OCTOBER 7, 2012
A while back I wrote a fun article for Badass Digest about all of the many deaths of Lance Henriksen over the years, as he rarely survives until the end of the film*. Given the horror-centric nature of my weekly column, I only stuck to his genre fare, so his demises in things like Hard Target and No Escape had to be left out, but I still had enough for a pretty lengthy column, and could probably do another someday since he makes like a million movies a year. One is It's In The Blood (formerly Wilderness), where the tradition was almost guaranteed to continue because he's one of the only two people in the present day part of the movie, and being a horror film you know (at least) one of them's gotta die. Smart money's on Lance, right?
Well I won't spoil that much, but it's certainly a must-see for fans of the actor, as it allows him to play a few sides that we don't get to see too often. I mean, he's very much a Lance character: gruff, badass (he's introduced euthanizing a trapped animal...with a big ass rifle. At close range.), and prone to being targeted by supernatural entities. But he's also playing a broken man, who is so lonely (and poor) that he watches white noise ("snow") on his TV because he can't afford the cable bill but wants to have SOMETHING to do. He's also a bit silly at times; during one early scene he's teaching his adult son how to drive a stick shift, and describing each gear in the same manner folks use bases to symbolize sexual activity - if you've ever wanted to see Lance Henriksen mimic a woman on the verge of orgasm, this is your movie.
And no, that's not the source of the horror (even if it IS more unsettling than the monster itself). The real threat here is a humanoid chameleon hunter that stalks Lance and his son during a hunting trip, forcing them to find ways to defend themselves while they hash out their differences. Seems a past tragedy has left them estranged, and in true modern movie fashion we get a little piece of that puzzle at a time, and to the script's credit, even though we know how the story itself will play out by the halfway point, it's a legit surprise to find out how it specifically left the two men so angry at each other. But I'm not sure if it NEEDED to be a surprise; if I may borrow a quote from Film Crit Hulk, regarding the film John Carter (spoiler, I guess):
"THERE IS LITERALLY NO FREAKING POINT TO HANGING ON TO THE FACT THAT JOHN CARTER'S FAMILY DIED UNTIL LATER IN THE MOVIE. NONE. IT DOES NOT ALTER THE STORY. CONSEQUENCES DO NOT DEPEND ON IT. AND WORSE, IT'S THE VERY THING THAT MAKES HIS CHARACTER CLICK FOR US."
Similarly here, I'm not sure why it was necessary to wait until the end of the movie, now that their relationship has moved on to a new level (and one of them is about to die) to explain why they were so tough on each other throughout the movie. Especially when you have a beloved genre icon and a relatively unknown actor (Sean Elliot, who also co-wrote the script with director Scooter Downey) - the audience is going to take Lance's side, especially when the son is treating him like shit. With that info in hand, it might have been easier to connect with the film in its early stages.
Especially when it's more of a survival drama than a horror film. The monster looks cool, but it doesn't appear much, so some folks might be a little restless, watching a Lance Henriksen horror movie where there's not much horror and Lance is constantly being berated by the guy who is supposed to be our hero. Luckily, Elliot gave himself an interesting character to play, a glorified drifter who has photographic memory. His incredibly accurate memories of a survival guide and a medical text that he read in the past prove to be very helpful, and after Lance hurts his leg he's the one doing most of the heavy lifting - setting traps for the monster, looking for a gun that they dropped along the way, etc. It's a short, lean film, so once you take out the flashback scenes (which have their own horror of sorts) and the intro stuff before they get to the woods, there's only like 40 minutes of movie for our monster to do his thing, so I'm not being vague on purpose - there's just not much to discuss in detail, narrative-wise. Even if I don't agree with how they structured it, they obviously wanted you to be a few steps behind its characters at all times, so that they were reacting to each other based on information we are not privy to, so I'll respect that.
I can't respect the color timing though - perhaps they forgot to do it? Elliot will be in a cold, bluish tinted shot, and then look off to the side and see something that looks like a fine spring morning. Then they'll cut to a reaction from Lance, sitting 5 feet away but surrounded in late-day orange. It was really distracting, and I guess there's no time to fix it since the movie is premiering on VOD in two weeks. A shame, too - it's a terrific looking film for digital, and those nice wide (and scope!) shots of the landscape made ME want to go out for a hike, and I'm the type who goes "camping" with a TV and portable fridge.
The mashup of monster, survival, and psychological horror movie doesn't always quite work, but considering how often you see those things combined, they can be forgiven - it's not like there's a dozen movies that did it right that we could point to. And as a Lance fan, I loved seeing him in this kind of role - it's just a shame he spends so much of his screentime propped against a tree. Should make for a fine VOD option for those looking for something a little different, and I look forward to seeing another effort from this team.
What say you?
*Sadly, the article is currently glitched and is missing that bit of info, so it's just a random assortment of his death scenes without context. I've alerted my bosses there; hopefully it can be fixed.