In putting together the next issue of RM, we’ve come to the realization that we have an embarrassment of riches for the Cinemacabre section. Rather than let these critiques from former RM intern Mike Beardsall and sardonic movie scribe Phil Brown go to waste, however, we’ve chosen to post them here, as an online chapter of our monthly guide through the often horrifying minefield that is modern cinema.
Everyone knows that the Nazis were a pretty evil bunch. Yet filmmakers constantly feel the need to find new ways to make them even nastier. Furthermore, the relationship between Nazism and the occult has been conceptually explored many times in different mediums; the latest example being this unusual hybrid horror from New Zealand, combining military and the supernatural.
On the eve of D-Day, allied Kiwi commandos Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Joseph Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) are on a secret mission to destroy an enemy gun emplacement on an island off the coast of France. Everything is going as planned until they hear bloodcurdling screams coming from inside the bunker. Assuming there are captured allies inside, they investigate and find the mutilated bodies of several German soldiers. Joe is killed by the one remaining officer, Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland), who then captures Ben and interrogates him about the allied plans for invasion. That is, until they hear unearthly growls coming from deeper within the fortified hideout. Ben soon discovers that the Germans have used a black magic text to summon a demon in an effort to win World War II, and now Klaus requires his help to send the uncontrollable hellthing back from whence it came.
The dialogue between Ben, Klaus, and the scarlet-skinned demoness (Gina Varela) is top-notch as the three characters struggle with just who the real threat is. Klaus is convinced that they must be rid of the monster, while Ben is tempted to use her mystical powers to defeat the Nazis and be reunited with his deceased wife. There’s a palpable sense of paranoia that arises as the story escalates to – if not a shocking conclusion – an unpredictable one, and the gore sequences, which include some leg-eating and other instances of the she-beast demonstrating her gruesome powers on the bodies of several German soldiers, help keep the proceedings frightfully engaging.
While entwining Nazis and the occult is hardly a new concept, The Devil’s Rock doesn’t play entirely by the book.
InSight is the product of filmmakers with no appreciation for genre movies, who thought that simply tossing a few familiar clichés together would please a fan base they don’t understand. But what else could one realistically expect from a fifteen-day shoot, a pair of video game writers and the director of Assault of the Party Nerds 2: The Heavy Petting Detective? (Yep, that movie’s real.)
Inhabiting that special direct-to-DVD world where everyone looks like a failed TV actor, our hero, ER nurse Kaitlyn (Natalie Zea), tries to save a young stabbing victim, only to be blasted by the defibrillator and knocked unconscious. When she awakens, she experiences psychic visions of the girl’s death. It’s the one promising passage of the movie as the murder flashbacks are fairly well shot and a little creepy. However, the production must have only been able to afford a few days of Steadicam flashback photography because any scenes of worth are long gone by the third act, and the movie subsequently transforms into a dry police procedural. Kaitlyn soon develops a relationship with a soap opera-esque detective (Sean Patrick Flanery: Saw 3D, The Devil’s Carnival), much to the chagrin of his comically oversized fedora-sporting partner. Tedium ensues, and eventually builds to a ludicrous twist ending that will have viewers ripping the DVD out of their players in disgust.
There’s really nothing about InSight to recommend. The lone bright spots are cameo appearances from Christopher Lloyd (Piranha 3D, Addams Family Values) as an exposition-spouting neighbour and Veronica Cartwright (The Birds, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as Kaitlyn’s suffering mother. Sadly, the movie is far too boring and cynically constructed to even be considered a campy comedy. If InSight doesn’t justly vanish into obscurity within seconds of being released, it should only find an audience in those precious few still amazed by the fact that there are people speaking from inside the magic picture box in their living room.