A deformed masked killer flick, a chilly thriller from an established horror director, and a low budget alien indie. So did any of these streaming selections win me over?
ENGINE TROUBLE (aka: Junior) (2002)
What begins as an ominous intro scene of a woman combing her hair in front of a mirror by candlelight becomes overly long before any payoff…and pretty much foreshadows a problem of drawn out scenarios that plagues this entire film.
Two pretty young women head out on a road trip to a driving montage set to blaring rock music, which gives us little time to learn much about the girls.
Their car breaks down in “the middle of nowhere”…between a couple of buildings…so one girl heads off on foot to get help. The other stays at the car, and her nightmare begins.
I suspended disbelief for quite some time after she got the car working again, realized there was someone in the trunk of the car fucking with her, got out of the car, failed to flag down help, and so…got back in the car. I mean, it’s pretty hard to continue watching from any perspective other than, “Bitch deserves to die,” at that point.
But, hey. It’s pretty thrilling when the freaky masked killer with the scary blade finally comes out to play and really fucks with her in and around the car. Yes, she gets out of the car and then gets back in again.
Fast forward to her finally being held in the killer’s lair, and the remainder of the movie becomes like nails on a chalkboard. And by that, I mean, it’s like someone grabs your hand and starts scratching your nails on a chalkboard for an hour straight.
There’s another chick tied up, screaming and whining nonstop. When another character suddenly appears and immediately launches into an unsolicited monologue describing the entire backstory of why the killer is how he is, I was just about to shout “KILL THAT BITCH ALREADY!” when the new character interrupted himself and made the same not so subtle request for me.
After that kill, it’s virtually all dialogue as the main girl tries to weasel her way out of her predicament for the remainder of the film.
NIGHT FEEDERS (2006)
Well I’ll be damned if this isn’t the little low budget indie alien flick that could – could keep me from contemplating what I might want for Christmas three years from now, the type of thought that usually whirls through my mind when I watch movies. I was actually riveted if you exclude endlessly looking at my two pups and telling them how cute they are—and I do that in my sleep. Seriously, I wake up about once an hour throughout the night, reach out in the dark for a furry form on the bed and whisper, “You’re so cute. I love you,” then feel around to find another furry lump, think, “oh, that’s just my husband,” then finally touch a third furry body and say, “You’re so cute. I love you, too.”
Night Feeders comes from the same year that brought us Altered, another film about country boys that spend a night battling vicious aliens in the woods.
Take that movie and apply some SyFy grade CGI for many of the special effects, and you’ve got Night Feeders. But you have to look past the cheesy graphics that are used at times for the alien moments (and fire effects), because this is really a well-crafted creature feature with plenty of tense atmosphere, jump scares, gore, dry humor, and a cast of charmingly goofy guys.
Hunting buddies are camping in the woods when hostile aliens of the classic bug-eyed variety attack. The guys hole up in a house in the woods, but that doesn’t stop the angry aliens, and it turns into a battle to the death!
Despite the use of CGI, much of the more traditional alien effects are shrouded in shadow, dark lighting, and fleeting camera work, giving this a more traditional “what you can’t see is scarier” approach.
And considering this alien looks cool after I did a screen grab and lightened it, there really wasn’t a need to mask the effects. This little bugger perfectly fits the tone of this creature feature.
Chill a case of cherry cola, pop a huge bowl of popcorn, turn off the lights at midnight, and do this one as a double feature with Altered.
Adam Green of Hatchet fame shifts away from mutated monster slasher madness to bring us a familiar thriller plot device—a small group of friends faces the natural horrors that come with being trapped in a situation from which there’s no immediate escape.
In this case, Shawn Ashmore (The Barrens, Mother’s Day remake, The Ruins, Blood Moon), Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Dead remake, The Curse of Downers Grove, The Colony, The Hollow, Wrong Turn, Fear of the Dark), and Emma Bell (Final Destination 5) inadvertently become trapped on a ski lift at the end of the night…right before everyone heads home for the weekend.
As is always the case with these stranded situations, they have a near brush with rescue (cameo by ex-Jason Kane Hodder in a snowplow that’s just too loud and too far below for him to see or hear them). They make a stupid mistake (Zegers believes he’ll make the jump from the ski lift in one piece).
And humans learn a harsh lesson on why they should just stay home in front of the TV watching bad thrillers about people stuck in ski lifts (frost bite sets in, sun sizzles them, hungry wolves arrive).
There was just one part of this film that got to me. Emma Bell starts to fall apart worrying about her pet at home, and how it’s going to starve to death thinking the whole time that she betrayed it, deserted it, and left it there to die. That part killed me.