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Slew Hampshire (2013)
Insane indie horror with great production values
American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is the deranged brainchild of Flood Reed, who, according to his IMDb profile, is a circus performer and subconscious drifter who likes to appear in the nightmares of children and the occasional LSD-induced hallucination. However, when he's not scaring kids and enhancing trips, he sometimes acts in, writes and directs movies. One such movie is the topic of this review: a demented dose of backwoods debauchery that's already received critical acclaim by winning Rue Morgue Magazines, "Goriest Scene of the Year Award" and Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Editing at the 8th Annual Shockfest Film Festival.
A fitting way to describe American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire would be Deliverance (1972) meets Jack Ketchum's Offspring (2009), although comparing it these films is only a brief indication of what to expect here. American Backwoods is a lethal concoction of hillbilly horror, cannibal caper and creature feature, infused with black humour and copious amounts of violent carnage to create one of the most gleefully gruesome movies you're likely to see this year.
The story follows a group of 4 guys who set out for one last hurrah at a strip club before college life separates them for the foreseeable future. They're a fun bunch of miscreants who just want to see some boobs and find some loose women to engage in sexual acts with; very similar to groups of friends we've seen in countless other horror flicks. Along the way they encounter a creepy professor, an unpleasant gas station attendant and a homosexual police officer who doesn't appear to be who he says he is. After deeming their vehicle unfit to drive, the police officer calls a mechanic who takes them to his trailer – and prepares them for the hunt.
Up until they reach the trailer American Backwoods is an offbeat bro- comedy that wouldn't seem out of place as a Harold & Kumar sequel. The strip club is their White Castle and on their journey they meet some oddball characters. Kudos have to be given for leading the viewer into a false sense of security; just as we start to think it might be a lighthearted romp, it does a complete 180 and drags us by the teeth into the abyss. Once it gets going it's an unrelenting nightmare of inescapable danger at every turn – involving rapist yokels, cannibalistic cave dwellers and a mystical beast. With so many ingredients in the pot, it risks becoming a convoluted mess: I'm happy to report that it makes for a tasty treat, effortlessly shifting gears with unforced, natural ease.
More often than not, low budget independent horror suffers from the same pitfalls: bad acting, below par production values, paper thin characters, etc. In American Backwoods every actor is solid and convincing in their roles, with the majority of characters being given ample amounts of screen time to make an impression and flex their chops. Most of the characters are given enough of a backstory that they actually come across as people and not just bodies to be slaughtered. Furthermore, the movie looks great: visually it's clear to see what's going on, and at times, it's reminiscent of an Oliver Stone movie. As for the gore, well that's just outstanding: there's one gag in particularly that'll make you think twice about receiving oral sex in a trailer again anytime soon. Let it be a warning to you hillbilly rapists out there.
All in all, American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is a violent, visceral treat that takes a well-trodden formula and gives it some extra layers. This is a must see for those who like their horror unapologetic and sleazy, while creating some laughs at the expense of heinous acts without ever losing its horrific edge. Excellent acting, a good script, an ambitious story and interesting characters provide a solid foundation for the mayhem to spray blood and spill guts all over, making it an unhinged, filthy little gem waiting to be discovered. 8/10
Hans Crippleman: Talk To The Hans
Hans Crippleton: Talk To The Hans is about a backwoods family of hillbillies who are plagued by a mysterious zombie curse. This story interests Barnaby Hunt, host of Horror Hunts, which is a documentary series dedicated to investigating the supernatural, horror legends and the downright bizarre. During his time with Hans Crippleton and his family of inbred hicks, we get to see their way of life as the mystery behind the curse is unveiled and Hans undergoes a rise and fall from fame.
There's a moment 3 minutes into Hans Crippleton: Talk To The Hans that not only sets the tone for the rest of the movie, but also makes you feel grateful to be witnessing such cinematic magic unfold. It involves Hans talking about his birth and we witness flashbacks to his mother trailing him along a field by the umbilical chord as she's chased by the undead. There's just something about a woman running away from zombies with her newborn inbred offspring still attached at the womb that tickles the funny bone, and it's one of many moments of transgressive humor that's sure make this movie the entertainment for beer and pizza nights for many years to come. Of course, it's also one of many moments that's sure to evoke outrage too, by the prudes who can't enjoy a good chuckle at the expense of political correctness. Hans isn't a movie that sets out to offend the masses, but it has no problem rubbing its inappropriateness in the face of good taste either... with giant pumpkin testicles.
When I received the screener for this little tease, I was expecting something completely stupid, but entertaining nonetheless, and even though it's completely bonkers and silly, it also provides a humorous outlook on modern society. Hans Crippleton: Talk To The Hands is an irreverent satire that mocks celebrity culture and reality television while poking fun at society's most conservative ethos. Kevon Ward (writer, producer and Hans in the movie) writes with a viewpoint similar to the likes of Matt Stone, Trey Parker, John Waters and Lloyd Kauffman. By that, I mean he's not afraid to gleefully cross that line, but at the end of the day it's just harmless fun. This movie doesn't take itself seriously for a second, and it's a joyous watch full of strange characters, toilet humor, cultural commentary and over-the-top violence. When watching the trailer, I recalled a Pink Flamingos vibe, and to my delight there was a nod to John Waters classic sleaze in Hans, where we see some pink flamingo ornaments on display. I always love it when influences are nodded to in a movie.
This has been described as an ''outrageous zombie comedy'' and it is; it's actually given the zombie sub-genre the refreshing kick up the arse it needed by bringing something original to the table. However, it's more like a mockumentary with zombies in it from time to time. The main focus of the film is the disgusting characters we get to know and love no matter how repelling they come across. It's amusing to see the rise and fall of our crippled anti-hero Hans, who loves booze, hookers and drugs. The script is witty and full of quotable dialogue like,''He's soliciting himself like a 2 cent hooker on nickel night.'' Watching this movie, I felt like a teenager again seeing Dead Alive, Bad Taste and PoultrygeistL Night of the Chicken Dead for the first time. It's absolutely vile, it's in your face and it's hilariously messed up.
Jimmy Lee Combs knows how to stretch a dollar too and is a director with a lot of potential. For a micro-budget indie production this is very presentable and well shot. As for the monsters and effects, well... prepare to blow your load. They look fantastic and achieve the right amount of balance between charming and nasty.
Fans of Troma should get a kick out of this.
Where the Dead Go to Die (2012)
Where The Dead Go To Die
Let me start off with a brief synopsis of what this mind rape is about. Not that it'll make any sense. A group of children living on the same block are haunted by a demonic dog named Labby, who takes them on wild rides through hellish dimensions and time periods. Each child's story is told through anthology segments, each one as warped as the other. In the first segment, the dog tells a little boy that a demon fetus is living inside his mother, and God has ordered them to kill it. This leads to the murder of the boys parents followed by bestiality in the name of the big man upstairs. The second segment is about a guy who can steal peoples memories when they're dying and insert them into his own mind, which is actually a really cool idea that the director should develop on in future. The third act is about a little boy trying to court a little girl who is being forced to star in pornographic films directed by her father.
Now you understand why I was so uneasy about watching this? The premise makes it sound like the most depraved movie of all time, created by an unhealthy mind, for the viewing pleasure/displeasure of sick freaks and masochists. It makes A Serbian Film look like Walt Disney. It might just be the most mean spirited and inherently evil piece of trash ever created in all forms of ''art.'' To be honest it probably is, and I can understand why people would be offended, but to me it was just too ridiculous and confusing to affect me like that. The animation really takes the sting out of it, plus some of the dialogue is quite clearly meant to be taken as dark comedy. The animation itself isn't exactly the quality of Pixar, but it works in its favor. The imagery is surreal, violent and nightmarish. Kinda like if David Lynch was directing a Splatterhouse video game. A nightmare is the best way to describe Where The Dead Go To Die, because despite the creepy visuals, it really makes no sense at all.
This is a sick film, but it had too much taboo breaking shock value to make it effective for me. That being said, it was a cinematic equivalent of a bizarre acid trip and I enjoyed it. The director Jimmy Screamerclauz has stated that he come up with most of his ideas under the influence of drugs and the movie has no intentions of making a point. It's essentially just a surreal, confusing experience that's so over-the-top it's hard to take seriously. I liked the animation style, but it didn't pack a punch at all. Screamerclauz has some great ideas in his twisted mind, and I feel if he worked on creating a consistent narrative he could really make some animated horror masterpieces.
You probably shouldn't watch this. I mean it is really messed up, but coming from a guy who doesn't enjoy Unearthed Films, this wasn't all that bad. I don't like extreme movies that exist purely to make people feel uncomfortable by degrading people, but I liked Where The Dead Go To Die for its absurdity. Don't watch if you're Christian.
American Muscle (2014)
Ignore The Bad Reviews
Grindhouse has become the cool thing to do ever since Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made it popular again with their double feature Death Proof/Planet Terror. Those movies spawned a lot of ''homages'' throughout the years which have been deemed ''throwbacks'' to the exploitations of the 70's and 80's but most of the time just come across as stylized comedies. Some have managed to come close to capturing the movies of yesteryear and retain their essence but they're still essentially comedic homages more than anything, but brilliantly and respectfully done (Grindhouse, Hobo With A Shotgun, Dear God No, Black Dynamite), where as others have been very entertaining, stylish romps (Drive Angry), and others have just tried too hard and came up short (Bounty Killer, Machete Kills, Bitch Slap). All of these movies have screamed at us, ''Look At Me, I'm A Grindhouse Movie,'' I've found enjoyment in most of the modern, self-proclaimed, Neo-Grindhouse movies, even the ones that do come up short, but I've often craved something truly authentic. American Muscle does have an element of being a deliberate homage to the drive in movies from the golden era. It is very stylish, slightly comedic and written as a tribute, but what makes it more true to those movies is how unapologetic it is. There's no winking at the audience here. It's just a straight up balls to the wall action flick full of gratuitous sex, violence, drugs and cars. It is stylish but it's probably the grittiest of the modern Grindhouse features since Dear God No.
American Muscle is a revenge thriller about a man named John Falcon, who has just been released from prison. With vengeance in mind, he sets out to kill everyone who had a hand in sending him there and finding his wife, who happens to be a junkie. Along the way he has sex with every woman he encounters. Everyone he meets who he doesn't bone just gets added to the body count. Essentially, all this movie consists of is sex and violence with a few flashbacks of people doing drugs, having sex and committing acts of violence. There isn't much in the way of deep story or fleshed out characters. We know John's motives, why he's doing what he's doing and the rest is his violent rampage unfolding. Boyhood this is not, but it's one of the most fun movies you'll see this year provided you don't have high standards and you enjoy senseless sex and violence. If you don't love it your grandmother definitely will.
One of the better modern Grindhouse movies.