Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Do we talk about The Collector and its sequel enough? That lean, efficient horror twosome with some badass make-up from Gary J. Tunnicliffe. I’m not sure we do, and the same applies to its writer-director, Marcus Dunstan, who during the last decade has scripted three Saw movies, three Feast movies, and a Piranha sequel to boot. His latest feature, THE NEIGHBOUR, reunites him with Josh Stewart, whose decent directorial debut I covered a few weeks back in the pages of DTV Junkyard.
Set in Cutter, Mississippi, Dunstan’s film follows two small-time drug-traffickers, John (Josh Stewart) and Rosie (Alex Essoe), who operate a weigh station next door to their creepy neighbour, Troy (Bill Engvall), a widower struggling to raise his two sons. Planning to leave their dark career behind, John and Rosie decide to double-cross their boss, but when John returns home after getting hold of enough getaway cash, he finds Rosie missing. Seeing her telescope pointing at their neighbour’s farmhouse, he elects to investigate, and in doing so uncovers a terrifying secret…
John and Rosie are far-removed from your typical protagonists in your usual horror movie; flawed and relatively unlikeable, they do though yearn for a path of redemption out of their cycle of criminality. Besides, with Troy in the mix, The Neighbour is simply a case of rooting for the lesser of two evils – and Troy is one sadistic mofo, in what’s a superbly nuanced performance from Engvall.
An unhurried start to the picture gives it plenty of room to breathe, as well as a good opportunity for some tightly-constructed exposition. It reaps the benefit too, as the sequence where Troy introduces himself in our young couple’s home in the wake of some wheelie bin etiquette from John is handled deliciously.
The second half of The Neighbour does take the path most travelled, but, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s done with such crisp ‘R-rated’ vigour, blended with some full-on Robert Kurtzman FX, that it’s a real humdinger of a last act. Dunstan’s film may not win a prize for originality, but as a tightly-weaved eighty minutes of top-end horror, it’s an excellent piece of entertainment.
Years ago, I’d be quite vocal about my disdain of remakes. I used to take it as a personal slight upon my teenage memories. But, I think as you get older you begin to realise that it doesn’t really matter. A remake doesn’t eradicate the original; Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters still exists, as does Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. Also, in some cases these re-imaginations are actually pretty cool – take Evil Dead, Last House on the Left, The Grudge and The Ring. I even bow down before Jaume Collet-Sera’s House of Wax thanks to my ever-present scribing cohort Matty Budrewicz.
So, given this dramatic u-turn somewhere during the fourth decade of my existence, it was with a cautious intrigue that I got to check out PLAN 9, a low-budget take on what was often considered to be the worst movie ever made, Edward D. Wood Jr’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
First things first, Ed Wood’s 1959 sci-fi schlockterpiece is undoubtedly NOT a barrel-scraper of B-moviedom; in fact it’s probably not even in the worst hundred. Secondly, when the line “Why would anybody remake this movie?” is uttered in the first few minutes, you have to nod your head in agreement.
Irrespective of my sedate acceptance of modern-day reproductions of classic movies, there are some that simply don’t lend themselves to this territory, and Plan 9 from Outer Space is one of them. It was made in such insane circumstances – Bela Lugosi was dead for a start, and doubled by Wood’s wife’s chiropractor – that it’s impossible to capture the creative insanity that birthed it. Any attempt is simply a bad misjudgement, which is certainly what I got from watching John Johnson’s Plan 9.
The director calls it “a visually stunning re-imagination of the original story”, but despite the endless winks-to-camera with regard to a variety of homages to the original, its overall vibe is more in the key of a micro-budget riff on a George A. Romero zombie movie with a little John Carpenter synth work.
Granted, Johnson obviously enjoys playing with the meta nature of his movie, but it just seems like a cynical attempt to manufacture a bad feature – encapsulated by the redundant naming of the main town as Nilbog after Troll II. Yes, it’s cool to see original Plan 9 actor Conrad Brooks in a movie, and there’s a pat on the back too for horror host Mister Lobo who’s a nice fit for modern-day Criswell, but otherwise it’s a misguided attempt to harness the legacy of the maligned auteur Ed Wood.
All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on the 31st October 2016
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