Today is the day, but seeing that no one in their right mind would (or should) put their All Hallows Eve on hold to gander at the cheap gore-loving prose of an indie horror-head such as myself, I will assume you’ll be coming to this column after the big day has passed. Because of this, I am putridly pleased to present you with a non-seasonal sampling of D.I.Y. horror in the great outdoors.
Take advantage while you can — something far scarier is just around the bend (winter weather).
BLOOD: Not only seeping sanguine, but a good amount of goo too
Inspired by fright favourites like Evil Dead, The Shining and Cronenbergian body horror, this parasite picture manages to overcome its dastardly dialogue and awful acting with some terrifically trippy terror.
Following a Swamp Thing-like prologue, this slug-centric spookshow eases into terror, taking time to introduce its protagonist couple, Sam (Lauren Watson) and Jason (Jamie Temple), as they make their way to the family cottage of Sam’s sister. After some stiff dialogue and an acting style that could be described as “mannequin-esque,” the lovebirds finally arrive at the cottage, to find the resident family missing. Waiting for them to show up, the two head off on an exploration of the surrounding wilderness and take a quick dip in a nearby swamp, where a strange slug-like creature slips under Jason’s skin. Still no sign of the family, Jason’s calf wound (where the slug entered) grows more gruesome as his sanity starts to slip, and the two find themselves stuck at the cottage (middle of nowhere, broken down car). As Jason’s fever dreams manifest into reality, Sam slowly uncovers the monstrous mystery behind the missing family.
Despite the poor dialogue, the film sports an ambitious aesthetic. Each over-saturated shot is well composed, using interesting camera tricks that don’t outshine what’s on screen, creating a disorienting atmosphere that’s still easy to follow. Another stand-out is the effective, John Carpenter-like guitar and synth-heavy score that adds to the film’s slithering sense of doom.
Written while he was working menial jobs in Vancouver’s television industry, From Beneath is writer/director David Doucette’s first feature and, as a horrifying and humble chamber drama, is a solid example, like the aforementioned Evil Dead, of how to make a great indie film. I would love to see what creepy crawly damage Doucette could do with a bigger budget.
BLOOD: A good amount of gaudy gore
BUDGET: An estimated $15,000
Never has a movie spoiled its own fun more than this overtly political creature feature.
At its heart, this monster movie has a pretty good premise: after landowner James Cronus sells his forest property to a holding company with hydrofracking intentions (the practice of shooting “fracturing fluid” deep into the ground to break apart rock, creating veins to natural gas), three groups enter said woods, all on separate missions.
One group, the activists, complete with Cronus daughter Kira, infiltrate the land to sabotage the frackers, and in the process call forth a demon through a strange booze-fuelled tribal dance, shown in a trippy sequence set to techno music. Another group, a trio of good-ol’-boys, set out to hunt down the “bear” (actually the titular demon) who slaughtered one of Kira’s brothers in “these here parts.” The third party are the holding company stooges: one, the other, living, Cronus boy; two, Jack, the activist mole; and three, an executive played by a poor man’s Robert Patrick.
Watching the demon, who looks like the angry cousin of Harry and the Hendersons‘ Harry, maim and munch his way through its victims is good, cheesy fun, but the mayhem is peppered between extensive scenes of dialogue that burrows deep into every detail of the hydrofracking process and the history of the Cronus land, during extended car trips and excruciating walking scenes that give the Lord of the Rings trilogy a run for their money. Audio so poor you can hardly hear what’s being said (the director must have only used the microphone attached to the cellphone he shot the film on), doesn’t help matters either.
In a post-Birdemic world, you’d think the ground rules would be set for how not to make an environmental horror movie, but Demon Messenger is a case-in-point example of how we repeat the mistakes of the past if we don’t learn from them.