GERALD’S GAME: One Woman’s Revelatory Odyssey Into Misogyny

Gerald’s Game. 2017. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Screenplay by Flanagan & Jeff Howard.
Starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel, & Chiara Aurelia.
Intrepid Pictures
Not Rated. 103 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★★

DisclaimerThe following review discusses the film in-depth. As such, it contains spoilers in reference to important plot points and themes in the film. If you haven’t, get on Netflix, watch, then come back for a lively discussion.
Lest ye be spoiled!

Gerald's Game 1I’ve long adored Stephen King, ever since my mother introduced me to his books; I first saw them on her shelves, unable to read them until she said I was old enough, then I fell in love. His writing is so human, even when he’s dipping into the supernatural. Of all his novels, Gerald’s Game is entirely human, despite touching on aspects that are definitely not of this world. Best of all, the novel’s protagonist Jessie Burlingame (played here by the fabulous Carla Gugino) is at her most vulnerable in a situation requiring her greatest strengths.
King’s story explored so much of Jessie’s life, her experience with the men in it, the events those relationships further precipitated. Director Mike Flanagan and his co-writer Jeff Howard manage to illustrate all the important moments in the film’s 103-minute runtime. Sticking so close to the novel, it allows Flanagan to bring its imagery to life in a unique way that’s exciting even for readers like myself who’ve read and revered the book already.
More than that it’s the themes at play which resonate, especially at a point in time where we need more strong films taking on the horror of misogyny. Gerald’s Game explores the dichotomy of truth and lies within a marriage, how sexual fantasies – particularly rape-fantasy – turn men into dangerous foes instead of husbands to the wives they supposedly love, as well as how those titles like husband, or father, don’t mean anything when in the face of predatory men.
And all of this relies on the powerhouse performance of Gugino, whose Jessie – the centrepiece of the story, despite the title – must either transform into the powerful women lying in wait inside herself, or else perish.
Gerald's Game 2

Well, Im pretty sure you just lost your mind.”

At its core, King’s novel is a metaphor of the overall misogyny women experience at the hands of men in every facet of life. Gerald’s Game works on several levels. It’s Gerald’s (Bruce Greenwood) game to bring the handcuffs to the cabin, to spice up his and Jessie’s marriage. However, it’s also the game many men play, making a woman feel as if she has to conform to his idea of sexuality and how they express it as a couple in order to ‘save the marriage.’ Jessie must play the game with Gerald, though later on we discover how, stuck between her father and mother, young Jessie had to play an entirely different game.
The main ideas floating around from the start centre on Jessie and Gerald’s marriage. Is your partner who they truly are, or merely who you want them to be? Do they, after a time, just become our vision of their personality instead of themselves? Through her predicament, left handcuffed to the bed after Gerald has a heart attack and cracks his head on the floor, Jessie forcibly confronts herself, ultimately. Both her own identity and also her relationship to her husband, how she views him as a man and a husband; plus, how being a man is inextricably linked to any other role a man plays.
Being stuck in the cuffs is a literal event, but it’s likewise an allegorical one. Jessie’s been controlled by men, one way or another, her entire life. So now, she must wholly rely on herself to break those figurative and literal bonds and free herself, to live again and to keep on living. The later we go on, the above quote transforms into more of a gaslighting question than one we understand as Jessie actually having a mental breakdown, stuck to the bed. She has to overcome the fantasies men wish to impose on her to survive.
Gerald's Game 3

Youre only made of moonlight

Gerald's Game 4Jessie’s mental state and her perspective are, obviously, crucial to the novel, which is the major reason Flanagan creates such a perfect adaptation with his film. There’s a stream of consciousness feel, as he weaves back and forth from past to present, dropping us in and out of memory. We slip from waking visions to nightmarish sleep, blurring the edges of reality until the actual moments of genuine reality crash in, frightening the viewer as much as Jessie.
Like in the novel, the Moonlight Man (Carel Struycken), the Space Cowboy, is where the idea of the supernatural exists, on the edges of the story’s heart. We never know what’s pure fiction, dreams and nightmares interchangeably. The Moonlight Man is like a shadow cast by real life into Jessie’s subconscious, conjuring up awful things she sees between sleep and struggling to get out of those cuffs. Until the finale, where the men in Jessie’s life, from her father to her husband, come to a culmination in the worst of man – a necrophile serial killer. He was real all along. And with this reality comes the other reality: the worst she believed about the other men in her life – her paedophile father, her misogynist husband masquerading most his life as a loving one while harbouring a dark rape-fantasy – is also very real.
At the same time, the film’s ending validates Jessie, her struggle. Throughout her ordeal, she faced not only her spacial limitations, stuck on that bed, she pushed past the mental violence that’s been afflicted on her with the physical violence that accompanied it. She’ll never forget what’s happened to her. But she’ll also never let it dictate her life.

Youre so much smaller than I remember

Gerald's Game 5The victory of Jessie is what makes everything worth it. Yes, there’s horror, there’s so much tension and suspense it could eat you alive. Same as it was in King’s novel. By the end, Flanagan offers us the hope and the power in Jessie that King did, Carla Gugino’s quiet power punctuating the character’s transformation.
Again like the novel, the end is phenomenal. Flanagan gives us one important set of images in those last moments that hammer home the allegory at work. Gerald’s line “Dont ask a question you dont wanna know the answer to” becomes the crux on which the film and Jessie’s journey hang. Because she’s asked the questions, she’s confronted their answers, and still, she stands.
Gerald’s Game, for Father Gore, is perfect. Out of the park adaptation, on top of the pile with the best. Flanagan works on the viewer’s nerves, using the isolated setting and plot to his advantage, the paranoia coursing through each frame, so much so it’s the quiet moments which truly land the hardest impact.
Many who aren’t familiar with the original King novel might get a different impression just by the poster or the trailer or reading a plot summary, but this is a movie about a powerful woman. She doesn’t know she’s powerful in the beginning. It’s the transformative journey she undertakes at the hands of her husband, a microcosm of general misogyny, which reveals this power to her. For all its graphic qualities, Gerald’s Game goes for the emotional, existential terror lurking inside the relationships of women’s daily lives.

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Black Mirror – Season 3, Episode 2: “Playtest”

Netflix’s Black Mirror
Season 3, Episode 2: “Playtest”
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Written by Charlie Brooker

* For a review of Episode 1, “Nosedive” – click here
* For a review of Episode 3, “Shut Up and Dance” – click here
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American traveller Cooper (Wyatt Russell) is off on a solo adventure. He’s sneaked away under cover of the dark, early morning. He takes a plane, arriving in Australia, then Bangkok, Spain, Rome, and all sorts of other destinations. By the seat of his pants Cooper takes on the world, one place at a time. One night he meets Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen) through an online app, they have drinks at a pub and chat about his travels. She wonders if he’s “finding himself” or what the purpose of his trip may be in the end. Of course they wind up spending the night together, it being the tail end of his journey and all. Memories, yay! Aside from that we figure out Cooper took care of his dad at home with his mother – early onset Alzheimer’s – and so now, after his death, the son has gone on a trip for himself. He worries that something like that could happen to him, so seriously: memories!
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But travelling, it takes money, right? All of a sudden Cooper finds his credit is lacking after somebody might’ve stolen his card. Things are not looking good. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, poor Cooper.
Well, using an Odd Jobs app he comes across a Playtest job with a huge gaming company. They make horror games and wild things; Sonja clues Cooper in on things, being in the games industry and all. The company is owned by Shou Saito (Ken Yamamura), a visionary developer. She also suggests getting a picture of Saito’s super secretive operations at the company would be worth a ton more than whatever he’ll make at the job. Hmm.
So Cooper is brought out to the massive complex where the games are developed, the lair of Saito and his latest developments. A few good jokes (the “end of level boss” and “Gryffindor” jokes made me laugh out loud). He gets into the contract signing portion of it all. A woman named Katie (Wunmi Mosaku) walks him through everything, including that there’s a medical procedure involved. All has to do with a virtual reality-type experience. Katie implants what’s called a “mushroom” into the back of his neck, protruding from the skin a little. Afterwards, they do a small test, and then he’s initiated into the virtual world which the new game – or experience – is to explore. From 8-bit, the character in front of Cooper changes to become more realistic with every upgrade, only visible to him. As Katie puts it, the experience is more like “layers on top” of reality instead of virtual reality. A totally immersive experience. We get to watch Cooper do real life whack a mole – to Katie it only looks like he’s smacking the table. Love it. Either way, Cooper’s sold on the entire job.

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With all that done, Cooper is brought to meet the man himself, Shou Saito. They speak about the experience of gaming, how it makes us feel, the adrenaline involved. “You have faced your greatest fears in a safe environment,” Saito explains, going on to tell Cooper about a survival horror game which uses a gamer’s fears in order to scare the players respectively. An amplified version of what we’re already seeing today in horror games.
Only when Cooper gets hooked up to the game, it isn’t such a “fun” thing as he so wonderfully described the whack a mole. He’s brought to an eerie old house where the game commences, and will continue until he is too scared to go any further. Nothing can hurt the gamer. But what about when the fear is too much? Cooper wanders and his first encounter comes when he picks up a book with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven in it – a huge spider crawls out from beneath the rug nearby. Only a relatively minor apparition, but an apparition nonetheless. The game probably has to slowly ingratiate the user so that the brain doesn’t explode with pure fright right away. Gradually the frightening things start to pile up. The painting on the wall changes, bit by bit. Licks flicker, sounds of footsteps beating around upstairs. When a 19th-century man shows up right behind Cooper, creeping him out, it shows the game is using his prior experiences and fears to scare him – the man looks like an old high school bully. So, for a moment he’s troubled. He goes on about his night after a few laughs, although he is shaken. Very clear.


A little more poking around sees Cooper terrified by an eerie, giant, human-like spider. Again, his subconscious drudging up bits of his previous experiences as a boy to be used by the game. Things start to get quite unsettling when he can’t reach Katie on the earpiece anymore. Is it the game? Yes, I’d bet on that. Plus, someone keeps banging on the door. It’s Sonja: “Youre in danger,” she tells him. Has the game manifested her? Or is she actually there? Cooper realises she is actually in the room with him. She talks about a “computerbrain interface” that Saito has been working on for a year. Cooper doesn’t believe it, insisting she’s still a part of the whole game even being real. But Sonja goes on about missing people, all who used the Odd Jobs app to apply for the job. She then attacks him with a knife, as the spider-bully shows up once more, as well. Cooper tries to fight Sonja off, she goes mad on him. One of the single most horrific sequences of Black Mirror ensues when Sonja’s face peels off like rubber, revealing a bloody skull beneath. Cooper survives this round, creatively impaling the skull on the knife through his shoulder.
And of course it’s all fake, a figment of the game and his tortured imagination. Yet it leaves Cooper shaken worse than before. He felt the knife, he felt it all. He freaks out, wanting to tear the mushroom from the back of his neck. Although Katie tries to rally him to the access point, so she and Saito can take him out of the game.
Cooper worries about what’s behind the next door upstairs. Just beyond lies the access point. However, he’s scared that the game knows about things with mother. What things, exactly? Inside, the room is empty. And now Katie says “there is no access point.” It’s all a ruse to get the player to obey directions without question. Oh. Fucking. Shit. This is now very scary. Katie’s not so nice anymore, as well as the fact Cooper’s memories are disappearing. The game is pulling them away, replacing them. Putting him into his ultimate nightmare, ending up like his father with his memories gone and nothing left. This sends him over the edge.
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Katie actually shows up now with a team of men, trying to help. But the process can’t be stopped. “I dont know who I am,” Cooper mutters at them. He’s stuck with the game worming its way into his brain, past his memories, leaving him a broken shell. He gets an apology from Saito, if that’s worth anything. “Put him with the others, please,” says Saito before the men drag him away.
He quickly is brought out of the game. He was in there for such a minuscule amount of time. Is his brain susceptible to an extreme length? Or is the software much too strong? Ah, the true ethics of gaming, as we step into unexplored territory and wildly uncharted waters, mixing human beings with technology in an unprecedented and likely dangerous manner.
Once Cooper goes home he sees his mother (Elizabeth Moynihan) again, in distress. She can’t remember her son, though, even as he stands right in front of her. Cut back to Cooper in that white room, first testing out the equipment with Katie. He convulses. His mother calls – like she tried to do when Cooper walked in at home. Everything loops around in a mindfuck of a sequence. Katie and Saito figure that the signal from the cell interfered with things. Still, Cooper lies motionless on the floor, a corpse, and in 4 small seconds another volunteer for the new Saito game is gone. Just like that.

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What an excellent exploration of the gaming industry in a near future sci-fi sense. Wonderful writing from Charlie Brooker, as usual. He is a treasure. Love the macabre way he puts his lens over certain subjects. We’re not really that far off from the point of this game in “Playtest” when there’s already a game coming out – or maybe it’s already out, I only remember reading an article about it recently – which has the antagonist A.I. trying to thwart players by learning from how you actually play the game. These are the best sci-fi stories, in any medium: the prescient, relevant, and close to home tales. Brooker’s Black Mirror is like a Twilight Zone for the technology obsessed 21st-century. So perfectly eerie and moving in one fell swoop.

THE CRAZIES is A Creepy, Satisfying Remake

The Crazies. 2010. Directed by Breck Eisner. Screenplay by Scott Kosar & Ray Wright; based on the 1973 film of the same name by George A. Romero.
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey, John Aylward, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower, Larry Cedar, Gregory Sporleder, Mike Hickman, Lisa K. Wyatt, Justin Welborn, Chet Grissom, & Tahmus Rounds. Overture Films/Participant Media/Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ.
Rated 18A. 101 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
PosterPeople talk a good game about horror remakes being no good. Some also seem intent on believing there are no actually scary horror movies anymore. Both of which is nonsense. Now, not all remakes are good; a nice chunk of them are actually, in my mind, a load of garbage. For every 5 bad ones, though, we do get a good one. I won’t go into a list of the ones I feel are actually good (a couple are even – dare I say – great).
What I will do is tell you about why The Crazies is one of the remakes I’ve enjoyed most. A version of 1973’s The Crazies from living legend George A. Romero, an awesome little movie in its own right, this Timothy Olyphant-star vehicle is worth more than being tossed off as just another movie remade by the Hollywood machine. Admittedly, I’m not really a fan of Breck Eisner’s work. Not even what he did on Fear Itself; although, to be fair, that series only had a couple episodes that were actually decent. But I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. He turns this into a nail-biting, tense, 101-minute ride that never ceases to feel eerie and exciting all at once. Of course, having a charming, charismatic male lead such as Olyphant and an equally strong leading female in Radha Mitchell helps immensely. Doesn’t hurt to have a good supporting role played by the likes of Joe Anderson, either.
The horror is all there, the suspense and tension, coupled with a smart adapted screenplay from Romero’s original and the solid acting. If you say you’re not scared, that’s fine. I don’t wet myself when I’m scared or creeped out by a film. However, a good horror lingers with me. Certain scenes stick in my mind and crawl out at times, maybe late at night while I try to fall asleep or during the day when I’m lost in a thought. The Crazies has a lot of those moments. It’s got a heavy dose of terror and some fun horror to boot, for those of us who enjoy the macabre to the fullest.
Pic1 There are plenty of scenes worth mentioning in regards to the ones I still remember vividly. Hell, when they sit out in that boat early on above the sunken plane, it’s damn unsettling. Then the shot moves out, further and further, until we see it on that satellite view. Not only is that little part of the scene sort of creepy, it’s then we start to understand the gravity of the situation about to come. Barely a minute later, Sheriff Dutten (Olyphant) utters the line: “Were in trouble.” An almost surreal moment follows this, as Dutten heads out in the street and sees an older woman, dressed like a little girl, riding on her bicycle through the empty road (trivia: the woman is Lynn Lowry, from the original Romero flick). This is the first deeply chilling shot. By the minute, we understand the town of Ogden Marsh is in more trouble than even Dutten knows.
What separates the infected citizens of Ogden Marsh from Romero’s zombies, or any other incarnations of the undead since, is how they are still capable of using their brain. To a certain extent, anyway. They’re able to use weapons, to attack with more than just they teeth and hands. This makes them more formidable opponents one on one than any zombie we’ve seen, from Romero or otherwise. These infected aren’t faster than normal, they’re simply devoid of any human emotion and eager to kill. Almost scarier than the fast moving infected from Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake.
Pic3 The autopsy tool, the small saw, that Dutten faces down a little before the half hour mark of the movie is an ingenious horror scene, one of its best. We’ve seen plenty different moments such as this one throughout the history of the genre. Something about this scene, the coroner being infected and the frantic scramble of the Sheriff to get away from the saw sprinting across the floor at him, is just spot on. Add to that most men will probably find their butthole puckering while Dutten watches the saw get closer to his genitals with each second. This is only the beginning; a proper way to get the horror adrenaline flowing, which kicks off all the action.
Worth mentioning – when Judy (Mitchell) finds herself strapped to a gurney, left behind by the military, that entire scene is downright frightening. Honestly scary. First, you have the one person laughing and laughing in the dark. Terrible eeriness right away. Secondly there’s the infected man who shows up afterwards dragging a pitchfork the entire time, looking for people to kill. Worse still is how he takes his time, going from one bed to the next and stabbing people in the guts with the big, sharp tool. By the time he gets near Judy, it is unbearable. A well written, edited, and directed sequence all around.
Pic2 Olyphant and Mitchell are perfect for the roles of David and Judy Dutten, the town Sheriff and doctor. They’re the everyperson-types, people you can actually envision living in a small place like Ogden Marsh, where everyone knows one another and everything about them and they all see each other at the local ball games. Mitchell makes us feel for her character, both a loving mother and loving doctor to the various residents of their town. Once we discover she’s pregnant it only makes us empathise more, as the fear of what’s going on gets greater imagining what might affect her unborn child in the process. Alongside her is the sturdy, classic leading man in Olyphant. Whether Seth Bullock, Raylan Givens, or any other character, he always projects an undeniable confidence. Even in Sheriff Dutten’s weakest moments he’s a beacon of solidarity for the others to rally around. But again, you believe him as the Sheriff, just as Mitchell comes across so much like what you’d expect from a doctor in a rural area. They’re a good team and help sell the main plot, as David and Judy try fleeing the horror that’s come down on Ogden Marsh.
Pic4 I’ve got to give this a 4-star review. There are genuine moments of horror mixed with that human drama which makes stories like this work. It’s never perfect, some bits could’ve been tightened to make the pacing better. Those are nitpicks. In the end, The Crazies effectively creeps me out. Not once do you find any true respite from the madness. And even in the scenes where we think the fleeing group are about to catch a break, in true survival horror fashion they only wind up in the midst of more savagery. Any movie that can keep me grounded with the characters while the horrific imagery and exciting pace doesn’t let up is worth a great grade. You won’t be disappointed in this remake. I do enjoy Romero’s original film. I feel like this improved on it in the right ways without changing too much or getting too far from the original point.
What is the point, you ask? That terrifying events can tear a small town of close knit people into shreds within a short amount of time. That nobody’s safe when the government makes a mistake they need to keep buried. That there are worse fates than dying.

ROVDYR’s Nothing New, Still Visceral

Rovdyr (English title: Manhunt). 2008. Directed by Patrik Syversen. Screenplay by Nini Bull Robsahm & Syversen.
Starring Henriette Bruusgaard, Jørn-Bjørn Fuller-Gee, Lasse Valdal, Nini Bull Robsahm, Janne Beate Bønes, Trym Hagen, Kristina Leganger Aaserud, Helge Sveen, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Erlend Vetleseter, Jorunn Kjellsby, Martin Slaatto, & Kristofer Hivju.
Euforia Film/Fender Film.
Not Rated. 78 minutes.
Horror

★★★1/2
POSTER The idea of a slasher mixed with the backwoods survival genre isn’t anything new. Neither is setting a horror movie in the retro setting of the 1970s. On top of that, a group of friends travelling and getting lost in the woods? Certainly not reinventing the wheel. And still, Patrik Syversen’s Rovdyr is a harrowing ride into the Norwegian wilderness. Yes, Syversen takes cues from Craven’s The Last House on the Left (as in the same song by David Hess opens both films), Tobe Hooper and his groundbreaking Texas Chain Saw Massacre, among others. I feel like certain critics and audiences forget that homage is not copying. This film doesn’t outright lift from other movies, Syversen merely injects the films that clearly influenced him into Rovdyr. It never measures up to any of its predecessors and the horror by which it is inspired. But there’s still a good deal of suspense, tension, and we get to care for some of the characters before their inevitable deaths; more than that certain characters produce the opposite effect, written to make the whole story play out with bit more depth. Many will just take this for what it is and won’t bother paying too much attention to the details. Nothing spectacular. However, I can’t not give Syversen the credit he’s due. Rovdyr is a fun throwback piece of backwoods slasher madness.
Pic1 The initial twenty minutes is very typical of a genre film tackling the backwoods sub-genre of horror. First, we see a helpless victim wandering in the forest, being hunted down like an animal. A little after that we’re introduced to a group of four, travelling into the forest-covered back roads of Norway – there’s a brother and sister pair, along with a friend and her quasi-abusive boyfriend. Then once they pick up a woman at a diner, this enacts the Hooper homage, as she’s the one to ultimately shuttle these friends to their horrific fate; not necessarily intentional, but nevertheless that’s how it happens. Even though it is typical at many turns there’s still an enjoyable element to this opening. Never once do you feel any light shining in on these people, as in the atmosphere and the tone is grim. The mood is consistently eerie, ominous even. You know something’s coming. When the woman at the diner comes into play this only deepens that sense of danger.
A certain degree of why the atmosphere is so evidently dark comes from the cinematography. To go along with the period piece, set in 1974, cinematographer Håvard Andre Byrkjeland makes the entire film feel like it was shot back then, or close to it as possible. There’s a gritty quality to the scenes, as well as everything feels dark, moody. The natural light of the forest give us plenty of gorgeous shots, the type that you might not expect in such a vicious little flick. Despite its genre or sub-genre, Rovdyr has a fine look. All the better to creep you with, my dear, as the practical effects, the blood, the mess, it provides a nice juxtaposition of eeriness. To see such natural locations captured with a great eye, splattered here and there with the blood of the innocent is rightfully jarring.
Pic2 When people want the nasty horror, the good practical effects and everything that makes a scary movie visceral, what do they really want? If they’re not satisfied with at least this aspect of Rovdyr, I’m not sure exactly what they’re looking for in their slashers, particularly in the backwoods sub-genre. Right from the first gunshot, then the torn up ankle, it’s so clear these guys are not messing around. The horror quickly becomes brutal. Then, Syversen does a great stutter step, taking us to a quiet, subdued moment. It’s one that is filled by emotion, panic, fear, but quiet. We go from a psychotic scene of violence to a lull, which isn’t bad. This sort of takes us down a notch to allow us a few minutes to adjust. After that Syversen and Co. take us on a further ride through the blood soaked Norwegian forest with this unfortunate group of young people.
I’ve seen a bunch of reviews that say there’s no character development and that the plot goes nowhere. Absolutely, we do spend our time in a singular story about four people hunted down by (mostly) unseen maniacs. But that doesn’t mean nothing happens. The story of the main woman Camilla (Henriette Bruusgaard), her slightly abusive boyfriend, is compelling. There’s not a massive amount of fleshed out character or plot. At the same time, you can’t deny there’s something cool about watching Camilla go from that timid, on the verge of being abused woman to someone able to overcome and survive the relentless abuse and assault of unknown killers. And everyone WHINED about Rob Zombie turning Michael Myers into a killer with a backstory, a troubled childhood, yet when you get a few veritably homicidal slashers in a movie like this, hunting people down indiscriminately with maximum terror, they say “Oh well that’s not enough” or they needed more. There’s no pleasing everyone. Me, I thought the characters were interesting, I cared about Camilla and hated her boyfriend Roger (Lasse Valdal), and the whole arc of their relationship through the ordeal was well-written, decently acted, providing a nice tough for the finale later on.
Pic1 It isn’t great, it’s never going to be a classic or a cult classic either. Rovdyr is still full of sick enjoyment for the horror fans out there. When you want one of those mindless slashers filled with backwoods terror, this is one for you. That doesn’t mean it’s worthless, nor does it signify this isn’t a good movie. Definitely a decent little bit of horror out of Norway, and I hope for more, as they’ve put a few in the genre that have actually impressed me; some more than others. Director Patrik Syversen (along with a script he and one of the stars Nini Bull Robsahm wrote together) makes this into a tense story with very little plot movement, and it’s able to keep interest, to keep the viewer on edge. The practical effects work wonders, especially as the film wears on and things get even bloodier. Don’t discount this by reading what people on IMDB say – you never should – and don’t think anything too highly of my opinion in the end: judge for yourself. Just know that if you pay attention, if you get into the characters and let the homage of horror classics take you away, Rovdyr is an enjoyable, reasonably paced 78 minutes worth your time.

BACKCOUNTRY Pits Woman V. Bear

Backcountry. 2015. Directed and Written by Adam MacDonald.
Starring Missy Peregrym, Eric Balfour, Jeff Roop, and Nicholas Campbell.
Fella Films.
Rated 14A. 92 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★
829249051I really enjoy films that involve a humans versus nature premise. Even some of what you might consider survival horror.
There are tons of them out there. Some that I’m particularly fond of are Long Weekend (1978), The Edge, of course there’s Jaws, and more recent movies like Black Water.
Part of what I like about these films is that there is a strong psychological element. When men and women are pitted against the natural elements, animals, et cetera, there is a very definitely terror in the psyche. Particularly, I think it’s because (most of) these films are realistic (maybe Jaws is a bit of a stretch at certain times yet still kicks ass – hard). What scares me, personally, about stuff like The Edge and Black Water is that these animals are real, they’re dangerous, and the situations the characters in those films get stuck in can happen so easily that the horror and the terror becomes visceral. It eats away at us inside because it’s easier to put ourselves in these positions than it truly is to try and put ourselves in the shoes of the characters from slasher movies (et cetera).

Backcountry
 doesn’t boast anything particularly innovative in regards to its premise. However, it has a bit of good stuff – mainly the suspense throughout makes for a tense ride with the characters. While the script isn’t bad, there isn’t anything to rave about here, other than a decently paced slowburn thriller in the backwoods of Canada.
5We follow Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and Alex (Jeff Roop) as they head off into the Canadian wilderness. Along Blackfoot Trail, they come across another man named Brad (Eric Balfour), who acts a little odd especially towards Jenn; their unsettling encounter ends with no harm done, but Alex is certainly not pleased.
After the couple goes further on things start to deteriorate – Alex’s supposed knowledge of where to go falls apart, they get lost. Jenn berates him, calling him a loser asking why they even had to go looking for the lake Alex wanted to find; to which he responds the point was for a marriage proposal. Along they go, awkwardly.
Soon enough all that really matters is survival – a bear comes on their trail, almost seeming to hunt them. Alex and Jenn try their hardest to make it out of the woods, however, closer as the bear gets to them their survival seems less and less likely.
videoI can’t say the script is anything innovative. There’s nothing wrong with it, not at all. The dialogue is pretty right on. I didn’t hate the characters for the wrong reasons; each of them were flawed in their own ways, each of them had their strengths.
One thing I didn’t particularly understand, or see the use for, was the inclusion of the accent on the character of Brad (Eric Balfour). I just don’t see why there was a need to make the character Irish. Balfour pulled off the accent for the most part, I don’t really have any complains about that, I’m just not sure why there was a need to make this Irish and have Balfour even doing an accent. If they wanted an Irishman, I’m sure there’s an actual Irish actor that could’ve done the job as well, if not better. That’s not a big flaw, I’m just unable to wrap my head around it. I thought the character himself worked perfectly; added that extra bit of tension that sort of set off fires in the relationship between Alex and Jenn, which later explodes when they’re lost. It’s still weird to me that MacDonald chose to just up and make this character, out in the middle of backcountry Canada, an Irishman. I love the Irish, just seems strange coupled with the fact it’s not an Irish actor playing the character. Not a big enough role to warrant doing an accent, but that’s just me, I guess.
27What i did like is the fact Backcountry doesn’t go for the typical heroic type situation.
SPOILER ALERT – TURN BACK LEST YE BE SPOILED!
Alex gets mauled and chewed to death by the stalking bear. This leaves Jenn alone to fend for herself. What I like is that Alex made the idiot move of not taking a map earlier in the film when it was offered by a park ranger. This leads to them being lost after Alex takes them, obviously, the wrong way; they end up somewhere he didn’t expect to be. Then, once Alex meets his grisly end at the teeth of the bear, Jenn has to take the burden upon herself to get out of there alive.
She is the hero in the end, though, Alex still dies. She could have easily succumbed to the bear, eventually, but Jenn fights tooth and nail until making it back to civilization.
IMG_0011Like the picture above, there were some incredible effects shots. One particularly involves Alex’s face – it is brutal, just downright savage. Great make-up.
The brutality is only short. Most of Backcountry‘s horror is executed through the suspense and tension created as the film chugs along. Once all the terror of the bear’s pursuit breaks out, Alex and Jenn go on the run, and it gets scary. Again, as I’ve said in many reviews, I really try putting myself in the shoes of the characters; these types of situation, because I love to go out in nature, camping (et cetera) and have all my life, really scare the wits out of me at times. MacDonald does a fine job at making the suspense work.
When we get the few bloody shots, gore and all, of Alex being terrorized by the killer bear, it comes in only a few sparse shots. However, the result is effective. Like the picture above, there are a few moments of just utter carnage, and it leaves a lasting impression. Once you see that, you almost want to start yelling at Jenn, saying “GET MOVING!” This is not a straight up horror movie, but it absolutely is a survival horror at times, and has all the makings of a thriller. With the blood and gore in those several shots, it’s enough to make things frightening.
this-horror-film-based-on-a-true-story-is-the-most-effective-anti-camping-psa-everBackcountry does not do anything new with the familiar story of people lost in the woods being hunted by a bear/other animal. There are plenty of films out there with very close to the same plot, however, Adam MacDonald at least uses his ability to create tension and suspense to execute a pretty thrilling, contained little film.
All the same, I can’t really say this is anything more than a 3 star film. It isn’t badly written, but by the same token it hasn’t given us anything to be overly impressed with in terms of story, dialogue, or characters. The characters MacDonald wrote are decent, their development worked, yet it still leaves a want for more. I can’t say I wasn’t thrilled, and chilled a few times, while watching Backcountry. I can also say I won’t be watching it again any time soon. The David Mamet-penned action/adventure-thriller The Edge is much more worthy in this field; though it is less horror and more action, there’s still enough frightening moments to make it another instance of survival horror, albeit tame compared to other titles in the sub-genre.
See it, judge for your own self. I just don’t think you’ll be overly impressed with much in this, other than a handful of scenes and some decent acting.

Mediocre Yet Nasty Backwoods Cannibal Horror in WRONG TURN 4: BLOODY BEGINNINGS

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings. 2011. Directed & Written by Declan O’Brien, based on characters by Alan McElroy. Starring Jennifer Pudavick, Tenika DAvis, Kaitlyn Leeb, Terra Vnesa, Ali Tataryn, Samantha Kendrick, Victor Zinck Jr, Dean Armstrong, Sean Skene, Blane Cypurda, Dan Skene, and Scott Johnson. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Rated R. 93 minutes.
Horror

★★1/2wrong-turn-4-poster-option-1Declan O’Brien did not impress me with the previous instalment, Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, but I’ve got to say I like this one at least a little better than that.
Bloody Beginnings doesn’t particularly pull out all the stops, it isn’t a masterpiece – not by any stretch of the imagination – but aside from the acting, and some of the dialogue, the blood and gore pleased me for a good slasher, and the kills were vicious. This is by all means a slasher movie; a little different from run-of-the-mill horror. I think slashers need to be judged a little differently than other sub-genres of horror, that’s why this one gets a little better of a rating than the previous Wrong Turn disaster under O’Brien’s care.

The premise of Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is the origin story of the inbred cannibals in the West Virginia Mountains. We start off in 1974, at the Glenville Sanatorium in W.V, where the three cannibal brothers are patients, locked away for their own safety and that of others. They manage to escape, killing anyone and everyone in their path. Cut thirty years later – a group of friends go snowmobiling in the woods, eventually ending up at the now supposedly abandoned Glenville Sanatorium. A storm rages outside. After not too long, the friends discover someone is still checked in at the old asylum, and the brothers emerge from the depths to carve themselves up a bit of fresh meat to throw on the fire: nothing like a bit of lunch on a quiet, stormy winter’s night.
1643781254Immediately, I loved the first scene when I saw it. You’ve got some great elements going on: the creepy asylum, the West Virginia deep woods, patients going wild, and then the three brothers. The use of classical music over the end of the opening scene is excellent, I love when filmmakers put classical or old style music over horror, or any intense situations on film; the juxtaposition makes for something interesting, you almost want to smile until you remember what’s going on in front of you. There’s just utter madness throughout the opening bit. When the three brothers kill the doctor it is a great, wild kill, and certainly sets the tone. It looks good, too. I was afraid O’Brien would pull out a kill like the first one in Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, which looked horrible – and not in any sort of good, practical effects type way, it was cheesy and CGI’d to death. This one was gory fun.
968full-wrong-turn-4--bloody-beginnings-screenshot.jpgI don’t like that O’Brien felt the need to go for nudity again right off the bat. I’m fine with sex scenes, if they serve their purpose; I don’t need to watch a movie for sex. And yeah, it’s a staple of 1980s slashers, but the 80s this ain’t, and the nudity in this was just silly. The first scene with the main characters came off needless, when O’Brien could’ve used that time to really jumpstart our emotions towards the leads – instead, you don’t really care about any of them, not at the start, not much in the end.
Furthermore, the acting in this was not good. A couple people held their own, but much of the acting came off wooden, very stilted. The only real emotions I bought from anyone of these characters was fear; development-wise, they didn’t do much for me. I honestly felt bad a little for the Daniel character [Dean Armstrong] because he was the only sensible, nice guy of the males in the film. Unfortunately Armstrong’s acting is a bit stiff, and he didn’t pull me in far enough with the empathy. The other guys I certainly did not relate to because they were foolish characters. This is the biggest problem for Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, the characters don’t catch us and make us care enough for the kills to pay off in the way they are meant to for a slasher; we should care about them, so when they die it’s either a shock or it makes us emotional. The script isn’t perfect, though, it wasn’t so bad a group of solid actors could’ve have made things work. These actors aren’t the worst, but they’re far from the best. Horror needs good acting, or else so much of the framework of a horror film will fall flat on its face.
tumblr_lykqz70ONx1qdmxoco1_1280The kills are my favourite part of this entry in the series.
When they first killed the doctor I anticipated there might be some better deaths in this movie than in the last one, which relied too much on computer generated-looking junk that ultimately does not sell itself. Here, there are some great practical style effects. Those types of kills in horror always come off more effective because it’s visceral, you can see and almost feel the skin peel off, slice open, bleed, and it makes for a better reaction.
Wrong Turn 4 2011 Bloody Beginnings (6)In the auditorium of the asylum, one of the girls is killed (one of the couple pictures above), and it works so well. The blood is plenty, and the reaction of the guy trying to grab onto her feet as she hangs from a barbed wire-like noose is perfect: he screams a wild, high yell, his face getting covered in the blood running faster and faster with every second from her open wound of a neck. You almost want to laugh at the scream this guy lets out, but it is perfect. It struck me as absolute shock and terror. Plus, the blood work is incredible. Great stuff.

I hate the term “torture porn”. So silly. I understand what it means, and the intentions of such a term in trying to describe the types of films that run under that banner, but – aren’t slashers meant to be full of blood and kills and carnage? Yeah, I get that some of it is overkill, what I don’t get is how relevant that is to anything. A slasher is a slasher is a slasher. You can try to spice things up – I loved You’re Next and thought it was a fresh new slasher flick for the modern era – but a slasher will always be made up from some basic elements: one of which is gore. What else do people expect a bunch of cannibals stuck in an asylum out in the deep woods of West Virginia are going to do? You think they’re going to all of a sudden start hunting? No, they’re going to eat people, they’re going to chop them up and make new dishes out of them – stir fry and all kinds of crazy concoctions – and it’s going to be a big, bloody, rotten mess. That’s what I came here for, anyways.
wrongturn4bloodybeginnings2011dvdripxvidac3-yefste_screen[1]People will say I’m mental, but I’ll give this a 2.5 out of 5 stars. There is effort here, regardless if you can’t seem to notice right away. The horror element of this movie really works, for me at least. All the gore and the kills and the creepiness pays off. Whereas in Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead there’s a lack of both good horror and any decent acting, this entry into the series gives us some worthy terror, packed with savage, bloody murder, and plenty of brutality to make things worthwhile. If that isn’t what you’re looking for, then go watch a ghost story, or a haunted house movie – or anything else than a slasher. Because if you’re looking for a slasher… there will be blood.

WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD – Cannibals, Criminals, CGI, Oh My!

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead. 2009. Directed by Declan O’Brien. Screenplay by Connor James Delaney, based on characters by Alan McElroy. Starring Tom Frederic, Janet Montgomery, Gil Kolirin, Christian Contreras, Jake Curran, Tom McKay, Charles Venn, Tamer Hassan, Jack Gordon, and Borislav Iliev.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Unrated. 92 minutes.
Horror

★1/2
MV5BMTM0NzkwNTM0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzY0NjI4Mg@@._V1._CR83.1875,193.8948860168457,1484.1818237304688,1746.0908317565918_SX640_SY720_ I don’t like to specifically rag on a director because directing can be tough, although, that’s what critiquing is all about in the end. Declan O’Brien doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to his filmography as a director. He’s done a lot of sequels, including Joy Ride 3, plus Sharktopus, as well as both Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings and Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. Now, while I do actually enjoy the 4th film of this series, I can’t say I like the 5th, and that brings me to Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead.
What a pile this movie is, if it weren’t for a half decent performance from a couple people and at least a different story than the usual “people wander into the deep woods and get murdered by cannibals”, then this would be completely useless in every single way. Not that it’s good, at all, but at least it has one or two small redeeming qualities amongst the garbage.

The third film in the Wrong Turn series begins with the obligatory opening scene of people being killed, only this time a girl survives and runs off. Meanwhile, a notorious prisoner is being transported by some prison guards, along with several other inmates, and on the way they are thrown off course, their bus crashes, and the guards are then at the mercy of the criminals. Then come the inbred cannibals, raving from the woods, shooting arrows from bows and throwing knives and generally destroying anything and anyone who comes across their path. The surviving girl from the beginning meets up with the guards and the inmates, then they all try to survive the woods together, as the cannibal brothers descend upon them with blood and madness and murder.
1158. Povorot ne tuda 3Right off the bat there’s needless nudity, and I’m not someone who needs to get my daily fill of breasts on film, thank you very much. Sure, if there’s some reason calling for a little bit of nudity, that’s fine, but I’ve got no time for horror movies that try to fill time with naked women. There are some 1980s horrors I don’t mind even though there’s a bit of shameless nudity, because there was a certain charm to slashers from that era that had the whole “don’t have sex or do drugs or drink or you’re dead” thing going on. I just think nowadays it’s a bit tired, and the opening scene here was not called for, no need.
Then there’s an awful bit of CGI for a kill in that beginning scene that was just… whoa. Brutal. Funny because afterwards it looked like practical effects, and yet the kill itself, as a guy literally tears apart, looked to be terrible graphics. It was laughable, I actually cracked up. One of the things I loved about Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End was the fact they did some great gory stuff with practical effects, you got to see good blood and guts and it looked plausible. This one gag just throws all that out the window. They obviously used some practical stuff in the aftermath of that kill, or at least it looked that way, so it boggles my mind why they couldn’t manage to pull the whole kill off that way. We’ll never know.
There only comes more terribly done kills, for the most part anyways. There’s a horrid face-cutting kill that just blew me away how wretched the effects were and how fake they looked. Very few effects are decent – one knife to the side of a prison guard’s neck is done well, even though it’s not super gory or anything too extreme; it went off well enough to be enjoyed, for a brief instant anyways. The most decent bit of blood was when the cannibals hooked the loudmouth prisoner with all sorts of barbed wire and hauled him off, and even that wasn’t too special.
484756640_640I can’t recommend this at all. I gave it 1.5 out of 5 stars because there are at least a couple actors who aren’t complete rubbish, even if the dialogue is crap for the most part. Not all the performances were good, and none of them were great. At least the main guards were all right, a few of the prisoners were annoying, but overall it could have been much worse. The acting gets worse and worse as the whole series goes on. Stay away from this one. Most people hate all the rest, I actually enjoy part of the next entry – Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings. That being said, from here on in none of the films measure up to the first two in the series, so proceed with caution; you won’t be too enticed by any of the films that follow this one, even if I do enjoy the next instalment.

WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END – Rollins Reality Show Ushers in Sleazy Backwoods Bloodletting

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. 2007. Directed by Joe Lynch. Screenplay by Turi Meyer & Al Septien, based on characters by Alan McElroy. Starring Erica Leerhsen, Henry Rollins, Texas Battle, Aleksa Palladino, Daniella Alonso, Steve Braun, Matthew Currie Holmes, Crystal Lowe, and featuring Kimberly Caldwell.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 93 minutes.
Horror

★★★
WrongTurn2-2 By some accounts, this sequel to the fairly well-done backwoods horror flick Wrong Turn is meant as an homage to 1980s era horror sequels. Now, I do think this was a decent effort at coming up with a sequel to the first film, but I don’t really see much in the way of homage to 80s sequels. What I do see is a movie that wants to keep with the gore from the first, however, aside from the blood and the inbred cannibals being intense, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End falters hard on the acting side of things, as well as with the characters. There’s an overall lack of good dialogue, most of the worthy bits being uttered by either Erica Lerhsen or Henry Rollins, and the actors, most of them, didn’t really sell their characters; they were not only unbelievable, they were wooden and stiff throughout the whole movie. Aside from these flaws, I do like this movie, but I like it for what it is: gory fun.

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End opens with a real ridiculous scene where actress Kimberly (Kimberly Caldwell) drives through the West Virginia backroads. Eventually she hits someone, and believing them to be hurt badly, goes to check – it an inbred cannibal. Kimberly meets a rough end, but this first kill sets up a highly campy, outrageous atmosphere. I liked the gory bits here, I just think the tone started right away as an almost comical horror, when I don’t think this is a horror-comedy at all, in any way; even if there are a few jokes now and then. From there we see retired Marine Dale Murphy [Henry Rollins] hosting a new Survivor-style show that takes place in the supposed aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse, something similar anyways, and then the contestants show up – Nina (Erica Leerhsen), Jake (Texas Battle), Amber (Daniella Alonso), Elena (Crystal Lowe), Jonesy (Steve Braun), and when Kimberly naturally does not show up to film Mara (Aleksa Palladino) agrees to help her douchebag director boyfriend M (Matthew Currie Holmes) by taking the last spot. The rules are laid for competitions and similar activities, then the contestants head off with cameras strapped to a band on their heads, into the woods where cameras are setup everywhere. But cameras and the watching eyes of reality television are the least of their worries. For in the woods lurk more inbred cannibals, even Three Finger (played here by Jeff Scrutton) from the first Wrong Turn, and things will get worse as the night closes in.
1869_1The acting, as I mentioned, is what really does not work for this sequel. I think as a director Joe Lynch does a pretty good job. Unfortunately, not all these actors have enough skills to make the characters interesting. Some of the moments between Amber (Daniella Alonso) and Jonesy (Steve Braun) are beyond cringeworthy; Braun has charisma, but the character is one-dimensional and gets truly annoying after the first 5 minutes with him. Texas Battle tried to play the character of Jake Washington well. I don’t know if it was Jake’s dialogue, or him, I just could not stand him either. Also, there were just awkward moments in the script: at one point Jake and Nina (Erica Leerhsen) are running from the cannibals, Nina steps on a nail, so they stop and all of a sudden it’s like the perfect time to have a personal conversation, to develop characters. This moment could’ve worked, and it did in a sense, it just didn’t land in the right place. It would’ve been a good scene for earlier than it happened. There are a few instances like this where I think the script didn’t do Lynch or the actors justice. Henry Rollins was fun, and even he couldn’t save a few of the rotten lines they gave him. If only the screenplay were treated with more care the movie might’ve succeeded in the places where it disappoints.
wrong-turn-2-dead-end-343535lAn aspect of Wrong Turn 2: Dead End that does live up to its predecessor is the gore. Even with the opening scene and its ridiculous, over-the-top/completely silly kill, the blood and guts are here in spades, and aside from the beginning there are fun, fun kills (that’s sick, right?… whatever…).
SPOILER AHEAD: one of my favourite moments is when Amber, Jake, and Jonesy discover they’ve been chewing on human meat – what they thought was a plain ole hunter’s barbecue on an open fire – and then Jonesy pukes, and they all take off. The moment of realization is excellent, and works.
MORE SPOILERS: I thought it was excellent that they sort of throw us off, making the viewer believe Mara (Aleksa Palladino) is going to be one of the protagonists of the story, and then all of a sudden – WHACK – axe in the head, out for the count, cannibals chewing on her liberated appendages. Maybe some saw it coming, but I thought how Lynch and the writers set it up, with Mara and M (Matthew Currie Holmes) having a messed up relationship and her offering to become a contestant, that she would end up being one of the “heroes” later on. Pleasant surprise. I like when characters aren’t necessarily safe just because their setup makes it look that way, and Lynch played this card well.
19f91a4cf9572cc0d894647ee1f3aea9Lynch went hard at the incest angle of the inbred cannibals, which, of course, we know is happening. I just think there was a bit too much needless sexuality – from the cannibals actually having sex, one wearing the scalp and hair of a victim while she gets thrust into by her brother, to one of them having a good wank in the woods while watching Elena (Crystal Lowe) swim in the water. Not like I’m offended. I don’t get why Lynch wanted to include so much of it. Maybe it was to help the disturbing factor sink in, maybe it made things more unsettling, but either way I thought it was needless in the end. Sure – include a bit, I have no issue with that because it’s part of the whole plot of the series, that this family is inbred and they’re constantly creating more little monsters to run around feeding on humans as they please – there is a certain point, though, where something goes into overkill. The sexuality here was too rampant. Lynch did a fine job as it was using the gore to make things disturbing and creepy, I don’t believe those sex bits did anything for the characters, the story, or the fear he was attempting to instill in his audience.
wrong-turn-2-dead-end-152583lAll in all, I have to give this particular sequel in the series a 3 out of 5 stars. It isn’t awful, I think it was a worthy sequel to the first. By the same token, I do see a lot of flaws in the script, the acting, and some of the choices Joe Lynch makes. Lynch is a good horror mind, I do think so, but he didn’t really hit the mark here – no worry, he has gone on to other bigger, better things since. Mostly it’s the gore, the cannibals, Henry Rollins and Erica Leerhsen which made me feel like this movie is worth a 3-star rating. Lynch could’ve absolutely done a lot worse. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is, if anything, a good dose of fun with tons of blood, gore, and creepy stuff to haunt you. It’s one of the better in the whole Wrong Turn series, which may not necessarily be saying much, but it’s worth watching. Horror isn’t dead, it’s only hiding the corners. This may not be an amazing or anywhere near perfect sequel. It is a good effort, and its heart + other internal organs are in the right place, even if not every last portion of the film succeeds.

WRONG TURN’s Freaky Backwoods Cannibal Horror

Wrong Turn. 2003. Directed by Rob Schmidt. Screenplay by Alan McElroy. Starring Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers, Lindy Booth, Julian Richings, Gary Robbins, Ted Clark, Yvonne Gaudry, and Wayne Robson. Summit Entertainment. Rated R. 84 minutes. Horror.

★★★WrongTurnIn my last review, for the 2009 Indonesian gorefest Macabre, I mentioned how there are a plethora of ‘cannibal family in the woods’ films, especially in the past decade since 2003’s Anchor Bay remake of Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There have been so many movies that copied TCM, but like Macabre there are also a lot of solid efforts in the horror field which emulate and pay homage instead of trying to cover all the same ground.
Wrong Turn, released in the same year as the aforementioned remake of Hooper’s low budget masterpiece, is a film that certainly has its roots in TCM and no doubt there are bits that remind people of it. However, Rob Schmidt’s backwoods horror film does enough to separate it from the carbon copies with some decent acting, creepy characters, and several intense kills, and though it isn’t a great movie it is a head above so many lame, boring cannibal horror movies flooding the theatre these past dozen years.

Wrong Turn begins as Chris Flynn (Dexter‘s Desmond Harrington) travels through West Virginia. On a backroad, he accidentally slams into a vehicle. Chris discovers the vehicle belongs to a group of friends – Jessie (Eliza Dushku), Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Scott (Jeremy Sisto), Evan (Kevin Zegers), and Francine (Lindy Booth). After they make sure Chris is all right, the group discovers someone threw a trap into the road: a length of spiked metal and barbed wire designed to blow tires out. They wander around for awhile looking for some way to call for help, or anything that might give them a hand. The group comes across a sort of shanty-house out in the woods. Chris decides to head inside, followed by some of the others. Meanwhile, Evan and Francine are murdered as they wait back at the car. Soon enough the inbred cannibalistic murderers who live in the shanty, One-Eye (Ted Clark), Saw-Tooth (Garry Robbins), and Three Finger (Julian Richings) return, with the body of Francine in tow, and the rest of the group do their best to hide where they can in the house. The horror has only just begun.
wrong-turn-114469l
Probably one of the best things Wrong Turn has going for it overall is the fact that Dushku, Harrington, and Sisto are three pretty solid actors. Not that the others aren’t – Emmanuelle Chriqui is probably the only good thing about Entourage – but those three are actors I’ve enjoyed in other things, and they help to carry the emotionality and tension needed in a horror film. So many horrors, especially ones similar to this involving good amounts of blood/guts and disturbing material (inbred cannibal murderers & no doubt they like to rape), suffer due to poor acting. Because a lot of low budget horror gets put out, maybe more so than any other genre, many of those films end up with unknown actors. And unknown actors are fine, as long as they can act. Many times in horror, I think low budget outings try and make up for the acting in other ways, but the fact is you need good actors to sell the emotions and complexity of a horror film. Even if it’s one about inbred cannibals in the woods of West Virginia.
Perhaps my favourite part of the film is when Scott (Jeremy Sisto) tries to calm his fiancee Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) after their first close encounter with the cannibals. He tells her: “We’re going home, we’re gonna get married, all right? And we are never going into the woods again.” In another movie, this might’ve come off too sentimental and cheesy, but Sisto really sells it the way it’s meant to go, and Chriqui does well acting off of him. This is just one instance of some actual decent acting, which often times gets left at the door in (too) many horror movies. The weak links are no doubt Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth, but luckily there isn’t much screen time for them until they meet a grisly, bloody end.
mountain-men-wrong-turn-2003-The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, and always will be, one of the scariest films I’ve personally ever seen with my two eyes. Something about it hit me right in the correct scary spots. What I like about Wrong Turn in comparison is how it doesn’t opt to have this family of cannibals act with any semblance of organization, outside of the fact they’ve got a house and they have not been discovered/caught. In TCM it isn’t as if Leatherface and the clan are criminal masterminds or anything, but Drayton Sawyer at least has a job, he appears as a member of the Texan community, and this is all a part of how the family does their business. With Wrong Turn, these nasty boys are just a bunch of savage monsters; they live in the hills and take whoever they can from off the roads to fill their pots of stew and their freezer. It works because the actors who are playing Three Finger, Saw-Tooth, and One-Eye sell their characters so well.
I think the scene where the group of friends has to hide in the old shanty while the boys arrive home is a great one. Very tense, lots of quiet suspense. The point where one of the cannibals tosses Francine’s body to the floor, wrapped in metal and barbed wire, dead, bloody, is rough – in the best way possible. That whole scene really set things up for the moment where Chris and the others flee the house, into the woods, and the cannibals wake up from their nap. Honestly, it reminded me of a twisted version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.
movies-wrong-turnNot near a perfect horror, I can still honestly give Wrong Turn 3.5 out of 5 stars. You can do much worse than watch this movie if you’re looking for something with a decent bit of gore, quality acting, and a nice handful of thrills. Plus, the inbred cannibals are terrifying. The best way, for me personally, to enjoy these types of ‘survival horror’ movies or the ‘backwoods horror’ stuff is to try and put yourself in the shoes of the characters – how would you truly react? Me, I would run, and scream, and cry, and probably ruin my pants. I’d probably be the first to die, or close to first. That’s why Wrong Turn creeps me out so hard, though it has flaws, and another reason The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does a number on my head because I imagine myself in those scenarios, how bad it would be. The acting is good from the lead characters, the make-up effects and gore is a lot of fun, the cannibals scare the hell out of me – check this out if you haven’t. The entire series is not up to par, but there are definitely a couple decent ones in my opinion, at least better than so much of the other generic crap being funnelled into theatres and straight-to-video/VOD. Worth the time to enjoy some internal organs and terrifying, inbred murderers.

PRESERVATION is All About Female Survival

Preservation. 2015. Directed & Written by Christopher Denham.
Starring Wrenn Schmidt, Aaron Staton, and Pablo Schreiber. The Orchard. Not Rated. 90 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★
Preservation-2014-movie-poster
I’m a fan of the survival thriller sub-genre, whether it’s something strictly thriller based, or a film that’s a little more horror oriented. I’ve enjoyed films like Southern Comfort, the classic Deliverance, and even horror survival movies such as the 1981 cult classic Just Before Dawn and more recently Eden Lake. Preservation is a pretty good little movie, but fails to reach the heights of the movies I’ve previously mentioned. Christopher Denham (most of you will remember him from various projects as an actor like The BayArgo, a small role on The Following, and the excellent sci-fi indie Sound of My Voice) did a really great job directing his first film in 2008 – a found footage horror called Home Movie about one family’s harrowing path to madness. I really loved that movie/own it. While I do enjoy Preservation, and think there are several awesome aspects to it, I don’t enjoy it near as much as his previous effort.

This movie tells the story of Mike Neary (Aaron Staton – most recognizable as the face of the video game L.A Noire) and his wife Wit Neary (Wrenn Schmidt), along with Mike’s brother Sean (Pablo Schreiber – the well-known Porn Stache from Orange is the New Black), who take a camping trip together out into the great outdoors. Mike and Wit are having some intimacy issues, as his job seems to be coming before their relationship – not to mention the fact that early on we see Wit is hiding a possible pregnancy from her husband. Further than that, Mike’s brother Sean has recently come home on leave from the army. Or at least that’s what he first told Sean. Once in the woods, things start to change.
After they go to sleep on their first night out, the three of them wake up: all their belongings have vanished, including Sean’s loyal dog, and each of the three have a large X marked on their forehead with marker. From there things become a gripping story of survival, as Mike, Sean, and Wit have to defend themselves against unseen assailants hiding amongst the trees of the forest.
PRESERVATIONAREADENHAMFEATThere were a few surprising moments throughout the film. I wasn’t totally shocked or anything – the kills weren’t particularly gruesome. At least not for someone like myself who watches a ton of horror, and I do mean a ton. Too much even. I’m not totally desensitized. Some say they are, but that’s too bad for them. I still have fun and get excited and get freaked out at the movies. Preservation didn’t really have any awful kills. Though, they were done well, I must say. I liked the tension mostly. Denham did a great job at drawing out the suspense and really grinding on the tense moments. One specific scene I really enjoyed was when Mike gets trapped for a few minutes in a portable outhouse – I thought the tension was thick as hell here. Really good stuff. Being a horror hound, I would’ve enjoyed more raw kills here. This was a good movie, decent enough, but could have definitely turned things up a notch with a bit more gore. Maybe. Maybe not, as well. There was just something missing along with all the tension Denham managed to work into the movie.

One thing I did enjoy was the character of Wit. Past here, we’re getting into SPOILER TERRITORY, so please – if you don’t want to get the movie spoiled you should turn back now!
preservationfeatI think Wit’s whole situation, involving the initially hidden pregnancy, really played into the whole plot and helped her character stay very interesting. Personally, I found the aspect of her not being able to shoot an animal and then having to face off against real human killers a little tired. This sort of angle has been played out far too many times. What I really did enjoy about Wit was the fact she was about to become a mother. I think once we discover these are just kids hunting them down for, basically, a laugh, it really becomes something much more intense for Wit particularly. She has just discovered awhile ago that motherhood is upon her. Now, all of a sudden, these kids are reigning terror upon her life. I mean – if that’s not birth control food for thought, then what is? This angle of the plot was really interesting for me, and fresh. We’ve seen the kid killer thing, even the pregnancy plot, but combining the two worked here. Not exactly unique or wholly fresh material. Just executed nicely.

This is a pretty good little thriller with a bit of horror thrown in. I would mostly call this a thriller. Definitely a psychological aspect. There are a couple really good performances. All three of the main characters are pretty excellent. Though, Pablo Schreiber doesn’t have a huge part I really did enjoy him here. Usually he seems to be pigeonholed into playing the creepy jerk, or the weirdo, the psychopath, whatever – here, he does a great job at playing an outsider type character, but essentially a good guy. He has some acting chops, I’ve always thought that since first seeing him. Aaron Staton is pretty good here, as well. Mostly, though, it is the Wrenn Schmidt show in Preservation. She plays a complex female character who isn’t perfect, who gets the hell beat out of her, and who has to do things no expecting mother would ever want to have to do – and she comes out of it a whole different kind of lady. I loved her performance. This was definitely the shining point.
One other thing worth mentioning before I clue things up – the score is a real treat, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Really added a nice element to the entire film. I’d actually enjoy having it as a standalone soundtrack. Great work.
Preserve_KM_102313_677All in all, this is about a 3 out of 5 star film. I didn’t think it was amazing, but I’ve absolutely seen other movies in the same sub-genre that didn’t satisfy me near as much. Christopher Denham is a pretty good horror director. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his acting – Sound of My Voice is probably his best work in that sense. I do prefer Home Movie over this, although I’d absolutely, and will absolutely, watch this again. This goes recommended for people who enjoy the sub-genre. If not, you may walk away from this less than thrilled. For the fans I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Just don’t expect Denham to have reinvented the wheel on this one. Plus, it’s one of the rare modern survival thrillers where you don’t have to watch a woman get sexually assaulted, or have the implications of such things happening off screen – nowhere to be found here. Personally I don’t shy away from something just because of such things, but I do hate movies that use it as a silly exploitation move. Luckily, Denham does no such thing. Sit back, watch a bit of thrilling fun. Might not be the best of the sub-genre, though, it beats some of the lesser titles to death.