If you’re in the mood to just kick back on the couch, lights out, a big bowl of popcorn and a 2-liter of cherry cola in hand, and be scared silly with some mindless horror fun, then this is not the double feature for you. Your mind will need to be totally functioning to get through these two, both of which dabble in the supernatural…and torture porn!
I’ve seen various artwork for this film – but the visual with a masked guy holding an axe on Amazon suckered in this lover of cheesy slashers.
Not surprisingly, in the world of deceptive marketing, this isn’t a slasher…despite the fact that the opening scene has a woman being chased, stabbed, strung up, and tortured by a masked killer. And it’s awesomely gory, I might add.
Pinwheel is actually about a woman who comes back to her hometown a decade after her mother’s murder. She immediately runs into her old boyfriend at a gas station. Her old boyfriend with the hot bod.
They reconnect (do you blame her?), and he starts hanging around her family’s farmhouse as she deals with the fact that her father – a carnival worker – has gone missing.
The farm is filled with a bunch of odd characters. Her uncle has rented a room to a writer doing a story on the carnival, its mysterious occult past, and the six weird carnival performers that are now living in the barn. Also hanging around is the detective working on finding her father.
Everyone is mesmerized by an old metal pinwheel the father stuck in a field in the yard years before, and the main girl, her boyfriend, and the writer all have disturbing nightmares, which convinces them something quite sinister has happened to the father.
I guess you could call this one a slow burn, because it’s kind of slow…and quite melodramatic. It feels very much like the bizarre, trippy occult films of the 1970s, especially since so much of what takes place is hard to follow and often turns out to be either a dream or hallucination.
In fact, that’s when most of the horror elements take place, usually involving gruesome torture by masked creeps in the barn.
It all plays out like a supernatural mystery, and while not a lot of it makes sense, it all kind of makes sense, because inevitably, when the big twist comes around at the end, you pretty much know exactly what that twist is going to be. At least, you do if you’re old like me and have been watching these kinds of films since you were like six years old in the 1970s….
IT WATCHES (2016)
I wouldn’t have left this one sitting in my Prime watchlist for as long as I did had I known it was from Dave Parker, director of The Dead Hate the Living! and The Hills Run Red, zombie and slasher fun, respectively, from the 2000s.
It Watches is neither of those. It’s actually a very different kind of film for Dave Parker, who co-wrote the film with its star, cutie Ivan Djurovic. Djurovic is more often the monster in movies (Zoombies, Under the Bed, 51), but here, he virtually carries the film as a one-man show. He plays a (cute) guy who agrees to house-sit in place of a friend while recovering from an accident.
As a psychological part of his recovery, he is keeping a video diary, plus there are cameras set up around the house, which gives the film a bit of a Paranormal Activity vibe. Especially since there are creepy mannequins covered in sheets all around the house, as well as freaky busts not covered in sheets.
Like Paranormal Activity, this one starts slowly at first, with Djurovic exploring the place and not much else happening—other than a very tantalizing shot of him showering.
It’s when a girlfriend comes over for date night that things take off and get really weird real fast, starting with one of those damn mannequins.
Shit gets even weirder when the neighbor stops by…Mr. Kea-no Reeves himself, James Duval.
Things get WTF is happening weird and I kind of got totally sucked in – and not just because Djuorvic has a scene in nothing but tighty-whities.
Stills from my movie Dan Watches
Once again, we head into trippy territory, not sure of what’s real and what’s not, walking the line between supernatural occurrences and torture porn.
And just for good measure, Carnival of Souls plays on a TV and gets effectively integrated into the film’s atmosphere.
By the time the film reaches a conventional found footage climax, with Djurovic running from some sort of terrifying presence in a blur of shaky cam, we are bombarded with flashes of exposition revealing the truth of what’s really happening in the house. It’s a pretty interesting twist that feels like it simultaneously creates an 80-minute plot hole. Or maybe it totally doesn’t at all. I’m not sure. Either way, out of these two films, neither of which is really my kind of “go to” horror, this one is more my speed.