The Beast of Bray Road (2005)

Directed by Leigh Scott [Other horror films: Frankenstein Reborn (2005), Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers (2006), Hillside Cannibals (2006), Dracula’s Curse (2006), The Hitchhiker (2007), Flu Bird Horror (2008), The Dunwich Horror (2008), The Penny Dreadful Picture Show (2013), Piranha Sharks (2016), The Penny Dreadful Picture Show Re-Animated (2018)]

It’s been many, many years since I’ve last seen this Asylum flick, and I have to admit that I’m happy about revisiting it. By no stretch is The Beast of Bray Road a great film, but it was better than what I remember it being, and though it’s still below average, it’s not altogether a terrible time.

Part of this is due to the way the story’s tackled, specifically in regards to the mysterious creature killing people. The characters aren’t sure if it’s Bigfoot, a werewolf, or some other unknown or as of yet undiscovered creature, and what’s more, when they find out it is a werewolf, the identity of the werewolf is still in question (leading to what I felt was an oddly solid conclusion).

Obviously it’s an Asylum movie, so it’s not perfect. My biggest personal gripe is the design of the creature, what with the long, almost dreadlock hair and the huge ears, but I also found it sort of amusing that, though a big deal is made out of the cycle of the moon during the final scene of the movie, it never once came up beforehand. Also, the license plates on the police vehicle clearly state California, and the film was indeed made in California, but it’s dedicated to “the Great State of Wisconsin” and Bray Road is, in fact, in Wisconsin (this film is partially based off mysterious sightings that took place around Elkhorn, a town in southern Wisconsin).

Oh, and this is a small thing, but there’s a character standing in the woods and makes an observation that, “There’s no birds,” and literally a second later you can clearly hear a bird chirping. It was more funny than anything, but talk about a mistake.

The special effects aren’t too shabby. They’re not great, but for a lower-budget picture, they’re serviceable. One woman gets a leg torn off and tries to crawl away in agony, and two poor brahs get torn apart, literally ripped in half, with organs and the like falling out of their torsos. It never looks as high quality as you’d hope, but hey, it’s something.

Jeff Denton makes for a fair lead, and has that somewhat austere yet likable cop attitude. Sarah Lieving (666: The Child) wasn’t really special, but the story did boost her character somewhat. Though it took a little while, Tom Nagel (who I am familiar with through Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove and have also seen in 2006’s The Butcher), and his last scene is actually pretty good. Thomas Downey’s cryptozoologist character didn’t really add much in my view. And though Christina Rosenberg didn’t really have a lot to do her, she was still cute in those glasses, so wanted to give a shout-out.

At the end of the credits, after letting us know that no werewolves were harmed in the making of the film, it reads, “Why are you still reading this? Go back to the video store and rent another Asylum film. You know you want to.” And you know what? If every Asylum movie was like this, maybe I would.

The Beast of Bray Road isn’t great, but it was fun to see again. I enjoyed the conclusion, the twist was actually sort of surprising, and save a few errors and a hideous werewolf design, I don’t think the film is that bad. Below average, sure, but not that bad.

6/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Beast of Bray Road.

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Directed by Joe Lynch [Other horror films: Chillerama (2011, segment ‘Zom-B-Movie’), Mayhem (2017)]

When I first saw this one some years back, I found it underwhelming. I know, though, that there is a decently-sized contingent that find this a generally solid sequel, so I was sort of excited to see it again and perhaps wondering if it would move up in my rankings. And after doing so, while it is a little better than I initially gave it credit for, I still don’t think it’s all that memorable.

Aside from, of course, Henry Rollins, who is the sole reason to watch this film if you’re hesitant to do so, as his kick-ass character, from beginning to end, is just fantastic. I’m not saying that Rollins makes this movie great – honestly, while portions are good, I think the film still hovers around average to below average – but without Rollins, I think this movie would lose a lot of the charm it managed to create, as he brings quite a lot as an over-the-top drill sergeant who sends these mutated hillfolk back to their cabins, and how!

I have to admit that I expected quite a lot more from Aleksa Palladino’s character, but in a way, I can understand why they might want to get rid of the obvious final girl somewhat early on. Even so, I found it a bit of a shame, as I did find her character one of the better ones here. Otherwise, you have Erica Leerhsen, who did take a while to grow on me, but I eventually found myself quite enjoying her standoffish attitude.

Texas Battle (what a name, brah) had a quality moral code, which I appreciated (him turning down Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe’s character was nice to see). Battle didn’t stick out as much as Leerhsen, but he was still good. Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, and Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon) was the stereotypical hot bitch, so while attractive, her character was as hideous as any of the deformed hillbillies. Most of the others, be it Steve Braun, Daniella Alonso (who was also amusingly in The Hills Have Eyes II), or Matthew Currie Holmes, were sort of there, and little more.

Of course, the gore here was pretty solid throughout. I never really cared for the whole cutting-someone-in-half with an axe/chainsaw/hatchet, so the opening kill was more meh, but it still looked good. A hatchet-throw stood out, if only because it struck me by surprise, and the finale was beautifully gory (what with a tree debarker debarking more than bark), though it did lead to a final scene that I thought was unnecessary.

Actually, since I mentioned the finale, I did rather like that paper mill that made for the setting, and when Rollins’ character is running through and blowing people up with his dynamite arrows, it’s a lot of fun, and of course there’s solid tension. I am disappointed by what goes down with Rollins’ character, but I get it.

All of this, though, doesn’t mean the movie’s great. I honestly don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but generally, I thought this hit some of the right spots without fully satisfying me, and some of it is admittedly smaller things, such as that supposed game show. I’m a fan of Survivor, which is partly, I suspect, what that game show is based on, but boy, does it sound unnecessarily complex. I’ll chalk that up to bad design for a reality TV show, though, and not an example of how I wasn’t wowed by this.

Something that does play a part, though, are the deformed antagonists. In the first film, things were kept simple with just three antagonists, but here’s there’s an extended family, and for me, it wasn’t always easy to keep in mind exactly how many family members there were, and related, where those members were at any given moment.

I don’t dispute that Dead End had some solid things going for it, such as the kills and a few of the characters, but despite what it does right, I think this is somewhat clearly below average, though not nearly as badly as many other films.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below, if it tickles your fancy, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Wrong Turn 2.

The Shortcut (2009)

Directed by Nicholaus Goossen [Other horror films: N/A]

The Shortcut is a movie I’ve seen once before, quite some time ago. Much of the plot was lost of me, and given the quite tepid rating it has on IMDb (at the time of this writing, a 5.1/10), I went into this one again with the idea that it’d end up being a forgettable affair, and I think that on a whole, that’s what this is.

If there’s any saving grace, and I don’t think it saves it a hell of a lot, at least half of the performances in the film are decent, and gives you at least somewhat likable characters, which may not mean a whole lot given how bored you’re apt to be, but it was something I took note of.

Drew Seeley wasn’t the most interesting central character, and his love interest, played by Katrina Bowden (Tucker and Dale vs Evil and Piranha 3DD), wasn’t really that much better, but the others were solid, such as Josh Emerson as a jock who was actually decent, Dave Franco as comedic relief, and Shannon Woodward (The Haunting of Molly Hartley), a somewhat feistily playful and fun character.

Raymond J. Barry does as well as he could with his role. He doesn’t really add that much, but it’s more due to the fact that I think it was pretty obvious where the story was going, which short of hindered his effectiveness. William B. Davis (of The X-Files fame) was sort of nice to see, but ultimately failed to leave any type of lasting impression. The only other performance I wanted to mention was that of Nicholas Elia, who didn’t have much screen-time, but is a solid example of a story going exactly how you expect it to, in this case, the conclusion, which was laughable.

Certainly there are some aspects of this film I enjoy, but it takes a decent while to get going (I’d argue that things really don’t get moving until about an hour and five minutes in), and there’s not enough interesting characters to make that time feel like it’s well-spent (even the few flashbacks we get don’t really add that much, which was disappointing). The setting was okay in a drab forest-type way (this was filmed in Saskatchewan, Canada, which would explain that), but not the most exciting stuff you’ve seen.

Even with the not-so-stellar characters The Shortcut had, I think this could have been better if they had moved the story in a different direction, one that, I don’t know, might have actually had some surprising or more thrilling scenes. Oh, and they should have added a little something in the gore department – I liked seeing a hand get absolutely crushed (sledgehammer action for the win), but aside from that, this felt really tepid, which is a description I think could fit much of the film as a whole.

Maybe this is good for a one-time watch (or two, if you’re like me and forget everything about it the first time around), but I don’t really think there’s a hell of a lot of reason to seek this one out, and overall, while passable, this would be a difficult one to recommend to anyone.

6/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Shortcut.

Cherry Falls (2000)

Directed by Geoffrey Wright [Other horror films: N/A]

For a long time, this movie would always come to mind when I thought of my favorite post-Scream slashers, and while others that also made the list have dropped down in my appreciation (such as Urban Legend and Valentine), Cherry Falls is still a movie I have a decent amount of fun with.

Certainly the idea alone is worth it – a mysterious killer going around and killing only virgins. I think a decent amount more could have been down with this outline, and I don’t disagree with the idea that, more often than not, Cherry Falls fails to really follow through on the more potentially sleazy moments (though, to be fair, what post-Scream slashers didn’t?), but even so, the basic plot is fun.

What really adds to this is the mystery behind the killer. Past a certain point, it may be somewhat obvious who the killer is, but I definitely find the backstory quite compelling and pretty sympathetic, and brings to mind Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II with a secret being held by some of the adults of the film. Somewhat related, I did feel somewhat sour about the conclusion, as the lie is continued as opposed to revealed, so not all is perfect.

Brittany Murphy (Deadline, Across the Hall, The Prophecy II, Something Wicked) isn’t a name I really know, but I do quite love her as the central character. She has a great look to her, and I find her spunky attitude admirable. Alas, she died young in 2009, which I find a shame. Playing her father is Michael Biehn (Aliens, The Seventh Sign, Bereavement, The Insatiable, Psych:9, She Rises), who may come across a bit generic at times, but he seems suitable enough, and I have no complaints.

Though he didn’t have a lot to do, I did find Keram Malicki-Sánchez’s (Texas Chainsaw 3D) performance pretty fun, and he seemed pretty chill with Brittany Murphy. Perhaps most enjoyable is mild-mannered teacher Jay Mohr (The Orchard), who I don’t know outside of this movie, but ends up being a lot of fun, and he comes across as one of those teachers and mentors that won’t soon be forgotten.

The violence throughout the film does feel a bit muted (in much the same way the nudity does –  mean, seriously, during that giant “orgy,” there’s not one topless woman?), but because the mystery and characters are all pretty solid, that doesn’t bother me as much as it did in films like Urban Legend or Valentine. Plus, Biehn’s awkward conversation with his daughter, Murphy, about whether or not she’s a virgin is so horrendous it makes up for any other faults the movie might have.

Cherry Falls seems to have largely fallen under the radar as far as post-Scream slashers go, and I really think it’s a shame, as I certainly find aspects of it better than more well-known films such as the aforementioned Urban Legend and Valentine. Does Cherry Falls feel a little, for lack of a better word, cheap, at times? Maybe, but at least it’s fun, and save some complaints about the ending and that final befuddling scene of the waterfall, I’ve always enjoyed this, and likely will into the foreseeable future.

7.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Cherry Falls.

White Noise (2005)

Directed by Geoffrey Sax [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a somewhat more-popular film, partially because it stars Michael Keaton, and as such, much like movies such as Hide and Seek (starring Robert De Niro), What Lies Beneath (Harrison Ford) and D-Tox/Eye See You (with Sylvester Stallone), it’s generally forgotten by the horror community nowadays, and for, I think, pretty good reason.

Not that the movie is an extraordinarily poor one – it’s not memorable enough for that. It’s a pretty high-budget film, as you’d imagine (or at least, as you’d imagine as soon as you see that Keaton’s in it), and there’s no doubt that it’s competently-made, but there’s just not enough here to really make it anywhere near a standout film.

Some of this is because the horror is a bit on the lighter side. It’s there, don’t worry about that, but it’s there in the What Lies Beneath-way, and just feels so incredibly safe and tame. On a related note, this film is PG-13, which isn’t by any means damning, but it does show that this wasn’t going to really turn any heads at any point, and it really doesn’t.

I’ll give it credit for Ian McNeice (who in fact reminded me of another actor that I can’t yet place), who give a pretty enjoyable performance in his limited time, and Deborah Kara Unger. I don’t think Unger did a fantastic job here, but I do know her from The Game (1997), so that’s something. Keaton I really only know from the 1989 Batman, and I’m much more a Christian Bale-type of guy, so I couldn’t really care much about Keaton here. His performance is okay, but it’s far from great, which is fine, because the movie doesn’t warrant A+ acting anyway.

Not that the movie is without strong points. While I really don’t care for 90% of the final thirty minutes, I did like the three silhouettes of the evil ghosts (or whatever they were – that’s one of the things I wish they touched on more), and that final setting (a dilapidated factory, with giant holes and rain falling freely into the structure) was on point. Maybe a few other scenes were cool, but as I try to focus in on one, I just hear white noise and can’t complete my thought.

Also, those final three seconds were terrible. Just entirely unnecessary, which is probably intentional, as I feel that a lot of what they did with Unger’s character throughout the film was unnecessary. And speaking of unnecessary, I didn’t much care for that final message from Keaton’s character to his family. It felt like something out of a touching family drama, and a bit out of place.

White Noise isn’t a terrible movie, and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think it is. It’s far from a good movie, but it probably accomplishes a lot of what it set out to accomplish. It just wasn’t the type of movie I enjoy, and much of it fell flat for it.

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss White Noises.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Directed by Michael Dougherty [Other horror films: Krampus (2015)]

Perhaps one of my favorite horror anthologies, Trick ‘r Treat is a pure treat every time I see it. I love the way the multiple stories here interweave yet also have their own strong individual feel and engage with different genres (whether it be serial killers, zombie children, killer principals, werewolves, what have you). A very strong film, Trick ‘r Treat sets the bar very high.

Following the jumbled timeline throughout the movie can be fun, though it’s not even necessary in some cases. If you missed the couple from the opening bumping into a young woman looking for safety from a serial killer, you didn’t miss anything important, but it was a nice little scene (and the pair also pop up in a smaller cameo later).

The film has a very comic-book influenced feel (not too dissimilar from Creepshow), which goes well with the style and multiple subgenres the movie deals with. The atmosphere is top-notch (especially during the Halloween School Bus Massacre segment as it takes place in that creepy quarry, and the flashback in that segment had a great mood too), and while the special effects aren’t generally special, I do think the music is quite note-worthy at times (such as during the werewolf transformation), and the whole of the film has a fantastic Halloween vibe that few movies (aside from, of course, Halloween, Halloween III, and Halloween 4) can really match.

It’s hard to pin-point the best performance. I was always partial to Anna Paquin (X-Men, Blue State, and as for horror, Darkness and Scream 4) as I really loved her character, finding her so much more attractive than her sister and friends. Playing her sister is Lauren Lee Smith (who was in the terribly dated show Mutant X that I actually saw a handful of episodes from), who’s character was a bit of an annoyance, but she did share a few good moments with Paquin’s character. Samm Todd and Jean-Luc Bilodeau were solid.

Dylan Baker was a lot of fun in his segment, and while I can’t say if I recognize him from the weaksauce comedy Head of State, the great Spider-Man 2, or even Fido, but I do recognize him, and his role here is great. Britt McKillip was bratty, but fun (and her eye roll after being chastised for using a bad word is totally a mood). Of course Brian Cox (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Ring, and most memorably for me, X2) was great here (and his character had some nice depth to him).

As for the best segment, I personally lean toward the Halloween School Bus Massacre, as that back-story behind the massacre was both brutal and interesting, the atmosphere at the quarry is fantastic, and the fact that you can’t at all fault Rhonda (Samm Todd) for her actions. I enjoyed the Surprise Party, though some of the dialogue is a bit on-the-nose (which may not be that noticeable on a first-time watch, but there you go). The Sam-centrict story with the demonic thing fighting Cox was fun, and even more fun was Dylan Baker’s segment (with some quality humor added), but neither one had that oompf Halloween School Bus Massacre did.

Which isn’t to say that those segments bring down the film, because as everything here is interconnected in some way, the whole of the movie is pretty solid. It would have been sort of nice to get a little idea of what Sam actually was (I’m leaning toward a vengeful personification of traditional Halloween), but it definitely wasn’t necessary in order to enjoy the film.

Special effects throughout are great, with the spotlight really going to the zombie kids at the bottom of the quarry. The werewolf transformation sequence (matched with that music) makes for a great time, and the long fight between Sam and Brian Cox had a lot of solid stuff going on. What makes all of this better is how digestible it is, as the story goes for just 78 minutes (with credits, the movie’s listed as 82 minutes), and it’s done so beautifully.

Trick ‘r Treat is a fantastic film. It amazes me just how good it actually is, and for a Halloween night, or any night, it’s a great choice, with fun, interwoven tales that really carry with them the essence of the holiday.

9/10

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)

Directed by Ellory Elkayem [Other horror films: They Nest (2000), Eight Legged Freaks (2002), Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005)]

One of two Return of the Living Dead sequels from 2005 (the other being Rave to the Grave), Necropolis isn’t nearly as fun as I recall it being. Not that it’s as painfully terrible as the third movie was, but it was plenty cringy toward the end, and it was far from a memorably okay movie.

When I was a kid, though, I remember this being a blast. I only saw it once, but I do recall enjoying a decent amount of this. I entirely forget about the terrible uber-soldier zombie things at the end, which is probably good, because if I remembered that before watching this one again, I would have approached this with much more trepidation. As it is, nostalgia didn’t help much at all, and while I thought some portions were okay (in an early The Perfect Score-type way), Necropolis was pretty shabby.

Peter Coyote, as the antagonist, was pretty damn weak. So were most others, though, so he fits in fine. Amusingly, there’s something like seven different teen characters (eight if you count main character Julian’s younger brother Jake, played by Alexandru Geoana), and not many are memorable. Sure, Aimee-Lynn Chadwick is cute (she wears glasses, guys – how could anyone think otherwise?), Elvin Dandel had a little character (and Dandel also appeared in Headless Horseman and Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud), and John Keefe occasionally had an expressive face, but there’s not a hell of a lot going on with the cast.

Though much in the same vein as Chadwick, there are two other reasonably attractive actresses, being Diana Munteanu (“Hey, big boy”) and Jana Kramer. Kramer isn’t a humongous name; aside from being a character in One Tree Hill (which isn’t a show I’m not remotely familiar with), I’ve not seen her in anything. She is, however, a country singer, and while I’m not personally a big modern-day country fan, I do quite enjoy her song “I Got the Boy.” It’s sort of amusing to see that ten years before that song, she was in a movie of this type of quality.

I do love that quality motorbiking montage, though – it seems so incredibly dated (much like that beautiful hacking scene, which is slightly only more updated than the Jurassic Park hacking sequence). Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of this (especially around the break-in scene) reminded me of The Perfect Score, which came out a year earlier, and is a much more enjoyable film, especially given that this movie has an uber-soldier zombie much like the third movie had, which is always a questionable choice.

When I was a kid, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis had the same type of charm possessed by Fido, and I don’t know exactly why I thought that. After seeing it again, it’s nowhere near good, and Fido is by all means a better film. The zombies here were weak, as was the story, and it didn’t have an emotional punch like you’d hope (even with a somewhat surprising death of a younger character). I hated the third film more (deal with it, brahs), but this is still a pretty underwhelming movie.

5.5/10

Wilderness Survival for Girls (2004)

Directed by Eli B. Despres [Other horror films: N/A] & Kim Roberts [Other horror films: N/A]

After years of wanting to see this, I really didn’t expect something this atypical. Not that Wilderness Survival for Girls is a bad movie or anything, but it’s not really the type of movie I was expecting, and I think that some people, if they go in with the wrong preconceptions, may walk away from this rather disappointed.

I didn’t expect the film to be anywhere near as low-budget as it was, for one thing. This doesn’t hurt the movie, because, as you all may know, I enjoy quite a few low-to-no budget films, but I was just somewhat taken aback by exactly how amateur this film came across.

What is more important, and definitely far more crucial, to my final verdict is the plot, and I’ll say that I was expecting something significantly different, but it’s also worth saying that this movie did have some feeling and heart which helped it break past what could have been a somewhat dull affair.

And to be clear, I guess I should briefly discuss my expectations – I thought this was a slasher. Why? I don’t know – I guess that, to me, it sounded like one. Some teens go to a cabin and get stalked and killed off by some mysterious figure? Typical slasher stuff, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong. Instead, we follow these three young women who go to this cabin and just hang out for forty minutes or so. They joke around, show off some skin, give the audience a clear view of their varying personalities, and show the small cracks in the friendship, and also sprinkle in a few small, implied character traits that pop up later. They also get high, because these three know how to have a good time.

There’s nothing horror about any of this so far, to be clear. I guess at one point, the three think they see some mysterious guy watching them, but at best, it’s mildly suspenseful, and doesn’t lead anywhere at that time. What it lacks in horror, though, this first half of the film makes up for in giving us three very fleshed out characters, and I love that. These aren’t your average women of horror – these three have a lot of character and personality, and I dig it.

It helps that the performances are great. We have Clea DuVall, Natasha Lyonne, and Velma. Okay, that’s my attempt at a joke, but Jeanette Brox reminded me throughout of Clea DuVall (circa How to Make a Monster) with her somewhat dorky, timid character. Megan Henning, with her glasses and attitude, got me thinking Velma. And the carefree, lower-class character played by Ali Humiston had Natasha Lyonne’s look and attitude from American Pie down beautifully. The three work great together, and the friendship felt authentic.

In many ways, a lot of this film feels more liking a coming-of-age drama with the three teens, unsure of their futures (two of them are going to college while one isn’t), unsure of their sexualities, unsure of love, just hanging out and candidly talking about things such as drugs, sex, masturbation, and their problems. It might be dull to some, but like I said, I think it gives a lot of character to consider, and it all plays in once the action starts ratcheting up.

Not that the movie is ever really inundated with action; once a mysterious man comes to the cabin and the girls, afraid and also high, tie him up believing him to not be cut of clean cloth, the movie certainly becomes more suspenseful, but there’s really only a few distinct moments of actual action. We got a lot of character from the girls, and now we examine this random guy who may or may not be a threat, and based on what the girls have to work with, it could definitely go either way.

If you’re going into this movie expecting some run-of-the-mill slasher plot, like I was, you will definitely be surprised. For some, the movie may not be their cup of tea. Once I got past my slight confusion, though, I was drawn into the characters and the dilemma they faced, and I felt for the characters when they talked about feeling unloved, or when they go for the person they love and are knocked down, or when they bite back and forth over personalities (Debbie telling Ruth’s character that Kate has called her stupid was a heart-breaking, yet very real, very real conversation).

Do I think that the movie is a masterpiece? No, not really. And like I said, I think it has the potential to turn some horror fans off. For me, though, Wilderness Survival for Girls was a pleasant surprise, and what it lacked in the slasher feel I was expecting, it more than made up for in fully-formed characters and great, real dialogue. This is definitely a movie that, while I didn’t love, I won’t be forgetting.

7.5/10

Beyond the Limits (2003)

Directed by Olaf Ittenbach [Other horror films: Black Past (1989), The Burning Moon (1992), Premutos – Der gefallene Engel (1997), Legion of the Dead (2001), Riverplay (2001), Evil Rising (2002), Garden of Love (2003), Familienradgeber (2006), Chain Reaction (2006), Dard Divorce (2007), No Reason (2010), Legend of Hell (2012), Savage Love (2012), 5 Seasons (2015), Olaf Ittenbach’s Colourman (2017), Garden of Love II (2017)]

I knew very little about this going in, which was, in this case, a positive thing, because if I had known it was an anthology movie with only two stories, each one taking approximately 50 minutes, I would have gone the other way. As it was, Beyond the Limits wasn’t terrible, and it has it’s place, but it’s certainly not a movie I’d expect too many people to enjoy or want to sit through.

Before anything else, though, I want to give credit to the gore. Director Olaf Ittenbach is somewhat well-known for his gorier films (though I’ve not personally seen any aside from this one), and this one is no different, with some quality decapitations, someone being garroted, a young kid taking a sledgehammer to the face, and other goodies. It’s a solid example of lower-budget gore being done right, so if you’re into this type of thing, this movie might be looking up.

Otherwise, I just don’t think it’s really a great movie. I’ve not seen that many anthology films which feature just two stories, but those that I have (such as Two Evil Eyes and 2009’s Late Fee) haven’t been that good. Part of the reason being, the stories are obviously too short to be full-length movies, but are also too long to be digestible, easy-to-view segments you’d expect from any decent anthology, be it Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow.

It also doesn’t help that neither story here, not to mention the framing sequence (which started out fine, but by the end just seemed terrible) made a positive impression on me. I’d say the first story – a bunch of people are tortured by a sadistic guy in relation to a gangland incident – was the better of the two, as it’s pretty much, past a certain point, a low-budget Hostel. The second story, a period piece about the torture of the Inquisition on religious folk, felt more like a bloodier The Bloody Judge than anything really worth getting into.

I didn’t hate any of the acting (though I will say that Simon Newby was a bit campier than I’d have personally preferred), but few people here really wowed me. From the first story, even with his flaws, Simon Newby was probably the best there. Thomas Reitmair (who I couldn’t help but see as a blonde Alan Rickman) needed a bit more character, and Daryl Jackson was too much a mystery to really get a hang on.

From the second story, while Darren Shahlavi could have been an okay protagonist, he really didn’t end up that memorable. Russell Friedenberg was delightfully evil, albeit maybe a bit over-the-top, but the real over-the-top performance award goes to David Creedon, who was just ridiculously campy (perhaps even rivaling Newby). There are some quality medieval set pieces and sword fights, but you can see it done decently better in the early episodes of Game of Thrones.

Honestly, Beyond the Limits is far from a terrible film. It’s competent in what it was aiming for, and save for a few really bad effects (such as a woman being thrown out of a building in the first story) and that rather awful and expected conclusion, it might be worth watching if you’re already familiar with Olaf Ittenbach or into low-budget horror. It’s just really not my type of thing.

5/10

The House Next Door (2006)

Directed by Jeff Woolnough [Other horror films: Nightworld: Lost Souls (1998), Strange Frequency 2 (2002)]

This made-for-TV movie isn’t the most forgettable film I’ve ever seen (it helps that I’ve just seen it, to be sure), but I don’t think it has the staying power that the creators were probably hoping for, which is a shame, as the story itself isn’t too bad.

I’m not personally one to care about production value – there have been plenty of quality low-budget made-for-DVD and made-for-TV movies, and I don’t judge a film based on what money went into it – but that being said, a lot of this movie still came across to me as bland and occasionally uninspired.

Based off a novel by Anne Rivers Siddons of the same title, published in 1978, the story isn’t that shabby, and has some interesting ideas in it (such as going through different owners of the house and the varied misfortunes they encounter), but the film isn’t able to pull that together into that great a movie-watching experience.

For what it’s worth, I think most of the performances are okay, at least in that Lifetime movie way. Lara Flynn Boyle and Colin Ferguson are decent together, though maybe come out of this a little generic (and that first-person narration that popped up at the beginning and the end didn’t do them wonders). Mark-Paul Gosselaar (of Dead Man on Campus… fame?) was a bit soapy at times, but still serviceable. Of the people who temporarily brought the house, Noam Jenkins (who appeared in Saw II and IV) was the best, becoming an overly orderly and pompous jackass like few others.

There were some okay scenes here, such as a somewhat jarring suicide, and the uncomfortable way Jenkins’ character spoke to his wife during the dinner party, along with any of the scenes of the new home owners giving into the mental pressures of the new house, but all of it feels tame and bland, even when it really shouldn’t.

The House Next Door isn’t a bad story, but the execution wasn’t properly done. The movie was lacking in feeling, and though a few things were decent with it, overall, I can imagine this being one of the many post-2000 made-for-TV movies that people will watch once and forget entirely.

5.5/10