If it's crap ... We'll tell you
After Dark Originals is a horror film series that has actually been, much to my surprise, a largely reliable source for the genre. Even at its worst, the titles chosen for inclusion in the series have been passably entertaining, which for low-budget horror is high praise indeed, statistically speaking. I've never had any qualms about proclaiming myself proudly as a big fan of fright films, both at their best and sometimes at their worst (that's how the horror thing goes); my first published writing was a letter in Fangoria magazine. So, that being all out there to consider, these two latest releases have me feeling not quite as genial towards the After Dark people as before. At the very least, because of "Scream of the Banshee" anyway.Yeah, yeah, I know they signed a deal with the SyFy channel to release their content there first, but that doesn't mean you have to make films to the SyFy channel's usual standards (ie: fucking awful). SOB (as shall be its SOBriquet from here on out) follows a rapidly aging (but still stacked like a brick shithouse) Lauren Holly as an uptight archeology professor who finds an ancient box buried behind a false wall in the basement storehouse of her university. The box opens, reveals a screeching monster head which explodes leaving monster goo all over the place. Even Simply Green won't get banshee brain crud out of a pair of pants, let me tell you. Shortly, Holly and her students start having hallucinations about the witch that leave physical injuries behind. They're forced to try and get the help of an insane shut-in ex-professor who once studied the box before being unceremoniously booted from the University. Guess who it is? That's right, the modern day cherry on the cake for any terrible movie, Lance Henriksen. SOB is a messy, poorly made, unfunny, POS. "The Task" fares slightly better, if only for it's concept, but in execution (so to speak) it leaves a lot to be desired. A bunch of reality show contestants are brought to an abandoned and notorious prison to spend the night. The place is all wired up with video cameras, and the contestants, after finding their way to the office of the Warden, who was well known for having tortured and murdered inmates, take turns being sent out on 'challenges' in the prison that have been designed to confront their specific fears. But what's this? It looks like somebody's actually wandering around the prison who looks a LOT like the old Warden, and people are disappearing.... meh. If this had been exploring the way fear can alter our perceptions the way, oh say, something like the truly nail-biting "Session 9" had, I'd have given it super-mega-bonus points. But, no. For a film dealing with a TV show about fear, there's nothing scary to be had here, lame special F/X work, and a really poor twist at the end that reeks of, "well, I guess we have to". Come on, After Dark, I know you can do better than this!
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Scream of the Banshee (After Dark Original)
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Task (After Dark Original)
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (DVD)
This is new. There's certainly been lots of atmospheric, arty horror out there and lots of horror that tells the story from the point of view of the monsters, but this is the first I'm aware of that does both of those things from the viewpoint of a family of cannibals. Even if there was no one out there going, "Hey, when are they gonna do this?" (I like to think there wasn't for my own peace of mind), I suppose it was only a matter of time. This 2010 Mexican film follows the family in question as they scramble to survive after the meat supply gets cut off. We see the patriarch die right from the start, an old and crazy looking man, wandering around a shopping district, begging for help, until he collapses, ejecting an odd black sputum from his lips before he expires, and is quickly (and I mean quickly) removed and cleaned up after so as not to disrupt the local shopping equilibrium. I remain unclear on what this startling cultural commentary has to do with any of the rest of the film, which follows the two brothers, Alfredo and Julian, their sister, Sabina, and mother, Patricia, as they try to figure out how they'll survive without Dad bringing home fresh meat. The film never makes it clear whether these people are truly some sort of monster (they seem to believe they'll die if they don't get to eat human, prepared with a special ritual, within a short period of time) or just completely insane. Either way, the more timid, but older, Julian is expected to lead the family, but his mother disdains a prostitute he brings home to nom, and his aggressive brother doesn't deal well with authority, especially from the passive Julian. As time runs down, the family starts to get a lot less selective, and a lot less careful, as they try to draw in a new victim. This really could have been quite good, and the story and mystery is intriguing, but it misses the vital element required to tell this kind of story: you can't identify with the monsters. The family is so cold and distant and their motivations so vague as to leave them feeling entirely alien...not alien like ALIEN or illegal alien (although maybe that, I guess, in a way) but as in unfamiliar. No answers are forthcoming either, but a pretty exciting ending does a lot to make "We Are What We Are" worth a look, even if it's a cautious, necessarily wide-awake one to get all the way to the conclusion of this sometimes laboriously slow-moving horror.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY We Are What We Are