May 18, 2015

Live-In Fear (2014)

"In the snowy Utah mountains, an ancient being terrorizes four friends as they try to survive."

There aren't many independent horror movies which I've waited over two years to see (or even cared about for that matter), but Brandon Scullion's "Live-In Fear" is one of them. In fact, it was way back on Friday, October 26th, 2012, that I first mentioned this movie, and earlier today, thanks to Maria Olsen from MOnsterworks66, I finally got to watch the HD screener.

Is "Live-In Fear" all that I expected it to be? Well, yes and no. I was mostly looking forward to the wintery setting, "The Shining"-style madness, and of course, the performances by Maria Olsen, Arielle Brachfeld, and the equally lovely Sarah Greyson. There's undoubtedly nothing to disappoint anyone too badly with these three actresses involved, but—and there's always a but with these things—the "cabin in the woods" (or rather "lodge in the snow") story itself is a tad confusing in places.

The good news is that this movie now exists and it won "Best Grindhouse Feature" at the 2014 Los Angeles RIP Horror Film Festival. Fans of Arielle Brachfeld (from "The Haunting of Whaley House") will also be pleased to learn that she won "Best Actress" for her role as Mallory at the same festival.

The bad news is that "Live-In Fear" is still another C-grade indie horror which isn't for everyone's tastes. You can't compare something like this with a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster, and so I'm not going to be foolish enough to try. However, when despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the story ultimately doesn't make a whole lot of sense, there's always room for criticism.

Nice retro poster. It reminds me of the '70s.

I was fine with everything (sort of) for the first 53 minutes. "Scooby Doo"-style villains and "Cassanda" tropes aside, each of the characters has dark secrets which are revealed in due course. Coupled with the usual low-budget horror bloodshed, this makes for some decent entertainment overall.

Admittedly, I found myself distracted by the scenery and ogling Sarah Greyson (whom, I have recently been informed, was in the "Road Rules" TV show) as Becca with her Bettie Page hair, but the camerawork is competent enough for the most part, and the sound has some unnerving ambient additions which first made me wonder if there was something wrong with my speakers and then caused me to worry that I was hearing things which weren't supposed to be there. Trust me, you'll notice these things too, and many more.

Written and directed by Brandon Scullion, "Live-In Fear" is a co-production between Brandon's Iodine Sky Productions and Maria Olsen's MOnsterworks66.

Maria Olsen is very attractive in her earlier scenes (and a bit scary later) as Seth's mother, and she definitely gives the younger actresses a run for their money, even if the aforementioned Arielle Brachfeld as Mallory is the one who is meant to stand out the most. Aiding and abetting them is David Lautman as Seth and Chris Dorman as Eric, neither of whose characters I warmed to, and with good reason considering the reveals.

The supporting cast of Geoffrey Gould, Myles Cranford, Charlene Geisler, and Nancy Wolfe are okay-ish, but Nancy Wolfe (who played Susan Atkins in the original 1976 "Helter Skelter") is the obvious stand-out here. None of them have very much screen time.

Sadly, "Live-In Fear" isn't a very scary movie, and it kind of takes itself too seriously for what it is. I actually prefer the latter element in a horror genre movie rather than everything being played for laughs (although I know other people don't feel the same way), so that's another point in its favour.

There's some nice blood and gore in places, which we all like, but there could have been more. Practical effects of various qualities appear throughout, several of which are unintentionally comical, but I can't say any more without spoiling them for you.

Eric is not a very nice man.

The only thing which threw me right out of my willing suspension of disbelief was what can only be described as a "WTF moment" around the 54 minute mark. Something far too weird happens with a younger version of Mallory (played by Charlene Geisler) which had me puzzled for the 4 minute duration of the scene. It makes absolutely no sense even with a second viewing, so I'll generously put it down to padding. The scene could be excised with no great loss, although with a running time of only an hour and 20 minutes, "Live-In Fear" isn't a very long movie anyway. It also has, in my opinion, an unnecessary and unsatisfying "Epilogue".

"Live-In Fear" did not quite live up to my expections, and I highly doubt that it's truly "the most disturbing film you'll see in your lifetime" (as the voiceover in the trailer suggests), but it certainly left me shaking my head and wondering, "What the fuck did I just watch?"

I recommend "Live-In Fear" for fans of this subgenre of indie horror movies, but it isn't good for anyone with mainstream tastes. It's hardly "The Evil Dead" despite some superficial similarities, but then again, it doesn't try to be either.

Having said that, "Live-In Fear" is likely to be one of the best micro-budget indie horrors that you'll see this year. Give or take a plethora of unrealistic situations and responses (which abound in all horror movies), I enjoyed it.

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