As Pumpkin Person continues my endless quest to find those hidden horror gems that never got the respect they deserved, I keep forcing myself to sit through trash, that I don’t deserve. And trash is what we get with Dark Fields (2006), directed by Mark McNabb and Al Randall (perhaps having two directors was part of the problem).
Pumpkin Person bent over backwards to give this movie a chance. I turned off all the lights in my house to watch the movie in utter darkness. I even ignored my own rule which states that horror films that have an IMDB rating less than 4.5/10 are not worth watching, hoping this movie (which currently has a 2.2/10 rating) would be the exception to the rule. It wasn’t.
The plot: A group of teenagers on their way to a concert run out of gas and visit an abandoned house in the hopes of finding some, only to be stalked by a brutal killer. This is simply a low quality slasher film that invokes virtually all the tropes of the sub-genre, except for the “seer character” a la Dr. Loomis in Halloween or Crazy Ralph in Friday the 13th warning the characters that they’re doomed.
Not that I was expecting, or even wanting originality, but a little effort would have been nice. Instead I was treated to a lot of vulgar dialogue, a disappointing climax, and an abrupt lackluster ending. Though the movie wasn’t entirely awful. I was never bored and the killer was mildly interesting, with a unique appearance, and there was at least one creepy kill. But even those redeeming qualities were overshadowed by the goofy end credit sequence that told me that not even the film makers took this movie seriously.
WARNING: If you have not seen Halloween II (1981) or Halloween 4 (1988) yet, please stop reading because this review contains spoilers.
Directed by Dwight H. Little, (screenplay by Alan B. McElroy), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is one of the most underrated horror films of all time (aside from the silly looking Michael Myers mask). After seeing Halloween II (1981) as a child, Pumpkin Person had wondered how Myers could return after being burned to a crisp in a hospital fire. I pictured something cheesy and entertaining like Myers’ rotting corpse being dug up and then struck by lightening a la Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986).
Instead the film makers came up with something far creepier: Michael Myers had been in a coma for 10 straight years, just lying lifeless in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown with his burned head wrapped in bandages like a mummy, dumped into the basement of a criminally insane asylum. “This is where society dumps its worst nightmares” one of the character says.
After all the supernatural feats Myers had pulled in Halloween II, there was something so spooky about seeing him humanized this way. Reduced to being satiated by feeding tubes, and wheeled from one hospital to another, Myers had, for 10 years, been just another of society’s dark secrets, shoved into a dark basement, where only underpaid public nurses looked at him. A ward of the state who nobody wanted.
And then while his seemingly unconscious body is being driven in an ambulance, one dark and stormy Halloween eve, he suddenly grabs a hospital worker, repeatedly bashing the man’s head into the ambulance wall while sinking his thumb deep into the man’s forehead. It was one of the most terrifying scenes in horror history.
Why is Myers waking up from his “coma” now? Pumpkin Person prefers to think it’s because his 6 or 7 year old niece (played brilliantly by Danielle Harris) is now roughly the age Myers was when he committed his first murder. Pumpkin Person thinks it’s creepier to believe that Myers’ psychotic evil is a hereditary disease that strikes around the age of 6. Myers’ sister Laurie got lucky and didn’t inherit the gene, but his niece Jamie did, and Myers’ is coming home to make sure it’s triggered on Halloween night. For “Jamie’s uncle is the Boogeyman” the kids at school hauntingly tease.
There is a beautiful symmetry about the Halloween films that so few appreciate. Myers killed his older sister when she was 17 on Halloween night and came home (in the first two Halloween movies) to kill his younger sister when she was also 17 on Halloween night. Myers committed his first murder when he was 6 on Halloween night and in this film returns home, in my opinion, to get his niece to commit her first murder, at about age 6, on Halloween night. It was the perfect full circle moment. This is how the original series should have ended. Just where it began…with a young child committing a murder on Halloween night.
And there was something so poignantly pathetic about Myers’ psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (played superbly by the late Donald Pleasence) screaming in terror, trying to shoot the little girl, as horrified on-lookers try to stop him. For only Loomis, who devoted his life to studying Myers, fully grasps the evil Myers’ young niece has become. But Loomis is now a weak old hysterical man, and after 25 years of obsessing over Myers, he’s burned out (literally, from the hospital fire in part 2). Loomis is ready to retire, and it would have been the perfect time for the original series to retire too.
For several days Pumpkin Person has been scrounging through horror titles on Rogers on-demand, looking for something to watch from the convenience of my dark home. After scrolling through one unoriginal zombie title after another, I finally stumbled upon Beast: A Monster Among Men (Directed by Mike Lenzini). Before seeing a movie I generally look it up on IMDB to see what rating it got out of 10. I’ve learned from past experience that horror films rated below 4.5 are almost never worth watching. I was struck by the fact that this film had a 6.7 (quite high for a horror film) but with only 22 votes in so far, it could have just been the film makers and the actors voting so I dismissed it. I then googled for movie reviews, and found very little, so I decided I would write one.
The plot: A group of men (one of whom is kind of creepy) head off to a cabin deep in the woods and people start getting killed. Can the characters figure out who or what is killing them before it’s too late?
I’d be lying if I said this was a good movie, but my expectations for this kind of ultra obscure low budget horror film are so low, that I can’t say I was disappointed. When you’ve seen as much crappy horror as I have, a film that shows even a smidgen of effort and skill is a nice surprise. I liked that the film was set deep in the woods. Not exactly an original setting, but the woods used in this film had an especially isolated and ominous feel to them. And the film had atmosphere, with beautiful shots of the sky turning from sunny, to cloudy, to dark, and a pleasantly haunting yet sad musical score. The film also knew its limits: Rather than tainting the movie with laughable special effects, the film shot its special effects from a distance or with dim enough lighting that their cheap cheesiness could not be exposed, and with a run-time of only 72 minutes, the film shrewdly ended before embarrassing itself.
Directed by Paul Fox, The Dark Hours is a haunting tour de force. It’s the type of film you watch while curled up all alone on the couch with a thick cup of hot chocolate on a cold Canadian night. It’s a film you just get lost in, hypnotized by the slow pace, atmospheric score, and eerie, original, non-linear storytelling. The film oozes with atmosphere and is superbly well cast and acted.
The story revolves around forensic psychiatrist Samantha Goodman (Kate Greenhouse) and her troubled relationships with her low income husband, parasitic sister, very stupid party crasher (Dov Tiefenbach) and her terrifying patient, Harlan Payne (Aidan Devine), a tall bearded epileptic charismatic gay ax murderer. Greenhouse is uncannily believable in the part, reminding me of every hyper-educated woman I have ever known. There’s a familiarity about all of the characters. We learn just enough about each of them to know the type and recognize them as people we’ve fleetingly known. Dov Tiefenbach (who Friday the 13th fans will remember from Jason X) gives one of the most fascinating performances I have ever witnessed.
Slasher fans may be disappointed by the film’s slow pace and artsy ambiguous narrative structure and some viewers feel confused or even cheated by the time it ends. Aside from one gratuitously disgusting scene involving a finger, and a stylishly bloody scene involving a nail, the film is much more a psychological thriller than a splatter film, and unfolds like a group therapy session.
But there is evil in this movie. Not of the demonic otherworldly variety, but the darkness of human nature.