Once again, a rundown of a variety of fear flix in various subgenres, including zombies, demons, slashers, possession, a Halloween anthology, and more!
THE LOST (2006)
I groaned out loud when I saw that The Lost was another film based on one of Jack Ketchum’s books, which are always based on true stories and so not my thing because they aren’t scary movies—they’re torture movies. So in a way, I was glad to find that The Lost was mega boring.
Friends hanging out in the woods see two girls camped nearby, and the worst of the kids, Ray, played by Marc Senter of Cabin Fever 2, Tales of Halloween, and The Devil’s Carnival, decides to shoot them because they’re probably lesbians. So…he shoots them.
I hate lesbians…because I look like a drag king.
4 years later, no one was charged with the murders, but the detective on the case is sure Ray did it. He relentlessly harasses Ray, who’s already a nutcase who abuses his girlfriend (Shay Astar, who played the little girl in Ernest Scared Stupid!). After loads of boring relationship drama and teen angst crap, Ray gets a shotgun and starts blowing people away, eventually getting a handful of particular targets in a room to terrorize them…until the police arrive.
Other than Marc Senter in tighty whities, The Lost was a huge waste of my time. Dee Wallace has a very brief appearance that adds nothing to the film. And raucous industrial and metal music blares throughout the film to let us know that Ray is totally on the edge. Intense, man. So intense.
It’s Misery with two hot babes from teen TV shows. Jessica Stroup of 90210, Reaper, and The Following (plus horror movies like The Hills Have Eyes II and the Prom Night remake) comes to a small town to meet her boyfriend’s parents.
She also meets his cop cousin (adorable Michael Landes of Final Destination 2 and Possession), and his seemingly cool ex-girlfriend, played by Mischa Barton of The O.C. (plus The Sixth Sense, Apartment 1303, and Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard).
After a car accident, Jessica wakes up in a bed in Mischa’s house, attached to an IV. From there, everything you could imagine would happen does, including a hobbling, near getaways, a load of stupid missed opportunities to get away, the discovery that Mischa has a murderous past, and a final fight to the death. There’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling if you’re in the mood for cheap, familiar suspense.
HELL FIRE (2012)
In general, Hell Fire is totally my kind of low-budget indie. Any time a bunch of people is trapped in a cabin, people start going demon, and buckets of blood fly, I’m happy. It’s impossible not to think of the Demons movies and Evil Dead when watching this one.
This time, the anti-Christ, a nice looking chap with a hipster edge, briefs us on how a bunch of females became prostitutes, and it’s pretty much a mini Tarantino exploitation flick. Then the girls kidnap him thinking he’s someone else. They end up in a cabin, where he works his devilish magic and begins turning them into demons.
Hell Fire has a great Euro horror trash feel, with tons of gore, girl fights, and drooling demons with gnarly teeth. But in the end, it falls a little short of being a classic demon movie because the best of them manage to be gory but also deliver scares and, very often, moments of dark humor. Hell Fire is heavy on the gory cool and lacking on the others.
If you’re in the mood for run-of-the-mill teen horror, Playback is a good place to start. A bunch of film students are attempting to make a film based on a terrible crime in which a dude killed his family in cold blood…and video taped it.
Turns out, if you watch the tape, the dude jumps into your body. As the teens party, drop numerous horror movie references, and try to make their movie, they start dying one by one in gory ways. The killer predominantly possesses the first guy who looked at the film, but then randomly takes over various other kids as well—seemingly as a result of nanny cams placed in their bedrooms by pervy cop Christian Slater.
So our leading man and his girl start to clue together the truth of what’s really going on, visiting a video store clerk geek (refreshingly, he’s a wheelchair bound black dude this time—Daryl Mitchell of The John Laroquette Show and Veronica’s Closet), an old folks home to talk to the original reporter of the crime (Mark Metcalf of Animal House and the Twisted Sister videos), and the very house where the crime took place.
You’ll pretty much guess the big twist in this messy mashup of teen horror, slashers, and The Ring from the start. Playback is just waiting for heavy rotation on the Chiller Network or SyFy.
SICK: SURVIVE THE NIGHT (2012)
Zombie time! This one gets unfairly trashed in reviews, in my opinion, but I can understand why if viewers don’t look past the first segment of the film, which takes place in an underground bunker where scientists are trying to come up with an antidote for a zombie outbreak. This whole sequence feels cheap and low budget, and the inclusion of scream queen Debbie Rochon on video monitors babbling about the cure just makes it worse. I would have voted to scrap most of it and just get to the main plot.
One of the scientists sneaks away from the bunker to go visit her parents in their home nearby. As she makes her way during the day—when the zombies are usually not around—she runs into some survivors out looking for supplies. They convince her to let them come stay the night at the house for protection because the zombies will soon be crawling all over the place.
Three people trapped in a house with zombies outside at night sounds pretty routine, but instead of zombie overload, the film is dialogue heavy as we learn about each character…including their secrets. The most satisfying reveal is when they do a strip check to make sure none of them is bit and cute actor Richard Roy Sutton spends the entire time with his nice bare butt in the foreground of the camera.
Dan of the Dead is behind you…and he’s hungry!
The great performances of the three leads really make this one a better entry in the indie zombie genre. Plus, the insane unfolding of events at the end as the major zombie onslaught finally begins breaks away from cliché big time, adding a whole lot of unexpected twists that spit in the face of everything you thought you know about the three characters. Good stuff.
VOLUMES OF BLOOD (2015)
An unusual case of a film’s wraparound blowing away all the stories in between! In this horror anthology, four college kids meet in a library to work on a project for class, coming up with a new urban legend. Each kid tells a story that takes place in the library, making for a somewhat redundant experience – they’d work better as short clips you caught individually on YouTube.
The first story is pure gross out horror in which a studying student accepts an energy drink from a stranger. The second story has a cute hefty librarian guy being chased through the library by a book and a ghost with wide-open mouth syndrome. The third story is weighed down by too much overthought dialogue about horror film theory before a chick gets chased through the library by a big hairy monster. And in the fourth story, which specifically takes place on Halloween night, a female librarian casts a spell to resurrect her dead boyfriend and—you guessed it—is chased around the library by him.
The highlight of this entire film? The wraparound! Turns out the four kids telling the stories were actors in a movie being filmed in the library. In this final short segment, we get a crazed director berating his crew, who are then hunted down and brutally murdered by someone in a mask. Funny, gory, classic slasher stuff. They should have ditched the horror anthology idea and made this a full-length film!