Some creatures you can see, others not so much

Once again I was put to the “it’s what you can’t see that’s scariest” test…and once again, the results have me as a guy who needs money shots. Loads and loads of them!

Actually, of the four films in this batch, the two serious films simply didn’t take me any deeper than my mind has already been in my movie-watching lifetime, which is why I am rarely impressed by “smart” horror these days—it’s all been done before. If I’m going to watch shit that’s all been done before, it needs to be fun shit. Like the other two films in this batch, my faves of the foursome—aka: the two meaningless b-movies with awesome monster madness and gore. 

DEVIL IN THE DARK (2017)

On the one hand, Devil in the Dark is a very timely horror film. It focuses solely on the relationship between two brothers who are as polar opposite as the red and blue division (caused by white) in American society these days.

On the other hand, in its attempt to be much more complex than your average creature feature, it sacrifices genuine fear for indecipherable symbolic demons…I think…

After years of estrangement, a brother returns from his life in the city to visit his older brother back home, and to go hunting, something he has always hated doing. Yet…it was his idea.

We learn of their differences since their childhood, and it’s pretty much implied the younger brother is gay in two comments he makes to his sister-in-law, one about not being interested in women at a bar, the other about redecorating her house. But that’s all you get aside from the outlining of his “soft” morals, such as being anti-hunting and against the use of inflammatory slurs.

Once the brothers go hunting, there’s a short period of good tension when they suspect something is following them in the woods, and then all the monster stuff happens very fast.

It’s also very understated, because the movie is not about the monster, but what the monster means in terms of the brothers and their relationship. In other words…the good part of the movie is really short.

THE RITUAL (2017)

David Bruckner, director of The Signal  and Southbound, gives us a men vs. monster in the woods flick that spells out right from the beginning that it’s really about a man doing some involuntary soul searching.

During a hike in the wilderness, the guys are forced to take shelter in a creepy old house, where they discover signs of occult activity.

The main guy has terrifying visions tied back to his guilt over his past actions.

This causes some sort of creature to begin hunting down and mutilating his friends. It’s thrilling enough for sure, but there really are no surprises here. It’s totally predictable, and while the monster is occultish cool, the first full reveal scene feels like an odd homage the to the natives sacrificing Faye Wray to King Kong.

CLAWED (2017)

And now for the good stuff!

I shouldn’t be surprised that I was totally feeling this bizarre throwback creature feature, because it comes from the director of the 2003 slasher Detour.

Clawed is framed around a woman interviewing a sheriff about the legend of a mountain monster he says attacked him. So begins the movie-length flashback to how it all happened.

Basically, there’s a puddle of black goop in the woods, and it either forms into a monster or turns people into the monster by getting on them.

Whatever the case, it’s an endless stream of people we can’t keep track of—mostly college kids on a field trip—going into the woods to be totally mutilated! Faces are split in two, body parts are yanked off, and skin is literally peeled completely off. Hey, at least that won’t leave any marks…

And naturally, there’s monster rape.

It is just midnight movie monster trash and I loved it. We even get Tiffany Shepis and Felissa Rose in a brief cameo.

And the final scene is as hokey as any zinger at the end of a segment of a Tales from the Crypt episode.

BAD BLOOD (2016)

Bad Blood sells itself short in two ways: it opts for a generic title that can’t live up to the freaky amphibian creature feature it delivers, and it goes for a cheap SyFy-like mashup movie approach in calling the freaky amphibian creature a werefrog.

Like a good old weird 1980s monster movie, this film focuses on a college girl home from school who decides she needs a night away from her asshole stepfather and stepbrother. So she sneaks out of the house with her friend…and they get attacked by an amphibian man monster at a gas station!

Lucky for her, there’s someone who knows a thing or two about the monster, and gives her a drug to keep her from turning into one of the creatures while an antidote is in the works.

But the girl’s family, believing she’s a drug addict and a runaway, put a private investigator on her trail. And he’s got some delusions of violence himself.

While the buildup of the plot is a little longer than it needs to be, when things finally go horribly wrong and the main girl makes her transformation, it is monster heaven. The creature looks awesome and appears in a halo of neon green light and mist.

This is an old skool practical monster, and the attack scenes are classic. But the scene of the monster chasing a kid on a bike is amazing and makes me wish this movie had existed when I was about 10 years old, because it would have destroyed me.

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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