PRIME TIME: hitting the road for some camping and killing

This foursome of road trip/backwoods flix is a mixed bag. Let’s take brief looks at The Cool Kids, Restricted Area, Animal Among Us, and Darkslide.

THE COOL KIDS (2016)

The title of this 62-minute movie speaks volumes, because the first fifteen are filled with nothing but a group of pretty, bitchy white snobs goofing off while waiting to go on a road trip.

But once the partying montage kicks in at a house in the woods, this becomes a rather unique little slasher.

There’s plenty of sex and hot bods, and in an odd turn of events, after the killer “accidentally” murders someone (we know from the start who the killer is so I can’t show any juicy pix without giving it all away), the others are momentarily horrified when they find the body…and then just go on with their weekend.

That includes the killer, who virtually takes out victims while everyone else is a room away. It’s all quite intriguing and oddly comical! I can’t see why anyone with an hour to kill and a love of slashers wouldn’t check this one out.

RESTRICTED AREA (2019)

I knew I was most likely burdening myself with a tedious time starting a 112-minute film about a bunch of steel workers that goes camping in the woods and gets terrorized by a masked cult. But, you know, it’s about a bunch of sweaty steal workers, so there was payoff there, because the guys are cute and there’s a nice variety of types both thick and thin. Which means this is one for my sausage fest scares page.

The bad news is that as is often the case, this is a film in which an indie director thinks making a backwoods horror flick is as simple as sending a group of people out to the woods with a barely discernible script to be chased by people in masks with machetes. Sigh.

Virtually an hour is filled with the guys simply walking around constantly getting separated and looking for each other while a relentless, ominous chord plays to fully numb our senses to any promise of something scary.

That continues for the second hour, only now they’re being chased by the masked cult members. The entire film takes place in washed out daylight, and kill scenes are cut away then cut back to reveal the bloody damage (practical blood effects, thankfully).

General editing goes something like this: cut to snake on rock, cut to girl looking spooked by it, cut back to snake, cut back to girl, cut to snake, cut to girl suddenly walking in the middle of three guys with no more reference to the snake.

The group eventually has to battle the cult. There’s definitely an attempt here to make a deeper plot come forward as the truth of the cult unfolds, but for me personally, all I was about was a scene in which the cult leader strips off a hot guy’s shirt for a fight. And the biggest head-scratcher for me is how once up and coming horror hottie Randy Wayne ended up in this…for  a fleeting moment. You really can’t go from up and coming to star cameo recognition without ever actually coming up all the way—although it did make my my homo horror whore senses tingle.

ANIMAL AMONG US (2019)

This is one hell of a confusing backwoods movie, so you better pay close attention if you want to make sense of it before the big denouement.

I can’t even say I loved it because it was too exhausting for me to remain focused. I’m exhausted just at the thought of writing about it, so I’ll make this short.

Two people were killed at a campground, and it was believed to be the work of an animal.

Now a bunch of people converge on the location, including a Bigfoot hunter, park ranger, a teacher that specializes in courses about masks (duhn duhn duhn!), and a daddy bear with a sizzling sexy mustache.

There’s even some found footage of a run-in with the “animal”—and you have to love when the person viewing it says “enough with the shaky camera”.

There are several effective jump scares along the way as all these scattered plots converge, and there is a point to the title, which is probably why the film feels less focused on the horror than on the characters. Be prepared; the big series of twists in the end are…I’ll say it again…exhausting.

DARKSLIDE (2020)

Argh! This is so frustrating. Darkslide is a beautifully shot film that wants so badly to capture the mood and plight of its protagonist, but it takes 2 hours and 2 minutes to do so, and I kid you not…the true horror elements only transpire in the final 22 minutes.

For over an hour we get visually stunning footage of a group of friends skateboarding and surfing.

In between there are short segments of the group sitting around listening to the main guy discussing his ruined sporting career and the loss of his brother.

Eventually the group falls into a big crevasse in the ground while doing their sporty lifestyle thing. It becomes sort of like The Descent…with rats? I seriously thought this was going to be a killer rat movie for a while.

After the group walks around in circles for forty minutes, the true horror is revealed. The final segment is good…it’s really good.

And it even has some religious imagery buried underground, to the point that I was feeling this film really could have fucked all our belief systems up with a Jesus meets evolution theme.

If it had explored that concept (or maybe it was?), had been shorter, and had more evenly paced the horror throughout, it could have been one hell of a movie. But instead the creators intent here was to make a movie about one man’s journey through grief and guilt.

 

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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