HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: RITES OF SPRING (2011)

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RITES OF SPRING (2011)

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Rites Of Spring is nothing original. It’s plot is a mash-up, of sorts, of things we’ve seen before. It’s basically Children Of  The Corn meets From Dusk Till Dawn with bits and pieces of a few others thrown in for good measure. But, it is well made and well directed by filmmaker Padraig Reynolds and is a perfectly suitable horror entertainment for a night on the couch.

This tale of terror has two separate story lines occurring at once. One is the kidnapping of a rich couple’s little girl by four individuals, two brothers of whom are a bit reluctant, and the other is the kidnapping of two young women (Anessa Ramsey and Hannah Bryan) by a strange man in a bar parking lot. One abduction is for the purpose of extortion, while the other is for a far more horrifying purpose. Obviously, these two separate stories will collide as kidnappers and abductees alike will face a blood-thirsy abomination that wants both victim and criminal dead with equal relish. Will any of them survive?

Again, this is not an original story nor is it anything we haven’t seen before but, writer/director Padraig Reynolds presents his story well and knows how to build some suspense and chills. His script is nothing new but, it is atmospheric and moves quickly and kept my attention throughout the familiarity of it all. Not a great flick but,  I was entertained and only a last act coincidence of two characters from the separate story lines knowing each other had me grimace, as it seemed a bit too far-fetched and had no baring on the story. It was a pointless attempt to give A.J. Bowen’s kidnapper Ben a reason to risk his life for heroine Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) when his moral difficulties with being involved in the kidnapping and the events following, were enough for us to believe he wants to make things right. Other than that small misstep, and that the ending is also a bit abrupt, the film works fine and we get some well-orchestrated blood and gore to go with our decapitation happy creature. The film also keeps our monster in question just ambiguous enough to add an air of mystery, as we only know “The Stranger” (Marco St. John) needs to feed it during the weeks of Spring to ensure a healthy crop. It’s origins are never discussed and in this case it worked for the character though, it could have carried a bit more menace. As for the rest of the low budget but, good looking production, the cinematography by Carl Herse accents Reynolds efficient visual style nicely and we get some added atmosphere by Holly Amber Church’s creepy score.

The cast are all adequate though, no real stand-out performances. Indie horror fixture A.J. Bowen is fine as Ben, the first-time criminal with a conscience. Ramsey has a bit of a grating scream but, otherwise is feisty and resourceful as abductee and potential monster meal, Rachel who never gives up fighting. Sonny Marinelli lays it on a bit thick as Ben’s partner with his own agenda and Marco St. John is a suitably creepy “Stranger”. The supporting cast, including Katherine Randolph as Ben’s eager to kidnap girlfriend Amy, are all fine and there were three people listed in the cast as the creature dubbed “Karmanor” and all do well in giving the creature some menace though, it could have been a bit stronger a villain overall.

So, I enjoyed Rites Of Spring. It’s not a great movie or an original one but, it is solidly enough made and filmmaker Padraig Reynolds seems to know enough about what makes a horror film work to keep it from getting dull. There are some spooky moments and some bloody kills and enough suspense to make this a pleasant 80 minutes on the couch if you are looking for something to watch and an indie horror will do. I’ve seen much better but, you could do far worse.

3 hung up heroines.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: YELLOWBRICKROAD (2010)

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YELLOWBRICKROAD (2010)

There were things I liked about Yellowbrickroad and things I didn’t. The premise is cool. In the 1940s the population of an entire fictional New Hampshire town walks off into the mountains and vanishes. Search efforts recovered some bodies in unnatural states of death, but a large portion of the populace remains unfound. In modern day, a group sets out to retrace their steps, follow their trail and try to get some answers. Their journey takes them deep into the still uncharted mountains where mysterious music can be heard and the further they go, the more they seem to lose their minds and some lose their lives. Will they find out what happend to all those people on that fateful day or become the next chapter in an all too real urban legend?

As written and directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton, the film can be quite spooky and unsettling at times, but never really grabs you like it should. Clunky dialog and bland characters keep you from getting drawn in, as does not really understanding enough about what’s going on to make you afraid. At least in The Blair Witch Project, a film this resembles to a degree, you knew there was a possibility that there was an evil entity that might be out there causing the trouble. It gave you something to focus on and be afraid of. Here there’s nothing to focus on as we never really know what’s going on, or get so much as a clue as to what happened 70 years earlier. It appears to be something supernatural, but we are never really certain. Sure, there is some nice atmosphere here and the film can be creepy, but it’s a little too vague for it’s own good. Sometimes not being spoon-fed everything is good and leaving some things to the imagination is effective, too, but here it’s a case of giving us a little too little. We at least needed some clues to get our imaginations fired up even if the answers were ultimately going to be left a mystery or up to us to decide. I really liked the effort to do something different and hopefully these filmmakers keep trying. Their work shows potential and imagination, but they need to give their audience something a bit more solid to work with and liven up their characters to really deliver.

I still recommend horror fans check this one out. It’s definitely worth a look, but be prepared to know pretty much the same when the credits roll as you did going in. The cast of unknowns include Cassidy Freeman, Anessa Ramsey and Clark Freeman.

2 and 1/2 gramophones… at least that sounds like what is playing that creepy music…

yellowbrickroad rating

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