As bad as they can be, I’m a total sucker for low budget horror that pretty much looks like it was filmed over a weekend at some haunting attraction in the director’s hometown during the month of October. So I went into Blood Demon Rising and Carnivale Creepshow prepared for the usual Amazon Prime garbage. But these two films delivered experiences so different than the average crap that I couldn’t help but be drawn in.
BLOOD DEMON RISING (aka: Grimises Rising) (2012)
The poster art for indie horror Blood Demon Rising features an image of one of its highlights, but the “shot on video” look of the still does not do the fresh, unique style of this quirky film justice – not to mention, I also prefer the original title better. It’s almost like director Harry Tchinski made budget restraints his bitch and molded them into his own personal film making identity.
Following a sleek and stylish animated intro accompanied by a genuine horror score, the film segues flawlessly into what essentially looks like a computer-animated background with actors performing in front of a green screen. Whatever technique was actually used, it’s a visually arresting, surreal look that creates an atmosphere all its own.
This is a wonderfully trippy, often campy funhouse ride of classic horror conventions merged with contemporary originality. A cult in some sort of castle-like building unleashes a simultaneously fiendish and funny demon thirsty for blood.
This charismatic creep orders the cult leader (a casually intimidating presence reminiscent of the Tall Man in Phantasm) to bring him two hot babes.
What better way to lure in innocent young women than to run a haunted attraction? Our four main characters – 2 girls and 2 guys – bring a sense of teen horror normalcy, with the girls being hesitant about going through the attraction and the guys being the comical, likeable jerks that pressure them into it. The guys are even wearing “Spaceship Terror Film Crew” shirts…Spaceship Terror being the director’s first movie.
After the foursome gets separated, the girls are abducted by the creeps that dwell in the haunted attraction. The guys, a perfect comic duo, have to sneak back in after closing time to find them.
Meanwhile, a notably handsome priest has been sent on a mission to stop the demon.
He is also lurking around the premises as we are treated to a variety of ghouls (including masked cult members and vampires), some nasty gore, and a plethora of titties.
However, the highlight is a little goth girl with a knife. She is absolutely fantastic in her role and makes the perfect foil for the goofy guys.
The only noticeable weakness in the movie is a couple of very brief flashes of awful CGI, which actually feel out of place in an otherwise finely crafted film.
Blood Demon Rising is way more entertaining than expected and firmly carves itself out as a one-of-a-kind midnight movie. In this day and age, rarely does an independent horror movie flip a finger to production limitations to deliver this much straight up gothic fun.
CARNIVALE CREEPSHOW (2017)
Here is a film that manages to be genuinely bizarre, visually disturbing, and old school gritty, yet gives us virtually no plot.
Things seem clear and predictable at first – friends on a road trip stop at a haunted attraction in a desolate area – but things quickly get weird. They pull up to this haunted…well…barn in daylight, but in an instant, it’s night as they go inside.
We get some of the expected, atmospheric footage of the attraction as the kids head through, but pretty soon the backwoods psycho staff, dressed in horror costumes, abducts them….
What follows is an onslaught of creepy crap, delivered wonderfully but with nothing holding it all together, and no main characters to connect with for a majority of the movie.
There are even some animated sequences thrown in to mesmerize and confuse. The group of friends we barely got to know is held captive, tormented, and tortured, yet we’re spared most of the grisly details.
There’s a whole bunch of side stuff going on with the backwoods freaks, and some cute rednecks hanging around as well, but I really couldn’t make sense of any of it.
Good performances – that feel more like improv wackiness – add to the ominous lack of clarity, which somehow works to the film’s advantage. The bombardment of lunacy is reminiscent of House of 1000 Corpses, but even less structured.
For instance, the first group of friends is pretty much pushed aside for a second group of kids that comes on the scene! We get another tour of the haunted attraction before these new kids are given the privilege of chase scenes…through the woods.
Meanwhile, one boy from this second group saves a girl from the first group (finally a main couple).
They look for a way to escape the haunted attraction until eventually they are confronted with…zombies! WTF in a totally AWESOME way.
Carnivale Creepshow masterfully creates a classic horror look and feel and tosses in a mish mosh of horror staples, yet offers very little in the way of tangible plot. If you check it out, prepare to appreciate its hypnotic sense of horror style…while overlooking its lack of substance.