DECEMBER 8, 2012
I forget, why didn't any of you jerks go to see The Ruins when it came out? It was based on a very successful novel, it starred very attractive people, and, oh yeah, it was good. Since it did so poorly, it's been kind of forgotten; director Carter Smith hasn't made a feature since, and we were denied a resurgence of "kids go poking around where they shouldn't" movies that did NOT involve being tortured by psychos (or eaten by cannibals). I bring this up because, if it had it been a hit, maybe a flick like The Sacred would have gotten a bigger release, and I would have seen it 2-3 years ago on a proper DVD instead of on this dinky ass screener copy.
It starts off a lot like The Ruins, but not so much that it seemed to be ripping it off directly. A group of college kids are traveling to a remote area, one that the locals don't want to talk about, let alone visit. But they convince someone to get them there (though he drops them off a ways before the entrance, scared to enter himself despite being over 7 feet tall), only to discover that the locals weren't just being dicks, they were actually trying to protect them from a supernatural force that would almost assuredly kill them. But after that (and right after my tweet about how it reminded me of The Ruins), things changed up, and it became more of a straight up ghost/psychological film that had more in common with Session 9 or Flatliners than the killer plant flick.
See, right before he agrees to take them, their guide asks if they are "pure in heart", and they all say yes, so of course they are lying. So one by one we see the group see something from their past, and then flashbacks will tell us how despicable they are; one guy killed his mother so he could claim her inheritance, another who worked as a nurse let a patient die, etc. And then those things come back to kill them, though at least one "crime" wasn't depicted very well - I THINK I understood what the guy had done, but it was vague and given the annoying "let's just flash the screen a bunch of times and show jittery flashbacks" treatment to boot. Of course, this means that the Final Girl must be completely innocent in order to survive, which results in a rather stupid sequence that almost undid all of the goodwill the movie had earned up until then - classic "we don't know how to end this" scenario.
Speaking of the kills - they went in a very surprising order; excluding the obvious Final Girl I had it almost completely backwards, which is rare for me in ANY horror flick, let alone a DTV one (where surprises of any sort tend to be few and far between, unfortunately). They're also much more vicious than expected - this is a surprisingly harsh flick (not super gory, exactly, but the kills themselves are a bit more violent than I expected, and the FX are above average), which is a fine consolation prize for the fact that there are only a handful of kills (and two of them are needlessly close together, skewing the pacing a bit). On that note, another check in the movie's "pro" column - even though they were mostly kind of terrible people, I actually liked them more than usual, and enjoyed their chemistry. Sure, the one asshole guy (who I guess was funding the trip but otherwise had no real interest in their agenda) could be a bit grating, but he was also quick to recognize their danger, and didn't sell the others out or anything of that nature, which is the usual "asshole of the group" MO. And the final girl reminded me of Anna Torv from Fringe, which was perfectly OK by me.
Oh, and one kid makes a Jason reference, mimicing the "ki ki ma ma" sound to amuse himself in a manner not unlike how I myself might do it. And I know this because I actually did the same goddamn thing earlier in the day, as I was driving past an actual Crystal Lake in Northern New Hampshire and marveling at how similar the geography was to the earlier films, where the lake was huge (not a little pond like in New Blood) and had scattered boathouses and cabins all around it. Hell, they could have filmed one of the movies there if they wanted, so it was funny to me to see this particular reference in the movie I had chosen to watch once I arrived at my destination.
Director Jose Zambrano Cassella (who wrote the script with Sharon Reed) delivered an impressive looking film here; in addition to the aforementioned FX (it's sad that decent, PRACTICAL effects work has to be given special mention, since it's so rare), and better than usual characters, the film just looks great, utilizing the Florida locale (not enough horror movies shot in Florida, I think) and his scope photography is quite eye-catching. A bit too dark at times, but that's typical of a director working as his own DP (see: Hyams, Peter) and didn't surprise me at all. I was surprised by the terrible end titles though - the opening title sequence was pretty great, so it was a bummer to see such a rush job at the end by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Especially when the end of the actual movie was kind of wonky anyway; it was salt in the wound. I've said a bunch of times that a bad final few minutes can kill an otherwise good/decent movie (I'm convinced Devil Inside wouldn't be hated half as much if not for that stupid URL text at the end), and this one comes close to hitting that territory, unfortunately.
But it avoids it, thanks to a solid premise and all the other stuff I've already mentioned. This makes 2 for 2 on my screeners from Osiris Entertainment (they were also behind Night Drive), so maybe I should look at the rest of their catalog and see what other minor gems they put out that have been floating under my radar.
What say you?