Me being me, I probably could have assessed what I would think of each of these three films before even watching them, but I gave each one a chance anyway. So here goes.
SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE (2019)
Start a movie with a hot redneck sheriff and deputy brother team and you’ve definitely got my attention. While Shellmont County Massacre does a great job of painting (what I assume is) an authentic feeling of rural life, I definitely think the filmmaker should have refrained from having one of the characters make a Jew joke within the first few minutes…and then a little while later referencing someone as a retard. I braced myself for more bigoted language to follow, such as homophobic and racist comments. While I was relieved it didn’t happen, if you want to attract a wider horror audience, it’s better not to set that tone unless there’s a reason behind it…such as intentionally wanting to create an unlikable, bigoted character.
That aside, I was super impressed with the various components of this indie film. It’s sort of a horror/cop-hunts-serial-killer hybrid. The kills are brutal with practical effects (yay!), and the guy playing the killer is absolutely fantastic in his cackling insanity.
However, there were definitely some missed opportunities to extend kill sequences to include prolonged suspense—for instance, a scene in which a mother is killed and then the killer goes after her son. At the same time, there’s another scene of the killer absolutely terrorizing a family that is…dare I say it…perfectly executed as he slowly and cruelly mind fucks them.
This isn’t a scarefest. It’s more a dramatic gorefest. The film smartly focuses mostly on the sheriff and his family, not distracting us with too many extraneous characters. You rarely see family dynamics so well-defined in an indie film, and their relationships become the driving force behind the sheriff’s determination to catch the fucker responsible for slaughtering the people of his town.
There are some questionable aspects to the plot. In a small town, you’d think it would be hard for a dude as weird and psychotic as this killer to slip by unnoticed, especially since he most often does his killing during the day and walks around brazenly (even if it is in like fields and shit). And despite the shocking nature of the kills, the locals don’t really seem to adjust their behavior and live more cautiously to avoid being the next victim.
Some twists really take the film to some deliciously unexpected places, there’s an awesomely bizarre final chase between the sheriff and killer (I can’t reiterate enough how great the killer’s performance is), and, well, the sheriff is a wrestler type who does us the favor of getting shirtless.
THE UNWILLING (2016)
The Unwilling is a pretty standard supernatural thriller, but it’s not without its charms. Just don’t expect any mind-blowing horror or scares and you can have some fun with it.
Lance Henriksen plays a curmudgeonly old guy who dies…then sticks around to complicate matters when they have a will-reading party at the house of his agoraphobic son.
It’s one of those films in which a bunch of people comes together in a house, there are clashes and drama, and then the supernatural takes over and people start dying.
Is that a pen in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Among the cast at the gathering is Elm Street 2 and Vamp cutie Robert Rusler (who has a brief gay moment) and Dina Meyer of the Saw franchise. They and the rest of the group discover a creepy black box on the front steps.
Foolishly, they decide to follow the directions that come with it, and then each person begins experiencing supernatural shit, some seeming to become possessed to cause more extreme trouble.
A simple, familiar plot, it still manages to entertain for a while, but I did feel that instead of ramping up as it draws to a conclusion, the film fizzles out, with a twist that doesn’t help make it any more intriguing.
MERCY BLACK (2019)
The director of the horror party film Blood Fest delivers what is essentially another Slender Man plot by a different name. This one might be best saved for a tween slumber party…
This is a typical mainstream supernatural horror, so absolutely nothing here was new or unique to me. Or scary, for that matter.
Janeane Garofalo as a therapist is about the most unexpected thing you’ll find here. As for the plot, a young woman gets released from a mental institution, having performed a ritual to unleash the urban legend of Mercy Black as a child…which included using another young girl as a sacrifice.
She goes to live with her sister, whose son becomes obsessed with the legend, which has gone viral since the main girl was a child. And the son is convinced Mercy Black is in their house.
The first sign that this is going to be as desperate an attempt at a scary movie as can be is that the first scares are nothing but a dream. Ugh.
So it’s up to the main girl to save her nephew from Mercy Black. Cue the kid drawings mysteriously depicting the legendary creep in perfect detail, a library trip, a visit with someone affected by the legend in the past, and flashbacks revealing how it all works. And of course, Mercy Black starts making appearances. Honestly, Mercy looks like a scarecrow…minus the scares.