Catching up with some indie horror creators

Filling in my viewing gaps of films featuring horror actor Nick Damici and movies by indie director Charlie Steeds, I ended up doing a marathon of four films, so let’s get into them.


Director Jim Mickle and Nick Damici had an awesome indie horror streak going on a decade ago, with Mulberry St., Stake Land, and this final film. Not sure why they opted to break the streak, but I can say We Are What We Are is my least favorite of the three films. It’s a slow burn that also focuses on religion. Even so, it’s moody, atmospheric, and has a satisfying payoff in the end.

After the unexpected death of his wife, a man in a small town pushes his two teen daughters into the matriarchal role of helping raise his young son, keep house…and keep their dark, religious rituals alive.

Meanwhile, Nick Damici plays the local sheriff, who is on the case when people go missing.

His younger deputy becomes close to one of the daughters while the investigation is underway, and clues soon begin to lead to the home of the recently widowed father.

The film doesn’t delve too much into the horror aspects of what the family is up to, so this plays out more like a drama/mystery for a majority of its runtime.

However, it’s the final act that gets vicious, delivering a juicy horror denouement.


By taking the familiar “demons at a cabin in the woods” premise and making a Black family the focus, this film embeds a commentary on race relations into an otherwise fairly straightforward and mundane horror movie. The film’s biggest fault is that it fails to visually deliver on any demonic aspects, leaving us with a plot in which everyone just starts accusing each other of being a demon. It’s sort of like watching The Crucible in hopes that someone, anyone, will start flying around on a broom. Heh heh.

Despite the lack of blatant horror, I liked the subtle exploration of being Black in a white world.

Arriving late to meet their family members at a cabin in the woods for a get together, our three main characters quickly run into Nick Damici, who is wielding a gun at them and demanding to know if they are demons.

Fearing for their lives, the trio finds a way to subdue Damici. In the meantime, one of the guys starts buying into Damici’s rants about demons that are hiding in human form.

Next thing you know, a white woman appears on the scene, claiming her husband was murdered and begging for help. But if you’ve been paying attention to reality, you’ll know this bitch’s behavior screams KAREN!

The trio struggles with what to do with the woman and if they should wait for the police to arrive. They start turning on each other…all over a white woman. Even the idea of Black women longing for their men to vow loyalty and marriage to them is addressed through the lens of the demon theme.

Even when the Black characters fear a group of white people pointing weapons at them might be demons, the white people look equally terrified of them and ask, “What are you?” Clever. It’s definitely an “us vs. them” metaphor movie.

FREEZE (2022)

As a fan of director Charlie Steeds, I was excited that he was delving into a fishmen theme, but The Pirates of Penzance period piece style came across as very cartoonish to me, so I just wasn’t feeling the horror aspects. Not to mention there’s a lot more dialogue than monster action.

Anyway, a captain and his crew go on a rescue mission to save his missing friend, who set out on some sort of expedition and never returned. Pretty soon the captain’s ship gets stuck in ice, a fishman creature gets on board, and those who aren’t eaten by it bail and find a cave to hide out in.

Wouldn’t you know the cave is the lair of the fishmen? Actually you won’t know it for quite some time, because this film is rather slow and has a lot of character side stories going on before the creatures finally come into play.

There’s some gore and the creature costumes are cool, but there simply isn’t much in the way of horror atmosphere here.


This feels like Steeds’ ode to the historical witch hunting films of the late 60s and early 70s starring the likes of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Paul Naschy. The difference is that those films were about the real-life horror and exploitation of women, while Steeds’ film has actually paranormal themes and the sexual torture of men instead. Eek!

The plot of this period piece focuses on the discovery that two young princes have been abducted and murdered.

After their bodies are found, a man confesses to the murders and is thrown in the dungeon, where he is terrorized by the ghosts of the princes.

As supernatural occurrences persist around the castle, a young priest turns against his own faith to work with a psychic medium who has also been arrested. In doing so, the priest is haunted by his own guilt.

And what’s fascinating is that much of his guilt stems from homosexual desires. Steeds cleverly keeps the gay issue somewhat masked—just as gay men would have needed to do during this time period.

There are a few fantastically creepy horror scenes throughout the course of this slow burn featuring otherworldly specters, but things get absolutely disturbing when the priest and his male “friend” are stripped and sexually tortured in the final act for their sins. There was never a scene this gruesome in any Hammer films, that’s for sure.

If you can make it past that heinous scene, the film delves back into supernatural horror in the last few minutes. Despite this not being a favorite subgenre of horror for me, I feel Steeds nailed the retro vibe here and brought elements into the mix that none of those classic witch hunt movies touched upon. This one definitely lands a place on the does the gay guy die? page.

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
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