Direct to DVD: the horror of Franklin Guerrero Jr.

This installment of “Direct to DVD” was totally unintentional. Being sucked into the “customers who bought this item also bought” impulse buy marketing scam on Amazon, I picked up The 8th Plague because of a previous purchase of Carver. Only while watching The 8th Plague did I realize that director Franklin Guerrero Jr. is also responsible for Carver. Double feature time!

THE 8th PLAGUE (2006)

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I was psyched to know I already had Carver in my “to watch” pile while watching The 8th Plague because it was proving to be an instant Dan favorite.

The freaky opening of a woman exploring a creepy building and suddenly running into a zombie-demon dude was a great sign that it was my kind of film. After that, we meet Launa, whose sister never returned from a camping trip, which included her visiting an abandoned prison in Halycon Springs. So Launa gets a few friends to go with her to find her sister.

8th plague demon

Before the horror insanity hits the fan, the slow burn of The 8th Plague is reminiscent of the dread created by the pacing and setting of films such as Evil Dead (the horrific elements), Dead Dudes in the House, and Session 9. Sure, there’s some filler, including various scenes of characters driving, but the footage gives you the sense that the characters are heading for a place and situation from which there will be no returning.

A cop and a couple of hicks join Launa’s tiny search party. Once they get to the prison, the film takes off. There’s a warning of an evil at the prison and a symbol on a wall that you aren’t supposed to look at otherwise you let the evil into your soul – and the only way to get rid of it is to gouge out your eyes. There’s also talk of an ancient book of death that was used by a prisoner with disastrous results. But these explanatory technicalities are trivial. Because it’s all about the scares.

8th plague crawl

If you love zombies, demons, creepy atmosphere, incredibly executed gore, terrifying camera angles, and wickedly suspenseful setups and style, you should definitely check out The 8th Plague. Seriously, there are scenes in the desolate cellblocks in which it is what you can’t see that brings on feelings of fear. But eventually, The 8th Plague lets you see exactly what it is that has your heart beating overtime—and it always starts off standing in a corner with its back to you. Fuck me! There is even one particular jump scare from hell that I totally should have seen coming but didn’t.

8th plague man star

For such a serious and gruesome horror film that doesn’t waste any time with humor, I was a little surprised that there’s actually one “couple scampers off alone to have sex” scene. We get some girl tits and some man ass, but the moment seems forced and out of place considering they are out looking for their missing friend. But the bright side is…we get some girl tits and some man ass.

CARVER (2008)

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Carver is Franklin Guerrero Jr.’s backwoods horror flick. This one claims to be based on a true story of five kids who went camping in the town of Halycon Ridge and never returned. It sounds like a Texas Chainsaw marketing idea to me, especially considering Halycon is the same name used as the place where zombie-demons devoured the living in The 8th Plague!

If you know the drill for backwoods slashers then you know what to expect from Carver. Kids head into redneck hell, meet the locals, then get chased down by a crazed killer who seems to have no interest in the worth of human life. This big imposing guy is perfectly frightening in his matter-of-fact way of slaughtering.

carver killer

Carver brings on the pretty boys…and a pretty boy cop. It has plenty of female T&A. And it is unapologetically brutal in its violence—especially if you watch the uncensored version. A victim gets nailed—not to anything, just nailed. The killer absolutely mutilates a guy’s face with a sledgehammer after beating him senseless with it. And there’s no way to candy-coat this; a dude has his testicle so graphically popped with pliers that the contents splatter against the camera lens.

While the film delivers the backwoods goods, it isn’t without its flaws. First, a dude sees an outhouse toilet bowl is covered in shit and maggots. Next scene shows him sitting on the bowl! Granted, in the deleted scenes on the DVD, they show him cleaning off the shit and maggots which would have helped believability slightly, but who the frick would clean that horror off a toilet seat to begin with, let alone sit on it? Hell. I wouldn’t even hover over it.

carver face

Then you have to wonder why a chick who has no reason to get a look at her tormentor’s face after killing him (this isn’t a whodunit, after all) removes the goggles over his face. Obviously, it’s just so we can see the horrible truth about what she’s done. It’s a fairly common twist that just feels a little forced here. But I must say, this chick has such a great throwback look—there’s something very 70s horror about her. In fact the other chick, a blonde, gives off a PJ Soles vibe. Guerrero definitely knows how to cast the horror ladies.

carver neck

As with The 8th Plague, Carver delivers the special effects; it’s got a gritty, grisly, grindhouse vibe. Franklin Guerrero Jr. once again demonstrates his mastery of the horror genre, not only in visual setups, but also in his brilliant use of music, sounds, and silence to get your heart racing. He’s a director to keep an eye on, and while I wish his films would get more attention and that he would get more recognition…many times, that leads to the best indie directors putting out generic crap and losing their edge!

Check out the cuties in the films….

carver 8th plague collage

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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