Direct to DVD: A Benjamin Cooper/Jeff Ryan/Matt O’Neill triple feature

Approximately every 5 years since 2006, indie director Benjamin Cooper has released a horror film. Since all three were on Amazon Prime and I totally got sucked in by his creature feature Primitive, I decided…BLOG! 

THE BRINK (2006)

For his first horror film, Cooper did the smartest thing an indie director could do…he made it 70 minutes long! Eureka! No damn filler here. This is a simple little supernatural slasher that gets right to the point.

Three college students decide they’re going to complete a machine Thomas Edison was working on before his death that would allow him to talk to the dead. And what better place to build and use such a machine than in a creepy old abandoned house?

This is where adorable actor Jeff Ryan (Death Factory, Creepies) first enters Cooper’s films. Jeff plays the main girl’s ex-boyfriend, a total skeptic who pretty much crashes their invention party. His luscious lips arrive about an hour earlier…

Before long, they get the machine going and drag some ghosts into the real world—including a big dude with an axe, and a woman with a knife.

These pale, rotting baddies look sort of like something out of the Thirt3en Ghosts remake. But they bring on a whole lot more blood.

This tight little indie is fast-paced, atmospheric, and suspenseful, plus we get to see Jeff shirtless.

And the plot to get out of the house alive is pretty crazy, and one you don’t see every day.

Personally, I would have taken an extra 20 minutes if there had been more college kids in the house and a higher body count considering the baddies were creepy and kills were cool. For me, the only downside was a cheesy CGI fire scene.

PRIMITIVE (2011)

The 80s come to the twenty-teens in this rubber costume monster movie, and I loved every minute of it.

Matt O’Neill, Cooper’s other go-to actor, plays a monster designer on a movie set who is fired after fighting with the director. His girlfriend convinces him to go for anger management therapy…with Reggie Bannister of Phantasm fame!

Before he can get very far with Reggie, our main man has to go back home to his small town for a funeral.

His family’s reputation is drudged up, there is conflict with people from his past, and then they start to get picked off one by one in gory ways by some sort of “animal.”

MAKE AMERICAN WHITE TRASH SHUT THE FUCK UP AGAIN.

What it is might be a mystery to local law enforcement, but we get to see the creature constantly. And it is savagely cool…because it looks almost exactly like the hairy beast from “The Crate” in Creepshow.

Along with loads of monster fun, there are jump scares, good old-fashioned blood and guts, and Matt even shows off his ass-ets.

Plus, his best buddy is none other than Jeff Ryan! And he looks even cuter than he did five years ago.

Yes, Jeff. It’s me, your stalker. Don’t be afraid.
I’m just taking innocent stills…of your ass in mid-flight.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER (2016)

Cooper’s most recent film tackles a challenging adaptation: the last, unfinished work by Edgar Allan Poe. The piece was written as diary entries—and only a few—so it is not known if Poe was intending it to be a novel or short story. This provides plenty of room for interpretation and essentially creation of an entirely original plot.

This film is a period piece that reminds me of the 1960s Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price, which elaborated so much on the author’s works that they were virtually unrecognizable beyond one key plot point.

All the source material offered here was a setup: a man is stranded on a deserted island with a lighthouse. Cooper takes that starting point and runs with it. Matt O’Neill is back as the leading man. His rowboat (WTF?) washes ashore during a storm and a gruff old lighthouse keeper rescues him.

What happened? Where am I? Why am I naked? Why does my ass ache?

The old man insists they are the only two people on the island…even though Matt regularly catches glimpses of a woman.

Believing the old man isn’t being completely honest with him, Matt gets dangerously curious, exploring the island, snooping in places the old man tells him not to, and most crucially, not listening to a really important warning from the old man—never ever let the light in his room burn out at night.

It’s what comes out when the light does go out that teases the more monstrous aspect of the film, and I liked it. EEK! However, the onslaught of ghouls is saved until the final act (my favorite part).

Until then, this is a totally different approach to horror for Cooper, whose other films were loaded with mainstream money shots. The old school slow burn pacing here drops ominous hints of unseen horrors while a supernatural mystery unfolds. The narrative becomes rather surreal, as everything the main character experiences seems to be either encompassed in a nightmare, daydream, hallucination, or possible ghost sighting.

If that style is not your thing, you might not have the patience for this one, but I appreciated seeing Cooper demonstrating versatility, and he definitely delivered the “cool” horror at the end.

Only one other way I could think that he could make the film better…Matt O’Neill and Jeff Ryan stranded on the island alone together. Heh heh.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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