THE SHORTCUT (2009)
After putting together my Halloween Hotties post about up and coming scream queen Katrina Bowden, I became intrigued by her first horror and thought I’d take a look. Sadly this moderately budgeted fright flick, produced by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions…re-dubbed Scary Madison…and released straight to DVD, is a very pedestrian and only minimally entertaining tale. PG-13 horror focuses on new kid in town Derek (Andrew Seeley) investigating a shortcut through the woods, with a bad reputation, and a mysterious and strange old man (Raymond J. Barry) who lives on a secluded property that the shortcut leads through. His interest provoked after his little brother (Nicholas Elia) is frightened by the man and his apparent murder of a dog when dared to take the shortcut by schoolmates. Along with new friends Mark (Dave Franco), Lisa (Shannon Woodward), Taylor (Josh Emerson, who played basically the same character in Jennifer’s Body) and romantic interest Christy (Katrina Bowden), they unravel a history of death and missing persons and decide to check out the man’s home for clues…bad idea.
This film is directed as by-the-numbers as you can get by Nicholas Goossen and from a script that is far too sloppy to work by Dan Hannon and Scott Sandler. There is just too much predictability and far too little of the suspense and scares one watches this kind of flick for. It’s TV movie style works against it, as does the neutered shocks to get it’s PG-13 rating. Not to mention, characters doing some really stupid things and making some really bad decisions to move the plot along and put themselves in needless danger. The cast go from bland to adequate with Bowden’s Christy being the liveliest of the characters, though, one of the least used. The film also takes far too long to really get going and once it does, it comes to a climax we saw coming for at least an hour before. Sad, because the basic story had potential. Also stars X-Files‘ ‘The Smoking Man’ William B. Davis in a small but crucial role.
DEAD SOULS (2012)
Dead Souls opens with a disturbing ritualistic murder/suicide of a family by it’s minister patriarch, Benjamin Conroy (J.H. Torrance Downes) with only an hidden infant spared. We then cut to that infant now grown (Jesse James) and living with his aunt (Geraldine Hughes), who the re-named Johnny Petrie, believes is his mother. But, Johnny has just turned 18 and the Conroy estate is turned over to him and he goes there to oversee the property’s sale and to find out about his newfound family history. But, as Johnny decides to stay on the property, he finds he has inherited not only a possible nightmarish past but, some very present and not so friendly spirits. Together with a pretty squatter (Magda Apanowicz) found living in his new house, Johnny attempts to get to the bottom of what happened to his family, but something may equally be out to get him as well.
Director Colin Theys does manage to give this film some atmosphere and there are some spooky sequences along with some disturbing scenes such as the opening slaughter. But, John Doolan’s script, based on Michael Laimo’s novel, is a bit too convoluted for it’s own good and the last act just get’s silly with it’s re-animated, possessed corpses. The film’s first two thirds were subtle and spooky, but the more you find out, the sillier it gets, till we arrive at the spirit possessed corpses climax that, in itself, has a silly denouement. The cast, including horror favorite Bill Moseley, are fine, but the material just goes from spooky to silly at a point when it needed to be at it’s most effective. It’s a moderately entertaining watch and there is some solid spookiness early on, but ultimately gets a little too wacky to do anything but disappoint. Too bad, there was a good movie in here somewhere and Theys had enough skill to deliver it, had the script not gotten so ludicrous.
The Craft meets Carrie in this completely derivative high school set horror about a bullied girl who gets revenge on her abusers through witchcraft. Tamara (Jenna Dewan) is a shy, introverted plain-jane student, with an interest in the occult, who gets picked on constantly. An article she writes for the school paper about steroid use on the high school’s athletic teams catches the angry attention of jock Shawn (Bryan Clark) and his crew and a cruel prank is plotted that goes horribly wrong and leaves Tamara dead… but not for long. The next day Tamara returns to school despite being buried deep in the woods and is now quite the sexy seductress. Soon Tamara is using her natural charms and dark magic to avenge herself on her wrongdoers and win the teacher she crushes on, Mr. Natolly (Matthew Marsden).
Horror flick is competently directed by Jeremy Haft, though without much style or atmosphere, and the script by Jefferey Reddick basically bludgeons us with ‘been there, done that’. There is barely any originality in the story of embattled nerd turned hot supernatural avenger and what little gore there is in her vengeance is adequate, but nothing special. The cast are actually fine, but the film itself is so forgettable and cliché that it’s rarely spoken of, if ever, in horror circles or otherwise. It received a small under the radar theatrical release in 2006 before going equally quiet to DVD. Not much to recommend, as there’s not much the film has to offer except lead Jenna Dewan looking quite fine.