Direct to streaming and Blu-ray: the horror of Jesse Thomas Cook

I’ve already blogged about several films from director Jesse Thomas Cook (Septic Man, The Hexecutioners, Monster Brawl), so after gravitating to another film of his on Prime, I figured it was time to complete my viewing of all his films…and of him. Gotta love a horror director with a beard.

DEADSIGHT (2018)

With Deadsight, Cook offers a zombie film that has two unique aspects—the leads are a blind dude and a pregnant cop.

Other than that this is as basic as a zombie movie gets, with a simple plot—stay alive and try to escape.

The zombies are ferocious enough, but they are presented in a cycle of one or the other character getting jump scared by a lone zombie then having to fight it off. Over and over and over.

The settings are cold and stark, so the atmosphere and tone are tight, but there’s really little to grasp on to here to carry us through. The final escape through red-lit tunnels is pretty cool, though, and the one that made me most fidgety.

THE HOARD (2018)

With this charming haunted hoarders reality show found footage horror comedy, Cook delivers plenty of humor that had me laughing out loud. Even my hubby was laughing and quite entertained when he walked in and joined me…and stayed!

After a TV show introduction to the small town the crew is infiltrating, which makes some social and political references true to our current reality, we meet the quite likable and campy cast of the show, including a smart female host, three bearish boys that do renovations, a funny doctor that assesses the psychology of hoarders, and two over-the-top ghost hunters.

The cast is charismatic and funny, but perhaps funniest of all is the hick older man who owns the property where all the hoarding is happening, because his performance is incredibly understated and realistic as he gives the cast tours of all his junk.

Icky situations occur (bad pipes…ew), surprises pop up (a redneck bear jerking off in a tub….yum), weird happenings creep out the ghost hunters (mostly in their minds), and there’s a cleanup montage that could easily have been cut to tighten up the running time.

Not that everything wasn’t entertaining, it just takes way too long to get to the actual horror elements, which don’t hit until the last 20 minutes.

That final act is a blast, it’s just over way too fast.

All fun aside, Cook even manages to give us some pin-up material in the form of the adora-bear doctor.

SCARCE (2008)

While it could be argued that this is just another movie with kids encountering cannibals in the woods, Scarce is one of few films that focuses on the horrifying nitty gritty of what it would truly be like to be captured by one of these psycho clans—a detailed presentation of what the conditions would be like and all the horrible things they could do to you while keeping you alive.

First cementing us in reality, we meet the three guys who will be going on a snowboarding trip as they just act like dudes, drinking with their friends at a house party and flirting with girls. Much of what makes this film different is that these are average Joes. They’re not muscular, not studs, not cocky, and definitely not heroes. They absolutely do not know how to cope with the predicament they get in.

Once on the road, their car crashes in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm, so they walk to a nearby home. The redneck that lives there is very down-to-earth, welcoming them in and offering them food and cover for the night. What is so unnerving about this whole segment is that the dude seems quite hospitable and warm, and we just know in our gut what’s really going to happen.

Then they learn the horrible truth. This film takes its time making us simmer in the grueling conditions of the lair and the agony of the boys just hanging, bound up, for days as they are verbally and physically tormented and tortured by the cannibals.

They don’t have a plan, they are helpless and at the clan’s mercy, and all hope seems lost. It only gets worse when they are dragged out into the snow and set free to be hunted. They can barely function by that point, and it looks like the actors worked in the actual snowy wilderness while barefoot and hardly dressed.

The film isn’t super gruesome, but what we see and what’s implied is enough to be horrific. And the film also reveals what has happened to other victims in unnerving flashbacks that come out of nowhere. The whole movie is a distinctly different approach to the backwoods cannibals subgenre and therefore gave me more of a visceral reaction than most others do these days.

If I had any gripes about the film, the first is that one baddie wears a slaughterhouse mask, but only for short periods of time. For instance, he removes it immediately after he’s introduced, and we see he’s just another everyday redneck cannibal. It seems pointless to even have him wear the mask when all its power is so quickly taken away, not allowing our minds to whirl with thoughts of what horror might be behind it.

The second issue is that the film exclusively focuses on these cannibal men abducting other males, with one psycho even demonstrating his sexual desire for them. However…

…right near the end we see female victims and boobs, and they just feel totally out of place. It sort of denies these cannibals the distinct trait of being all about the man meat.

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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