Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
The inner workings of the film distribution business is an entity that I accept I’ll never understand, with one being how works of genuine artistic capability are left to rot in obscurity, pining for attention with the longing eyes of an abandoned dog.
THERE ARE MONSTERS is one such film. Having begun shooting way back in 2008, it only received a limited release five years later in Canada. Adding to this head-scratching period of ostracism is the fact it played Glasgow FrightFest in 2015, yet generated barely a ripple of online chatter in the wake of it, having only Anton Bitel at Little White Lies and Jonathan Hatful at SciFi Now acknowledge its existence.
So, Jay Dahl’s movie now belongs in that ever-growing bracket of laudable yet orphaned DTV’ers. With most online bloggers seeing their once bountiful supply of screeners drying up with each month that passes, writing about the never-ending conveyor belt of direct-to-video titles is now more of a vocation than an attention seeking pastime of the freeloader, and it’s vital we don’t let films like this drift off into out-of-print obscurity without banging the drum for them to find an audience.
Evil doppelgangers! Though there’s more than a wee tip of the hat in the direction of Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Dahl manages to inject There Are Monsters with enough contemporary licks to distance it from just being classed as a mere knock-off. Essentially a road movie, we join up with a graduate-student film crew who gradually begin to discover that the world is being taken over by creatures that are indistinguishable from the general populous.
An undisputed slow-burn, There Are Monsters benefits from an eminently likeable group of characters heading up the picture, which is in satisfying contrast to the usual motley crew of individuals that you’re almost wishing to see bludgeoned to death. Though it’s pacing could easily have backfired to become a patience-testing drag, Dahl’s film thrives by peppering the narrative with a collection of undeniably chilling sequences, which prove to be the real high point of the movie.
I’ve no doubt that a few of you will be less than enamoured by the prospect of a horror movie shot with an assortment of handheld cameras, while there’s also good reason to suggest that Dahl’s flick could have benefitted from a tighter edit to hit that optimum eighty minute DTV running time. At its most primal level though, There Are Monsters will have you hiding behind a cushion, and we can’t ask for much more than that.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the notion of two brothers posing as paramedics, intercepting 911 calls, and kidnapping helpless victims is pretty identical to the hapless Alan Smithee film Death Call aka Old 37 that hit UK DVD last year, and which I described in DTV Junkyard 50 as “A woefully bad picture”. So the release of PARAMEDIC aka Bodies, which has a glaring similarity to that aforementioned slice of mediocrity, was met with a degree of concern.
Happily though, Rodney Wilson has delivered a taut three-handed potboiler, which occasionally spills over into moments of wincing sadism and gleeful revenge. The difference in the storyline of Paramedic is that brothers Corey (Joe Bocian) and Jeffery (Brian Landis Folkins) are in the organs business, harvesting a plethora of livers, hearts and lungs for the black market. They’re a fascinating pair, with Corey prone to bouts of heinous barbarity, while the contrasting demeanour of Jeffery is one of trembling subservience and naïve clumsiness, “Fuck Jeffery, you forgot to cut the larynx again!”
Spending their downtime in their ambulance, quizzing each other on medical procedures, their life is centred on the tightly run trifecta of intercept, capture, kill. The abduction of Cindy (Jenice Marshall) though, throws their routine into chaos as captee turns subjugator and they’re faced with not only a battle for body parts, but a battle to save their own sibling relationship.
With its whitewashed cinder block interior and dingy bloodstained operating room, Paramedics succeeds in creating an environment that imbues discomfort, and director Wilson hits pay dirt with the casting of Jenice Marshall, who hypnotises with stinging verbal rebuttals and an assured manipulation of loyalties, all in the wake of being stripped of her dignity and having endured a contemptible sexual assault.
Based primarily in one location and with only three key characters, Wilson tackles the challenge of the minimalist aspects of the picture well, keeping the script tight and injecting a jaw-dropping backstory at just the right moment. The intensity does wane a touch in the final third, but that does little to diminish what’s a gleefully twisted little indie film.
This weeks films were released on DVD in the UK on the 22nd May 2017
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