STREAM QUEEN: 6 degrees of Bill Oberst Jr.

Taking a break from blogging about movies in my own collection, I perused my streaming watch lists and realized a bunch of the films included appearances by one of my indie faves, Bill Oberst Jr. Which means…BLOG THEME! These six films are a satisfying smorgasbord of subgenres…with varying degrees of Oberst in them.

THE DEVIL WITHIN: RISE OF EVIL (2010)

Being a sucker for throwbacks to slashers with a late 90s vibe, I ate this one up from the opening montage of kids partying while a cool alternative rock song blares.

Even with all the partying (it’s the main girl’s birthday) and teens being teens (drugs, bullying, sex, tit flashing), there’s a lot more going on here before the slashing starts.


I’m hot for teacher giving a lecture on sin…

We actually get some character development that makes us want to know where this is all leading, which generates a whodunit vibe that delivers a few twists later.

Aside from the usual bitchy girls and goofball guys, the film dares to dig a little deeper and mix it up with a troubled lesbian and a girl with disabilities, both treated particularly kindly by the main girl.

Adding to the edginess there’s prostitution, perverts (including Oberst as the creeper principal), themes of abuse, and a long sexual dancing montage at the party set to a 90s sounding girl group track.

It’s not until only 30 minutes remain that the killing starts and comes fast and furious.

As the hooded killer butchers kids, it kind of reminds me of a cross between the house party scenes in Scream and Freddy vs. Jason.

Despite any flaws and it not being a straightforward slasher (or perhaps because of them) I kind of liked this one.

A HAUNTING IN SALEM (2011)

Oberst stars as a man who comes to Salem with his family as the new sheriff…and lives in the same old Victorian in which the last sheriff died. Everything about that sentence would tell me that I really shouldn’t be taking the job. However, I’m sure glad the beginning shows that first sheriff’s end…and another cute man’s end as well.

The house is so cool looking as well.

For the new family, the spooky shit starts immediately, with items being misplaced, a crow crashing through a window, hair in a drain, and the daughter getting cryptic instant messages on her computer.

Naturally it has something to do with the Salem’s witchy past and how it relates to the house, but despite some great atmosphere and hugely effective jump scares, this is actually just a slasher in which everyone is killed off by a corpse-like ghost girl.

And even though victims are offed in bloody ways, when the bodies are found, they’re always simply hung (like a witch). But who cares when the body count is so satisfying?

It’s actually kind of fun in an 80s b-horror haunted house/supernatural slasher way, right down to the cheesy final frame jump scare.

A GRIM BECOMING (2014)

They don’t make straight up comedies with a horror theme the way they used to, so it’s a huge treat for me to stumble upon a silly slapstick film like A Grim Becoming, especially when I went into it thinking it was an actual horror movie but quickly had my funny bone tickled by leading man Brandyn T. Williams, who is a natural at farce.

On Halloween night, our main cutie has an unexpected encounter with a grim reaper. Turns out if you see a grim reaper at work, you must also become one.

So, while our main man is at a funeral, Death breaks the news to him.

He spends the movie trying to resist his new job of killing people. The catch is, every time he refuses to do his job of taking someone at death’s door, he has to fight another reaper to stay alive!

As an added bonus, whenever he involuntarily transforms into reaper mode, when he turns back and loses the robe, he’s naked. So it’s a bummer that we only get a single, panning glimpse of half his tush (freeze frame time).

A good balance of male nudity with the comedy would have made this one that much more fun, and less PG-13, perhaps my one complaint.

Even so, we do get a shirtless hottie in the opening Halloween scene. Also, indie horror hunk Jason John Beebe makes a surprise appearance after the closing credits, showing off his beef. Look at that pit. Yummy.

Oberst plays the father of one of the victims, horror veteran Lynn Lowry makes an appearance that doesn’t add anything to the plot, and horror queen Jessica Cameron plays “Life.”

If it hits DVD at some point, I will definitely be adding this to my collection.

HUNTING GROUNDS (2015)

After finding the ultimate Sasquatch flick in Exists, I don’t often watch Bigfoot movies. But when I do, it’s because Bill Oberst Jr. is in it.

Okay, so he’s not in it tons, but he is in a super fun gore scene.

The story focuses on a father and son who are so damn broke they have to move into a little ramshackle cabin in the woods.

Two friends of the dad, one a fun character and the other an asshole come to visit.

 

They force the son to go hunting against his will, and that’s when the shit starts hiding the fan. Quickly. The Bigfoot action is fast-paced and doesn’t shy away from showing the creature as it relentlessly tries to attack them.

It’s just dark and grainy enough to bring to mind old Bigfoot flix of the 1970s (when flix was spelled flicks).

The highlight for me is when the Bigfoot first appears, hovering over the son in his sleeping bag, with the kid pulling the old “if I just close my eyes it won’t see me” stunt like he’s a little kid. Intense.

On top of that, things get awesomely nasty between the main characters. The son, who reminds me of the kid from Fear The Walking Dead, shines in his role.

SCREAM AT THE DEVIL (2015)

I hesitate to watch anything that looks like yet another current day possession/exorcism film, but again, if Oberst is in it, I’ll give it a shot. Honestly, the first few minutes of this film made me think I was going to hate it, with a bit too much pensive footage of the main character and visual and orchestral cues to set a tone.

But then it shifts to the actual story and becomes an insane little film that can seem cliché at first, but takes so many off-kilter turns that it somehow ends up being more original than most indies I wade through these days. And thankfully—no exorcism rehashes from other movies.

Not to mention, the main actress is so out of her mind as a mentally broken woman that her intense performance carries the movie along perfectly.

She and her incredibly handsome husband buy a new home in the middle of nowhere so she can paint in peace. But suffering from PTSD after a life-changing event, she is pretty insane, seeing and hearing demons everywhere in the house. Some of the effects are pretty dang cool.

Her descent into madness worsens, in part because everyone who comes by and seems friendly at first is actually kind of weird and creepy, including Oberst in a brief scene as a delivery man that is wildly shot to make him seem even more unnerving.

But for me, it’s a scene with three younger women who do everything in sync that was the most fun…and pretty funny.

Seriously, shit just keeps getting crazier and unexpected as the film progresses, including a zany montage of her trying to get back into her house set to a hip hop jam, and demon artwork she doesn’t remember painting that follows her around the house.

I just love how this movie follows no rules and yet at the same time, unlike so many movies in which the director just turns on the camera and points, everything is so particularly thought out to create an experience that takes you on a ride.

And while it runs a bit too long for my tastes (ten minutes shorter would have tightened up the pacing and repetition), it finally peaks with an insane demonic assault on her. Even Tony Todd gets in on the action as a detective at the end.

Ordered the DVD of this one as soon as I finished watching.

DIS (2017)

Running only 61 minutes long, Dis is the one to watch if you’re looking for something much darker and complex than the usual fun horror.

Director/writer Adrian Corona delivers a surreal, sexually disturbing myth of a demon that uses the seed of killers to feed its garden. It’s bizarre, sleazy, and downright repulsive at times, yet somehow carefully crafted and artistically executed with plenty of subtle nuances to keep you thinking.

The settings and visuals are grotesque and chilling, reminding me at times of the most unnerving moments of Silent Hill…without the safety net of mainstream Hollywood film parameters. And much of the story here is told visually, with little in the way of dialogue.

Scenes in the catacombs of derelict buildings are a disturbing reminder that we have no idea what kind of satanic rituals and evil shit is being perpetrated on people in the darkest, unexplored corners of the world.

A demonic being in a gimp mask keeps its victims chained up in a lair, conditioning them into submission, and eventually masturbates them into orgasm to catch the fluids in a container. It is just so icky and violating to watch.

Oberst plays a man who has it out for the demon, so dares to enter its world. He is shadowed and followed by the demon and sort of seduced by it, at which point he has to figure out a way to break free of its grasp.

Stay tuned, because this blog is going to need a sequel. I still have a bunch more Oberst films queued up.

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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