This is a throwback in more than one way. These movies came out in 2006. I also wrote these reviews in 2007 not long after the DVDs were released of them. Or at least not long after I bought all the DVDs. I considered adding photos to the reviews but I decided not to. I only added the featured image. All the HTML links and things I’ve also left as they were originally done. So, they may not all work.
AFTER DARK HORRORFEST NUMBER ONE
8. The Abandoned
I have no idea why this movie got the solo wide release. It’s not good. It’s barely watchable. A muddled mess, is what it is. The storyline is so bogged down with mindless drivel that even though the end is beyond stupid by that point you don’t care. Your just glad it’s over.
7. Dark Ride
I thought this was going to be the worst in the series but that was before I saw The Abandoned. This one was bad but it was bad in the way that about 100 “horror” movies that are released every year are bad. It has that redundant storyline with insipid characters direct-to-video air about it. It also has a scene directly ripped off from Cabin Fever. Seriously, watch the scene in Cabin Fever where they’re by the camp fire and Rider Strong tells the story about the bowling alley and then watch the scene in Dark Ride where they’re sitting around in the haunted house and one of the interchangable characters tells the story about the ride. You’ll be waiting for Eli Roth and the creepy dog to walk up any minute. They’re so damn similar. Oh but despite it’s pointlessness get Dark Ride anyway and watch the Prologue part at the beginning with the twins. It’s actually good and has great gore effects. I do suggest turning the dvd off after that part though. Pretend it’s a short film.
6. Penny Dreadful
I had high hopes for this one. It had a good storyline. The kind that I like..simple premise with interesting characters. A girl is in a car accident as a kid and is now deathly afraid of cars. So, her therapist gets the idea to take her on a road trip back to the site of the accident to help her get over her fear. So, the first part of the movie is uneventful. It’s character development. I liked it. Then they pick up a hitchhiker. Ok, they actually hit a hitchhiker and then pick him up out of guilt. Still… I’m a bit sick of the creepy hitchhikers storylines. It just gets a bit stupid after awhile. I mean how many murderous hitchhikers could possibly exist in the world? I can’t think of ever hearing of one case in real life of a serial killing hitchhiker. It’s generally the hitchhikers that get killed. Anyway, I could have overlooked that because after that it continued to be interesting. Through a chain of events the titular Penny ends up locked in the car alone [more or less] and we get to see her deal with this. A very long period of time with a girl stuck in a car? It should be very very boring. Yet, it’s not. I found it full of intrigue and the actress was amazing. This would have probably been my #2 favorite if not for the ending. Which I won’t give away except to say that really there isn’t anything to give away. Perhaps if your expectations are lower then mine you won’t be so horribly disappointed. I was disappointed. Almost to the point of throwing things at the screen. It was just an absolute lovely way to ruin what should have been a really good movie.
This one wasn’t bad but I can’t say it was good either. It’s a ghost story [sorta] and I don’t really like those. The story centers around a med student that gets a bad “vibe” from her cadaver in her Gross Anatomy class. So, she decides to find out who the woman she’s suppose to be dissecting is. The whole storyline is a bit gimicky and that sorta threw me off to begin with but then with the odd end that managed to both wrap up way to nicely and be to vague at the same time I was left with a bad “vibe” myself. I mean the girl never really explains these “feelings” other then to say that she’s always gotten them. She takes great leaps of logic at times and she insists on staying in the creepy hospital after several people have died? I just don’t buy it. It’s not awful. It’s worth watching but don’t expect anything to great. In fact you’ll probably be forgotten about it by the time you take it out of the dvd player.
Again, I don’t like ghost stories. I also don’t generally like Japanese horror. So, I was surprised that I liked this. Of course, I’m not 100% sure that this is a ghost story. It’s a rather strange movie. Honestly, I got lost in the storyline several times and for most of the movie I thought that 2 different characters were the same person. Yet, despite that I still enjoyed the movie. It sucks you in and it’s very atmospheric. You get drawn in to the place more so then the characters or the story really. The whole movie is worth the weird climax and even if you don’t like reading subtitles you can still watch this. You can really not read them all and still follow what’s going on [at least as good as I did. ;)]. The dialogue really isn’t an important part of the story. Like I said it’s more in the atmosphere.
3. Wicked Little Things
This one surprised me. It’s about a woman and her 2 daughters that move into a house they inherited from their dead husband/father. They don’t know that some kids died in a nasty accident at a nearby mine years before. So, yeah, I’m thinking “Oh great another ghost story” but it wasn’t. The kids aren’t ghosts. They’re zombies. How freaking cool is that? Zombie kids! Zombie kids that are more cognizant then zombies usually are. They even talk! Well, we don’t hear them talk but the implication is there. So, I really liked this one. Most people didn’t. I admit, it could completely suck but I was so overjoyed by the idea of zombie children killing and eating people [I get all giggly even thinking about it] that I was blind to it’s faults if they were there.
2. The Gravedancers
This one I actually thought sounded stupid. It does sound stupid. I mean, how gimmicky can you get? Three friends reunite at a funeral and take it upon themselves to go out to a graveyard, get drunk and dance on graves while reading a poem from a card. Of course, the graves they dance on belong to murderers and of course the murderers come back to haunt and physically attack them. Not a word of that sounds like it should be remotely interesting. I mean, come on! It’s another damn ghost story. Somehow or another [a few cheesy special FX at the end aside] it’s really really good. I shouldn’t have been surprised really. Mike Mendez’s [the director] movies always sound bad but turn out not to be. I honestly can’t even tell you what’s good about this movie or why I enjoyed it so much. All, I can say is that it’s good, surprisingly good.
1. The Hamiltons
My favorite by a long shot. I’m in love with this movie. I can’t begin to express how much I love this movie. I will, however, try. 🙂
For starters I know a lot of people don’t like the ending. I, however, figured it out pretty quickly and was, for once, very happy that I was right! I’m usually annoyed. I like for a movie to surprise me but in this case I loved the ending even though I figured it out.
I can’t say as much as I’d like about the movie because I don’t want to give away the reveal at the end or any of the other nasty little surprises. So, I’ll keep it as basic as I can. Our main character is Francis, the youngest Hamilton. He’s a teenager in high school living with 3 older siblings that don’t really know how to relate to him. Thus he feels like the outcast. He misses his parents [who died previously though it’s never explained how]. Basically he’s your average angst filled kid. David is the oldest sibling and thus the caretaker after the death of their parents. On my first few viewings I didn’t much like David. I thought he was boring and bland and paled in comparison to the other characters. Given time he grew on me, though. He has a subtleness about him and his few outbursts make you think that perhaps he’s the most dangerous of them all. Then you have the twins, Darlene and Wendell. I’ve read a few reviews by people that don’t like the twins. I don’t know why. They are by far the most interesting characters. In fact my only complaint about the movie is that they aren’t in it enough. I love them. I suppose they are a bit…ahem extreme. Wendell is the reason the family keeps having to move. He can’t seem to keep his murderous ways limited to drifters. It’s stated at the beginning of the movie that he just got out of jail for biting a guys ear off. Darlene isn’t much better. Just slyer. Francis says that Darlene use to lock him in the closet just to hear him scream and then hours later open the door and pretend to be the one that rescued him. Don’t judge the twins to quickly, though. You get the feeling early on that despite everything, the Hamiltons do care about each other. Even the twins, who may not have much to do with their brothers, obviously care about each other [some might say a bit to much].
I know what your thinking. Your thinking “How is this a horror movie?” Well, the truth is it really isn’t. You get some blood and death. In fact the movie starts out with a teaser where you get to watch lovely Brittany Daniel die and you actually feel a bit sorry for her but don’t worry you forget about her soon enough. The thing is most of the violence is off camera. In fact almost all the violence is off camera. A good bit of it is just implication. So, you can’t really call this a horror. What the movie really is, is a coming of age drama that has some horror elements in it. So, don’t expect ravaged psycho’s killing everything in sight because [with the possible exception of Lenny, whom I won’t get into. He’s better left as a surprise] that is not who The Hamiltons are. The murder is more of a sub plot really. The real focus is Francis and the period of his life that he’s in. This might scare off some horror fans and the cover image of the dead girl in the tub might scare off non horror fans. Which I imagine is hurting the film and causing a lot of people to miss a really great, truly original movie.
That is really what I loved about The Hamiltons. It’s original. It’s different. I like different. On the commentary a sequel is mentioned. Normally, I’d hate that idea and It will be different from the original. The secret will be known by the viewers this time and that’ll make for a very different perspective. I didn’t find myself annoyed by the idea of a sequel though. I actually got pretty excited. I just hope that the twins will be the focus this time or at least get more screen time. I just love them! Darlene is one of those characters that makes me want to be an actor just because I think they’d be so fun to play. Actually, The Hamiltons is also one of those movies that makes me want to work in the business, period. It’s like I think if movies this good are still being made then I want to be a part of that.
I will point out that this movie is not for everyone. It seems that everyone that watches these movie either like The Hamiltons the most or they absolutely hate it. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground. So, if you know you only like straight obvious slasher themed horror then perhaps try Dark Ride instead. You like ghost stories? Then go for The Gravedancers. You enjoy being bored out of your mind and confused as to how anybody could ever greenlight a movie this ridiculous? Pick up The Abandoned but if your up for something that requires a bit of thought and is a bit different than your average horror fare then give The Hamiltons a shot.
[You’ll notice from Dread Central and the IMDB reviews that most other people don’t agree with me on several of the movies.]
Joseph Mckelheer, who played Wendell in The Hamiltons, short film on You Tube