Despite being free from the constraints of the Hollywood machine, many indie horror filmmakers sadly still attempt to emulate their high-budget, homogenized brethren, frequently resulting in something horrifically humdrum. The following is a double-shot of disappointing forays into the oft-visited ghost subgenre – ambitious ventures that only manage to scare away any enjoyability.
BLOOD: I don’t believe there’s any, but it doesn’t really call for it.
BUDGET: Estimated at $1,000,000.
There’s no shortage of hybrid flicks out there: From Dusk Till Dawn, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and Enter… Zombie King are only a few of the ever-growing list, and it seems that as long as tongues are tucked firmly in the cheeks of the filmmakers, these movies tend to come out relatively entertaining (some more than others). Genre-bender Within, however – which mixes equal parts ghost-thriller and killer kid subgenres – cuts off its own tongue in an unshakably serious take on hybrid horror that comes up with less than stellar results.
Traumatized pre-teen Rachel Weiss (Mia Ford), who possesses the Haley Joel Osment-esque power of seeing dead people, is dragged to a new town by her dad after witnessing the murder of her mother. Once in her new school, Rachel quickly befriends bratty Michelle, played with great intensity by Sammi Hanratty, who may be a little more evil than she initially appears and somehow responsible for the death of a local boy.
Adequately made, but bland all the while, Within – originally aired on Lifetime Network – plays out exactly like a glossy and safe TV adaptation of The Sixth Sense. What gives reprieve to an otherwise dull affair is enfant terrible Michelle who turns all Single White Female on Rachel, when the threat of losing her as a friend arises. Young actor Hanratty really shines through this foggy flick and her performance as the maniacal Michelle gives Macaulay Culkin’s Henry in The Good Son a sinister run for his money. However, apart from this intense juvenile delinquency, the film is pretty light on horror, instead focusing on relationships and feelings and crap like that, rather than giving the film depth, which drags it down. Also, the soundtrack doesn’t help much as it alternates between poor public domain cues and pop-folk cuts that would fit right in on any Women and Songs compilation.
Coming from writer Rebecca Sonnenshine – who has a few genre entries under her belt, including another horror-hybrid, American Zombie – one would expect something a little more inspired. But if nothing else, at least Within gives Hanratty, an actor who’s no doubt got some great roles ahead of her, a project to showcase her dark side.
BLOOD: An arm gets a bad gash. That’s about it.
BUDGET: The filmmakers would not divulge the amount but being able to use friends for a lot of cast and crew, I would estimate it to be approximately a few thousand clams.
From H.G. Lewis to Astron-6, filmmakers have gone to knee-slapping extremes to create some of the most gloriously frugal freak shows that, despite budget restraints, blow any million-dollar monster right out of the water. And then there are those cash-strapped others who try to compete with big-budget blockbusters anyway, by humourlessly resurrecting an amalgam of tired Tinsel Town tropes. The trademarked Quiroz Bros.™ fall into the latter with this grief-stricken ghost story.
Deliverance From Evil opens on some lethargic parents who – too lazy to get off the couch and keep an eye on their bathing son – allow him to be strangled to death by some sort of a smoke-ghost, and are left in desolation. The ghostly presence isn’t done yet, however. It follows up its show-stopping performance of brutal murder by slowly and subtly freaking out the lamenting lovebirds. Running the gamut of tired supernatural happenings, the ghost moves furniture, employs haunting voices (such as when their late child calls them on his toy phone), and appears in semi-transparency. To combat said ghost, the two sad sacks employ a silly, over-the-top psychic (think an SNL impression of Donald Pleasence) to perform an exorcism, after being initially frightened into seizures by the textbook spectre.
On the upside, the laughable priest lends some levity where its sorely lacking. But for most of the film, there are no ebbs and flows, no ups and downs… just a steady drone of despair as the characters slog through typical plot points viewers will see coming a mile away. And speaking of drones, the unnerving lo-fi synth score composed by co-director Eduardo Quiroz lacks the minimalist charm of John Carpenter but keeps the annoying repetition.
Nope, not even a senseless cameo by the creator of the Friday the 13th franchise, Victor Miller, as the coolest mailman ever can save this sluggish spookshow.
Anyway, I hate to rag on a couple of accomplished indie directors but even a chump like me knows you have to toss in a few chuckles with your chills. Both Within and Deliverance From Evil seem to be relatively easy to find on popular VOD websites, and the latter is also widely available on DVD.
Read more from Patrick at Jive Turkey Video