Seeing the Wild Eye logo flash across the screen before a movie in the 21st century is sort of like seeing the New Line Cinema logo before a film back in the 1980s. You know you’re with family; you don’t always love them, but there’s comfort in the fact that you’re in the familiar surroundings of your horror home.
Wild Eye is one of a handful of companies still distributing loads of indie horror films and making sure they reach an audience, not only on VOD, but also throwing a bone to us old school collectors and putting movies out on DVD as well. So let’s tackle 3 of the more recent releases I’ve checked out: House of Salem, The Devil’s Well, and Escape from Cannibal Farm.
HOUSE OF SALEM (2016)
While on the surface it seems to have a pretty basic premise, House of Salem actually immerses viewers in a much more surreal, slow-burning experience reminiscent of late 1970s horror. There’s plenty of tension and atmosphere, but don’t expect to experience many cheap, tangible thrills here. This is sort of a mystery horror, and by the time all is said and done, you may not even crack the case.
Things begin modern enough. A young boy is being babysat when people in creepy masks invade his home and kidnap him. However, this boy is “special,” and seems to have some sort of psychic powers. He knew this was going to happen…and that they will be taking him to a scary house.
The kidnappers don’t know it’s a scary house. They just think it’s a place they’re supposed to hold the kid until they get their pay for kidnapping him. But then strange things begin to occur…and the creep factor sets in as they learn the sinister truth of what’s intended for the young boy. Now the evil force that wants him has set its sights on them, too.
Visual horror stimulation abounds, and we’re not quite sure at first if something is happening in the house or if the boy himself is somehow manifesting the threats that relentlessly attack the group as they uncover the truth of what they’ve gotten themselves—and the boy—into.
Also, characters sort of come and go as the movie forges ahead, so trying to decipher exactly what is happening becomes a bit of a chore, but it definitely is a horror film experience unlike most you’ll see these days, with a bit of a twist on the home invasion subgenre.
THE DEVIL’S WELL (2017)
With found footage films being a dime a dozen these days (more like unlimited on streaming services), there are very few that really grab you while you’re watching them and stick with you after. The Devil’s Well is pretty darn generic all around.
It comes to us from Kurtis Spieler, director of Sheep Skin. While that very different film also had pacing issues, I much prefer it to this one, which is guilty of all the typical found footage clichés.
A ghost hunting couple was investigating an old well in a cavernous basement location when the wife disappeared mysteriously.
We first get all the documentary interview stuff about the legend of the well, the husband’s perspective on what occurred, and opinions from family, friends, and professionals on the case about what they think happened.
That takes up a good chunk of the film. Finally, the husband brings friends who are also ghost hunters to re-investigate the well and caverns where his wife disappeared. They roam around with flashlights and cameras, see figures in the shadows, get spooked, etc. It all leads up to the big encounter with the cult mentioned during the interview segment of the movie. There isn’t even a real shocker of a final frame.
CANNIBAL FARM (2017)
Considering this is a movie about a family taking an RV trip and running into a clan of crazed cannibals, you have to overlook the fact that every character in the family is so fucking unlikable from the start. I’ll never understand why horror almost completely shifted to a position of having protagonists that are so damn miserable.
So this miserable family—a mother, stepdad, young son, horror-loving, seemingly gay son, and daughter with a boyfriend hit the road, bicker, have the usual encounter with a weirdo during a pit stop, and then park to camp for the night. They’re almost immediately terrorized, and in a move that makes no sense, the terrified little boy decides he’d feel safer outside in a tent! WTF?
It’s not long before the tent idea proves to be a really dumb one. A gruesome accident leads the family to seek help at a farm nearby. This film does not believe in slow burning at all.
Shit gets scalding hot immediately! And it’s fucked up! A pitchfork to the ass is just for starters.
The family is tossed into electrified cages and the slicing, dicing, and screaming begin!
This shit is vicious without being so brutal that it’s too hard to watch.
But the WTF moments still rule, and every time the film seems to throw a cliché our way, it swerves and does something fucked up to balance out the predictability.
I’m definitely a fan of this nasty little flick. It is my favorite of this Wild Eye trio, for sure.