July 5, 2013

Midnight Horror: 8 Movies

I have no idea when Echo Bridge Home Entertainment released this multipack other than sometime in 2012. I got it from my local pawn shop a little under a month ago although, as it turned out, I already had a sealed copy which I bought from Wal-mart last year. Ah well, these things happen when you're dealing with movie collections which are designed to confuse the buyer into purchasing the same movies over and over again.

The powers that be must really have it in for me though because I had to scan the cover of this "Midnight Horror" multipack too (and it blurred in the bottom left corner). On the plus side, once again there are no other reviews online and no listing on the official website so I now have my second exclusive in forever. Yay, me! I'd do the Snoopy dance if I even knew what that was.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

"A brother and sister visit the gravesite of their deceased father... but the trip turns into a terrifying nightmare when darkness falls and zombies attack."

Really, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, really? Do you think that there's anyone who hasn't got this famous Public Domain movie already? It's even come free inside packets of cereal in some places!

Whatever. I'm not reviewing it again.

Windcroft (2007)

"When his father dies, John inherits the family farm... and a dark and disturbing past."

Sounds like a bundle of laughs, doesn't it?

Actually, "Windcroft" is all very serious and rather dull in spite of having the best looking blonde that I've seen in any low-budget horror movie ever. She can even act a bit too. Her name? I have no idea without looking it up... but having done that, it's Vanessa Daniels. She hasn't done a lot of other stuff apart from being in a couple of episodes of "Law and Order", but based on her performance in "Windcroft", I wouldn't mind seeing her in another horror one day.

Having obviously skimmed the IMDb for the finer details, I noticed that a lot of the "reviewers" (I mean synopsis writers) were complaining about the acting. But what do they know anyway? The IMDb is full of 12-year-olds who can barely put one word after another let alone know what the terms they use mean. An "IMDb reviewer" complaining about "acting" usually means that he or she didn't like the characters. You'll rarely see one add an "-isation" to the word "character" either or mention "empathy". As far as the IMDb is concerned any actor/character over 30 is old and not somebody they can identify with anyway. But I digressed.

There's really nothing that wrong with the acting in "Windcroft". The script would have benefitted from having someone with better dialogue writing skills go through it and give it some polish, but the acting itself is fine. Given the subject matter (which I'm not going to spoil for you), a little bit of nudity wouldn't have harmed anything either.

The location is great (albeit far too clean for a working farm), and the camerawork is outstanding for this kind of movie. The only niggle I have with some of the shots is that the cameraman must be long-sighted. Short-sighted people make the best cameramen, just so you know, because they use the camera lens to compensate and get in closer. If you're aiming for an oppressive or claustrophic atmosphere, you can't have all that space and distance going on.

The two things which really let "Windcroft" down are the pacing and the really irritating "music" in it. I can almost allow the former because the slowness makes the movie slightly offbeat in a Lucky McKee or Angela Bettis way, but I can't forgive whoever thought it was a good idea to put that horrible cacophony in the background. All the way through, I wanted to turn down the backing track and enhance the vocals, but of course, there's no way to do that.

If someone were to re-release this movie with no "music" (I can't bring myself to remove the quotation marks because it's that bad!), some tighter editing, and whatever clever digital enhancement there is available to make it look more "filmy", "Windcroft" would be a real award winner rather than boasting ones from obscure festivals which nobody has ever heard of.

As it stands, "Windcroft" shows the potential of whoever made it, but it doesn't deliver the goods where it counts, i.e. to anyone watching it who expects either a horror movie or the "modern gothic" tale that I imagine it was meant to be.

Interview with a Serial Killer (1994)

"A well-known crime novelist has reason to believe that her new tenant is a serial killer who has brutally murdered more than a dozen women."

Also known as "White Angel", this is a low-budget/TV quality British crime drama which apparently failed to get a major distribution deal. In the UK, it can be found as a double-feature with "Urban Ghost Story" from the same company. Despite a little bit of brutality, blood, and a flash of boobs or two, it's hard to call this horror. For one thing, the kill scenes are more off camera than on.

There are real actors in this including Peter Firth and Don Henderson (in an extended cameo), but Harriet Robinson is clearly out of her depth in the lead role of Ellen Carter after only being in bit parts beforehand. I don't know if hairy-forearmed Harriet realised that she wasn't cut out for acting or if something more sinister happened, but she was never in anything else afterwards. From her accent, she's Canadian, not that it or her hirsuteness is important to the story in any way.

As a very dated character study with a twist, "Interview with a Serial Killer" isn't a bad role for Peter Firth, but the movie feels like it should be a TV episode of "Bulman" from the 1980s due to Don Henderson's occasional appearances. The late Ken Sharrock who was typecast as a policeman throughout his career makes a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as a bank teller too.

Keepsake (2008)

"When a freak accident strands Janine on a deserted highway, a call for help soon becomes a fight for survival."

The first of the two DVDs in this collection ends with some below average torture porn in the form of "Keepsake".

In spite of a powerful start, good production values (apart from the cheaper practical effects and handheld camerawork which was trendy 5 years ago), and an actress with an unexpectedly attractive body which she doesn't mind showing, it's a real shame that a movie which promised so much goes into the realm of flashbacks and hallucinations instead of staying linear.

While it becomes obvious what the filmmakers were trying to do, the eventual twist doesn't work so well either and borders on contempt for the audience. On the plus side, at least this is a more contemporary horror movie even if it isn't a particularly memorable one.

Colour from the Dark (2008)

"A family accidentally frees something from the Earth's womb while drawing water from their well and now a sinister glow is seeping into their lives."

Debbie Rochon stars in this, but don't let that put you off. "Colour from the Dark" is the classiest thing that she's ever been in, and it's not her fault that the movie is boring. Debbie certainly doesn't mind getting naked for purely gratuitous reasons, and even though she's 40 years old here, she's still a very good looking woman.

The setting in World War 2 Italy is anachronistic but also looks the part, and the atmosphere starts off right. Unfortunately, it's the horribly slow pacing of the story (based on "The Colour Out of Space") which isn't conducive for excitement. A little bit of gore here and there tries to liven things up but without much success.

While I didn't completely hate this movie, I found it slightly confusing and very unfocused. Some very odd casting choices complicate matters unnecessarily by having quite a mix of nationalities with no explanation of how or why they are all in Italy.

Nobody has ever made a good adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story anyway, but filmmakers still keep churning out these overambitious low-budget attempts. I suppose it's better to be overambitious than to have no ambition though.

Final Remains (2005)

"Four college students, who think they are making a harmless midnight stop at the mortuary, are caught in the middle of a deadly and twisted encounter."

Originally named "Mortuary" to confuse people looking for Tobe Hooper's movie from the same year, "Final Remains" is absolute crap of the highest order. While obstensibly a satire of the "Halloween" movies, it's too ineptedly put together to be funny. Thus, even if you give it credit for recognising the slasher formulas, "Final Remains" is nothing but a z-grade copycat.

A couple of flashes of full frontal female nudity early on are just randomly placed teases and don't lead to more of the same, which is a shame considering that the lead actresses are very pretty indeed. Without them, this movie would be an even greater struggle to get through, but it's still quite an ordeal. The first half is such a mess that I was tempted to hit fast-forward myself.

At the end of the day, this isn't much of a step-up from the kind of hobby horror dreck that drunken friends make in their backyards after getting a camcorder for the first time. The camerawork is considerably better than any of those abominations, but the acting, unoriginality, and half-arsed kills are easily as bad.

My Sweet Killer (1999)

"An ex-mental patient becomes obsessed with the beautiful woman who committed suicide in his apartment."

The best way to describe "My Sweet Killer" is as a no-budget version of "Taxi Driver" but with less plot and a faux ghost story to pad the 77 minutes running time.

It's not horror but drama, and as a languid character study where you're supposed to empathise with the lead, Kirk Harris isn't interesting, charismatic, or a good enough actor to draw anyone in. There are lots of movies about mental illness like this including "Loving Walter", "May" and "Roman". The most famous is "The Machinist" (2004), but I don't think "My Sweet Killer" had any influence on it.

Since very little happens until the very end, eyecandy is provided by Stephanie Knight. Recognisable TV face Clifton Collins Jr. also makes a brief show-stealing appearance.

Dark Woods (2010)

"A couple moves to a secluded cabin to deal with the wife's terminal cancer... but an erratic young visitor forces the husband to make a deadly decision."

Finally, a movie which looks like a real movie... or at least a TV movie with decent production values and solid cinematography!

Acting-wise, "Dark Woods" is full of TV actors including Mary Kate Wiles, James Russo and Corey Mendell Parker so there's a certain level of quality throughout this which most movies in these "Midnight Horror" packs tend to lack. The leads, Tracy Coogan and John Muscarnero (who is also the writer/producer), are virtual unknowns however.

It's not all good news as the pacing is very slow and a lot of the interactions between the husband and the girl are clearly inspired by "The Crush" (1993) starring Alicia Silverstone. What makes it worse is that the name of Mary Kate Wiles' character is Alicia too!

Initially, I wouldn't call this horror as it's more of a tragic love story/psychological thriller with a lot of sexual temptation going on, but there's also a macabre twist which I'm not going to spoil for you. You can already guess that things do not end well.

It's nice to end this series of posts on a high note although I still wouldn't rate these movies together as more than average. Average is better than something which you want to take outside and set fire to though.

Unlike the other "Midnight Horror" collections, there's no subtitle or volume number this time. Another thing which used to bug me more than it should is how these packs don't form a real collection due to having so many changes in the style of artwork. In this case, I think it's meant to be an oval mirror in the middle, but it could be a wooden plaque. Who knows? I don't suppose it matters, and I no longer even care after turning my brain to mush with all these crappy movies in the last couple of weeks. I'll be glad to see the back of them.

Of course, if anyone wants to donate some money to my PayPal begging bowl (link on right), I'll happily trot off to Walmart or Kmart and rummage through their bargain bins for more. At the present time though, this is the final "Midnight Horror" pack that I own, and I won't be reviewing any more of them for a while. As awesome as I am, I can't sustain reviewing 8 crappy movies a day forever.

Next week, I'll write a couple of articles about the history of these multipack releases, but I'm not in any rush to buy the dozen or so packs which I haven't acquired.

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