Two brothers on the run come afoul of one group after the other until they reach a seemingly abandoned desert village. There they meet a young woman who helps them and meet with a family of crazy cannibals. Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory, based on a story by von Hoffman who also directed, Drifter is a film about survival in the desert post apocalypse that shows every character but one as bad people. The “bad guys”, the cannibalistic family unit, are truly bad, while the brothers come off as being bad people out of necessity and desperation. Only one character seems mostly good but also a victim of some weird form of Standahl Syndrome. She’s the one who attempts to help the brothers before things really go to shit for them.
Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in! Keanu Reeves’ action starring vehicle “John Wick” ended up being one of the best films of 2014, and three years later, we’re granted what is essentially “The Empire Strikes Back” of the John Wick saga. When John Wick went in to retirement, violence found him once and he wrought unholy vengeance one last time. Now that he’s been a few years in exile, living alone with his trusty pit bull, his past has returned once again. Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up at John’s door aware of his mission of vengeance and now plans to take advantage of a decades old blood oath he made to him when he was working as an assassin. Handing him a very sacred reminder called a “marker” with John’s own blood in it, he plans to hold him to his oath, despite John’s protests.
After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother. As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert. After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert. The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements. Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert. The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring. It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends. The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such. The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.
No matter what you think of “The Evil Dead,” every indie filmmaker wants to have their own version of the Sam Raimi classic. At this point you could compile a sub-genre out of movies involving cabin in the woods demon movies. There was even an actual remake, foreign wannabes like the charming “Wither,” and yes, even a movie called “Cabin in the Woods.” Director Alexander Babaev really wants us to know that he was inspired by “The Evil Dead” and even works hard to convince us we’re watching a successor–sans the tree rape, of course. “The Evil Dead” still maintains its glossy appeal and inherent terror, while “The Bornless Ones” is merely a fine attempt with some admirable ambition behind it. The cabin in the woods this time preys on the weakness of the characters, exploiting their fears and insecurities, allowing them to possess them.
Jonathan Straiton’s “Night of Something Strange” seems to exist only to test the audience’s gag reflexes and nothing more. There is no story, no main character, the narrative is a mess, the pacing is uneven, the zombies that Straiton conceives are so poorly fleshed out, and in the end when Straiton throws out the script to deliver a non-ending, the joke falls flat. To prove how inept the movie is, after the prologue we enter in to the main narrative with character Christine delivering a heaping helping of exposition, narrating the set up for the movie as she writes in her journal. The latter portion of the movie reveals that, no, she’s by no means the central character and final girl. It’s just unfocused badly drawn out dreck that makes the movie such a chore to endure.
Director Patrick Rea’s horror thriller “Arbor Demon” (Originally titled “Enclosure”) is a quite compelling and eerie tale of supernatural interference during what can usually be a tumultuous time. As per the usual with Patrick Rea, “Arbor Demon” is a much more human approach to the typical survival horror movie. His movie is set primarily within the closed in quarters of a tent in the deep woods. But he’s able to derive a lot of terror from the surroundings, and derives some great performances from his cast. In particular there’s Fiona Dourif who impresses once again in a role she dives in to and commands with a lot of pathos and charisma.
“Day of Reckoning” is a pseudo-biblical horror movie that teams “Doom,” “Day of the Dead,” “The Walking Dead” and the Roland Emmerich disaster pornos in to one ball of baffling entertainment. “Day of Reckoning” is teeming with potential and actually manages to be entertaining every now and then. When a mining company accidentally unearths a hibernating brood of demonic monsters, the beasts arise from their slumber to begin wreaking havoc on humanity. The monsters are a variety of winged, stampeding, anthropomorphic demons with varying degrees of appearances and habits. Sometimes they’re a random herd of monsters, and sometimes they’re scheming and planning. They can poison people to apparently turn on everyone else, and they have a thirst for human flesh. Best of all they can be taken out by dousing them with enough salt.
Bryan Bertino has a talent for depicting the inexplicability of evil, first with “The Strangers,” and now with how a seemingly chaotic force of nature threatens to destroy a mother and daughter. What’s worse is that when we do meet the titular monster, it’s about to completely obliterate a relationship already on the cusp of falling to pieces. Director and writer Bertino succeeds in creating a creepy monster movie that also builds a compelling relationship that pulls us through the emotional wringer time and time again. Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballantine are an excellent pairing as Kathy and Lizzy, an estranged mother and daughter that are constantly at war with one another.