits the shelves this week courtesy of Second Sight is sans the special features of the Scream Factory disc, it’s nonetheless a welcome addition to our direct-to-video repertoire. With previous features like The Drownsman under his belt – a film that’s definitely worth a blind buy along with the Troma distributed Kill, it’s Ejecta that really made me pay attention to Archibald’s work. From a script by Pontypool scribe Tony Burgess, it was an awesome piece of lo-fi Sci-fi that I’ve revisited a number of times. It’s with Bite though that the Canadian really hits his stride; this wincingly disgusting slice of Canuxploitation is grimly glorious in its depiction of Casey’s gradual mutation.
While partying on a bachelorette getaway with her friends, bride-to-be Casey is bitten by a mysterious, unseen bug. On returning home, what first appears to be a nasty infection rapidly mutates into something far more sinister as Casey takes on a horrific insect-like-transformation.
Ironically, everything begins so unimaginatively, with a seven minute pre-credit sequence shot on a handheld camera that only manages to yield the impetuous bark of ‘hurry up and get bitten’. It’s a clunky opening, but thankfully it gives way to a commandingly shot feature that briskly sheds its camcorder for Cronenberg as we join Casey in her hellish nightmare. She’s a great character; decent, thoughtful, neighbourly, and someone who’s easy to establish an affinity with, which makes this gradual change all the more effective.
The make-up effects by Jason Derushie are outstanding for the budget he had, and with a resume that boasts excellent Canadian horror fare like Exit Humanity, Septic Man and Hellmouth, it’s clear he’s carving an enviable reputation. While Bite will veer into Marmite territory simply due to its slow build and minimal locations, I found it to be an absorbing horror movie that lets you share the slow, gruelling, physical changes of Casey with vomit-generating candour.
Sticking with our Canadian theme this week is THE EVIL IN US, a fair but flawed feature that recently played at FrightFest. The debut film of Jason William Lee, you have to admit that if movies were judged purely on their opening title sequences, this would be the film of the week without doubt. This lush, blood-soaked, moment of vermillion-coated elegance certainly gets things off to a good start, although the rest of Lee’s picture doesn’t replicate a fraction of this wow factor.
Six school friends meet up for a drug-fuelled Fourth of July weekend on a remote island. What they don’t know is the drug they scored is not what it seems; it’s actually a new bioactive compound peddled by a sadistic right-wing terrorist organisation. Anyone consuming it is then exposed to a virus causing fits of psychotic rage, mind-bending chaos and cannibalistic murder. Only one refused to partake, and now she must fight to survive as everyone around her, tries to savagely kill her.
My issue with The Evil in Us was that despite its admirable political slant on proceedings, there’s just too much here that’s yawningly generic. From the six kids in the middle of nowhere, to the ubiquitous “I’m not getting any signal” moment, its ambition is all too frequently denied by an over- reliance on the usual horror tropes. With a litany of characters that seem to have all the depth of the shallow end of a swimming pool, it’s missing that hook to really absorb you into this precarious situation. Admittedly, come the final third, the sinister undercurrent that’s been bubbling beneath the surface rears its welcome head to good effect, but it only serves to file this movie in the category of a possible rental that won’t live too long in the memory.
Perhaps I’ve had my head buried in the sand, but I have to admit I’ve never come across the notion of ‘Chilewood’, a burgeoning movement of Chile-based filmmakers who are keen to be a force in today’s film industry. One such person is Patricio Valladres, whose latest movie DOWNHILL hits the UK this week courtesy of Matchbox Films.
After his best friend dies in a racing accident, biking star Joe agrees to go back on the wheels for an exhibition in Chile. On a test run with his girlfriend Stephanie, they stumble upon a badly injured man dying from a mysterious virus, which in turn leads to them becoming the target of relentless killers who seem ready to do anything to prevent their secret from leaving the mountains.
Beginning with some nifty handlebar-shot action, accompanied by some cool indie tunes to boot, it’s a pleasing introduction for Downhill, although before you can say BMX Bandits, events take a turn for the humdrum as we spend thirty minutes getting to know Joe (Bryce Draper) and the uber-annoying Stephanie (Natalie Burn) in all her overly-giggly, irritatingly frenzied glory. Thankfully, as hunter versus prey becomes the order of the day, Valladres’ feature becomes a compelling exercise in tension and gore. The chasing pack are led by the menacing Luke Massy, complete with a bevy of eager underlings, and thanks to them any indifference with the first third of the movie is swiftly forgotten, as you endure a bold letter, impact font W.T.F series of events that ensures Downhill a space in your collection.
All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on the 10th October 2016
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