Here’s a foursome of horror flicks I watched on Amazon Prime that seriously tested my ADHD, because the final acts were the best part. Here’s what you can expect before and when you get to the good parts!
CROWBAR: THE KILLINGS OF WENDELL GRAVES (2010)
Scott Phillips, the director of Gimme Skelter and The Stink of Flesh gives us a highly stylized horror film that is a unique combination of haunted house movie and slasher. I personally found it quite engrossing and enjoyable to watch.
An interracial couple moves into a new home, meets some very odd neighbors, and in a totally unexpected quick turn of events, is plunged into a nightmare involving murders in their basement.
The murders are handled quite oddly by locals and law enforcement, and the couple is unable to leave town. So they board up the basement door and set off on an investigation to uncover the history of their house.
The film is quite atmospheric with lingering camerawork reminiscent of 80s Euro horror. Hell, I think there was even a moment with the main girl and the killer that was an homage to a scene from Cujo!
Crowbar is perhaps a bit too long at 105 minutes (that lingering camerawork will do that to a movie), but you do get drawn in by the rather bizarre people and unfolding of events. And when you suddenly feel like you’ve been dragged into a slasher with a crowbar killer chasing one lone couple, you simply have to keep watching.
For me, the only major cliché here is the “zinger” ending that has a new couple coming to live in the house. This passing of the torch foreshadowing is so overused that it just falls flat every time.
AXECALIBUR (aka: The Legend of the Mad Axeman) (2017)
Axecalibur is a movie that doesn’t seem to known what to do for the first hour before becoming a cheesy, campy slasher in the final ten minutes.
It shows a whole lot of 80s throwback promise, with a man telling kids an urban legend about an axe killer around a campfire. The John Carpenter style synth music is perfect…until it keeps playing virtually non-stop throughout the movie, even when nothing scary is happening. I would think Filmmaking 101 would cover how music is used to help tell your story, not tell a story that is not actually happening.
For an hour, an author convinced the legendary axe murderer is real investigates, eventually teaming up with a young woman who needs his help to stop all her friends from getting slaughtered in the woods.
Too late. For about eight minutes, the axeman takes them out in a hurry, delivering one-liners as heads fly. A gory good time with practical effects, this sequence is so much fun it’s a shame everything leading up to it wasn’t.
Having never seen the original 100-minute cut of Homecoming, I watched the 124-minute “special edition” Amazon offers on Prime. I don’t know where the added 24 minutes land in the film, but if they were all in the first 90 minutes, they shouldn’t have been added.
Over two hours is simply too long for a movie that ends up essentially being a slasher—and a nicely polished one at that. The plot could have been streamlined as well; there’s a lot going on and it’s rather convoluted after a while, especially if you’re like me and wading through 90 minutes to get to the good stuff is taxing on your very soul! I’m glad I stuck around though, because although I couldn’t totally follow what was going on, visually it was an arresting horror experience.
The opener is tight—kids play hide and seek, one kid meets a brutal fate in a basement. Then we meet our main girl, who returns to her home years later and must confront that dark experience from her past.
The padding at the beginning has typical “homecoming” horror clichés. She has a history with a guy who is now in local law enforcement. There’s a creepy handyman, played by the hunk who also played a handyman in the final season of Kate & Allie. And damn, he looks just as hunky thirty years later in basically the same uniform.
But honestly, he and some other random characters are introduced just to be red herring that don’t last very long since they’re doubling as disposable victims to keep our horror interest between all the talking—and the first kill still doesn’t even come until 50 minutes in!
The main girl has a party at the house with all her friends. They eventually get as bored as we are and delve into hypnotism. They each are drawn into black and white remembrances of their childhood traumas.
Like I said, there’s a lot going on here, and not all of it is necessary considering it’s simply leading us up to the satisfying slasher segment in the final chapter. I would like to see the original cut of the film now to know whether it is a tighter film that gets to the point faster.
THE NIGHTMARE GALLERY (2019)
Willow’s girlfriend Tara from Buffy plays a teacher obsessed with finding a student that went missing while in possession of some ancient texts. Tara is also a lesbian with a wife in this film (the second in this bunch featuring an interracial couple), and even runs into some very vampire/demon creatures that look like they just strolled right off the set of Buffy.
However, she first spends a lot of time investigating, teaming up with another student while shutting out her wife and having “episodes” or nightmares that have some effective atmosphere but aren’t out to scare us as much as they seem to be scaring her.
An hour into the film she has the pseudo Buffy monsters reunion as she finally enters a “museum” in an alternate reality and continues her hunt for her missing student.
It’s definitely the best part of the film, but this is a dialogue heavy movie more than a horror thrill ride, so make sure you’re in the right mood before you watch.