Dark Circles (2012)

dark-circles-posterI’m gonna do something I don’t normally do in a review, and I’m gonna talk about the ending later on (So: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW). It’s strange, because even with some really shitty films I’ve seen and written about, I’ve never been too explicit about how they finish. But now I’m not feeling particularly respectful with the makers of DARK CIRCLES.

I’ve not had much dealings with After Dark Pictures. Scott has bit the bullet on more than one occasion, not having had much luck with getting screeners (In his own words, “It’s almost like they’re not proud of their own product.”). Still, that shouldn’t stop me from jumping in and giving them a chance, right?

Right?

DARK CIRCLES opens on Penny (Pell James, ZODIAC), a woman spending all her time trying to get her baby to sleep (maybe if the camera didn’t keep trying to be clever and spin around and around during the opening credits, she might have a chance?). When she finally does put the kid down, there’s a fierce pounding on the apartment door. She opens it to find a strange, heavily-pregnant woman outside. The woman says nothing, but the copious amounts of stained blood on her dress below her belly sets off alarms in Penny;s head. She lets the woman in and sets her on the couch, but after turning her back on her to find her phone, she finds the woman missing. Quickly Penny goes to the baby’s room, finding the woman there. Penny approaches, never having seena horror film before in her life, and the woman leaps at her shrieking-

Alex and Penny, aka Grumpy and Sleepy.
Alex and Penny, aka Grumpy and Sleepy.

Only for Penny to wake up, still heavily pregnant and oblivious to having been part of a cheap and ineffective scare for the audience. She is partnered up with Alex (Johnathon Schaech, QUARANTINE) who is a composer (which, like the novelist, is one of a few occupations that film makers like to give their main characters, despite how fucking rare it actually is for anyone to make a living out of it). They are preparing to leave the big city and move out into the country, to get some peace and quiet, and especially to help Alex compose. He’s got composer’s block (because every artist on film has to have blockage), which is why he misses out on the call that Penny has gone into labour, and consequently misses the birth. Don’t worry Alex, at least you were there for the important part, right? Am I right, guys? And what is it with women always leaving the toilet seat up?

Roast Doll - yum!
Roast Doll – yum!

They have a lovely boy Tanner (played by Arabella and Ever Eloise Landrum. They’re babies, they haven’t been in anything before. No excuse, you slackers!) and after a little montage of parent-child bonding, the new family moves out into the woods, where they settle down and live happily ever after- no wait, it’s where the shit hits the fan. The previous owners left the garage filled with junk, and Alex has to squeeze his grand piano in there like he was in a Marx Brothers movie, and spend his nights wrapped up in hat and gloves and pound the keys. They find a half-burnt doll in the barbecue pit. (“Now everything we cook is gonna taste like baby,” Alex quips). There’s construction work going on nearby, all day, every weekday, exacerbating the couple’s sleep deprivation from getting used to their little rugrat.

And it worsens. There’s strange noises coming from the pipes, strange sightings in the baby camera, shadows in the woods. Alex, in a half-trance in the kitchen, lets a knife get stuck in the sink’s trash compactor while his baby, lying beside it, reaches out for the whirring blade… later, Alex almost scalds the baby by not checking the bath water. Better not reserve that space on the wall for the Father of the Year award, Alex.

Back in the garage, Alex becomes obsessed with a dark-haired woman in a number of different photos, the same woman but in different times and places. In another apparent hallucination, Alex imagines the dark-haired woman in bed beside him. It’s ominous – you know it’s ominous because the music tells you so.

Alex needs a shovel for the bullshit that is this movie's script...
Alex needs a shovel for the bullshit that is this movie’s script…

Basically this sort of crap goes on for far longer than it should. We get it already, they’re seeing stuff, their tempers are fraying, and their hallucinations are related but they don’t know it beause they’re barely talking to each other now. In another incident, Penny slumps down and nods off, and Tanner, in a little wagon, is wheeled off by an unseen force and brought to the top of the stairs (I’m beginning to suspect that the kid is being menaced by Wednesday Addams or Wile E Coyote).

You know what, guys? Switch off the monitor and let the kid cry himself out. The dialogue indicates he’s five months old by this stage, you know not to lie him down on his side or his stomach, and you can get other types of alarms, as well as things like gripe water. Or whiskey.

At a local supermarket, Alex encounters Nancy (Jenn Foreman), a checkout girl he instantly hires to babysit overnight without even asking her first name. Seriously, I thought I just missed it because of bad editing, but he never gets around to asking anything about the girl he hires to stay downstairs in his house with his son while Penny and he collapse upstairs, and this is explicitly stated later on.

Didn't anyone warn Nancy about babysitters in horror movies?
Didn’t anyone warn Nancy about babysitters in horror movies?

Nancy is slightly amused by the couple and their Walking Dead impression – but is less amused by the strange sounds and sights she hears when she’s left alone downstairs with the little ankle biter. Investigating such sounds and sights (without switching on any lights of course), Nancy is attacked by the strange woman, Nancy’s cries for help going unheard by the comatose couple upstairs…

Okay, enough already. There’s an earnestness to DARK CIRCLES, a real attempt to be unnerving and spooky and series in portraying the mental and emotional breakdown of the couple and their relationship, in the midst of what we eventually learn is a definite threat to them and their child. The actors playing the couple do it well. The director shows a certain flair for visualising their delirium and confusion.

"WHY DIDN'T YOU WARN ME ABOUT THIS MOVIE?!?"
“WHY DIDN’T YOU WARN ME ABOUT THIS MOVIE?!?”

But it’s the denouement that is so disappointing. It turns out that the threat is real, a woman who (we learn by expositional voice-over at the end) is a woman who lost her baby weeks before and went missing from the hospital, and presumably has been playing Crazy Anne Frank ever since. It’s such a perfunctory explanation it almost feels like it would have been better to have left it unresolved, or to have gone the supernatural route. Remember those old movies where a house was supposedly haunted, but it turned out to be Nazi spies or gangsters trying to scare away folk (because the censors at the time were tighter than a pair of Size Zero jeans on the subject of the supernatural)? They were always disappointing, and so is this, especially when we’re not given any chance to assume that it’s anything but a supernatural menace.

And it leaves a number of questions unanswered, such as:

  • If this was a woman who came into the couple’s lives when their kid was five months old, why did Penny have a nightmare about her at the start of the movie?
  • Why would the woman leave the couple alive in the house when she kills everyone who stops in for five minutes?
  • Why didn’t anyone come looking for the woman if she went missing in the area?
  • Why didn’t anyone come looking for the dead babysitter, a teenager who presumably was last seen in public at work talking with a suspicious-looking Alex, a newcomer to town?
  • When Alex goes after the construction crew and attacks one of their cars, mistakenly thinking it’s Sunday morning instead of Monday, why does the foreman simply let him go off without an ass kicking, or at least the threat of legal action or prosecution for criminal damage?

Okay, you get the idea. Or at least the warning. Competently made and acted, but perfunctory in outcome. DARK CIRCLES is available on DVD and VOD, and the trailer is below.

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Paul Soter
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. The D is silent. It’s not talking until After Dark Films apologizes for this movie.

After Dark Originals 2011: Prowl (2010)

I know my track record with the After Dark label hasn’t been stellar.  In fact there’s only been about four films out of the lot that I recommend.  But damn my optimism!!  I approach every After Dark film with the hope that I’ll find the one film that redeems the After Dark label (although I may have already found that with DREAD and MULBERRY STREET).  With this unfound optimism I turned on PROWL (which I caught on U-Verse On Demand).  From what I’ve heard about it I was pretty hopeful that what I was about to see was a fast-paced vampire story with a twist.  So was I right?

PROWL begins by following around a sullen Amber (Courtney Hope).  Amber bitches and whines about how much she hates the small town she’s in and wants to runaway to the “big city”, Chicago.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a girl … excuse me, “woman” … is in her late 20’s, is it really running away?  I guess it is if she’s playing a recent high school graduate.  Amber has this connection in Chicago that is gonna hook her up with an apartment but she finds out that he just promised the apartment to someone else unless she gets to Chicago by the next day to put a deposit down on it.  Since there’s only one apartment available for rent in all of Chicago (ah-hem) Amber talks her friends into driving her to the Windy City.  If you’re thinking, “I bet their car breaks down” then give yourself a golden star.  It does and friendly trucker Bernard (Bruce Payne) stops to lend them a hand.  When they break down all six of them apparently forget they own cell phones; not one of them attempts to call for help.

Yup; they are indeed using glow sticks!!

The trucker tells them their car needs a tow and Amber whines and complains more until all her friends agree to get into the cargo hold of the truck.  And since none of them have ever seen a horror movie (or read this crappy script) they all pile in and party in the back of the semi.  Then to everyone’s surprise the trucker isn’t as nice as he first seemed and when they get to their destination things go from worse to really worse.

Finally, though, we get to the part of the film I was waiting for; the part where I figured the action, the horror, and the gore would begin.  I was willing to forgive the first half of the film so long as the second half lived up to the potential of the premise.  The trucker has taken the “teens” (ah-hem) to a remote location, an abandoned slaughter house and mill, where a group of creatures are being trained on how to hunt down, kill, and feed on their prey … other humans.  Veronica (Saxon Trainor) is the lead “creature” who is training the others in the fine art of hunting and killing.  Almost immediately our group of twenty-something teens is wiped out and we’re left with Amber and her best friend Suzy (the sexy Ruta Gedmintas).  There’s no suspense built up or any decent cat and mouse games … they get to the slaughter house and are then quickly killed.  But director Patrik Syversen and writer Tim Tori (who produced the ADO film 51, see review here) aren’t done yet.  They throw in a “twist” near the end that is completely ridiculous and really insults the intelligence of the viewer.  The twist serves no other purpose than to pad out and stretch the film’s run time to 81 minutes.

I'm shocked the trucker turned out not to be a nice guy!!

What really pisses me off here is that the premise of PROWL is solid:  A clan/tribe of “creatures” are being trained on how to hunt and survive on their own in order to be, I’m assuming, released out into the world to fend for themselves.  There’s a very apocalyptic aspect to the story that’s completely pissed away.  And why, I’m sure you’re wondering, do I keep calling them “creatures” instead of what they obviously are … vampires?  Simple:  They are never called “vampires” in the film.  That’s right, they can scale up and down walls, they have super human speed and strength, and they live off of blood.  Their fucking vampires people!!  A vampire by any other name is still a fucking vampire.  But in the final scene the “creatures” are out in the sunlight.  I guess the budget couldn’t afford a nighttime shoot so they changed them from “vampires” to “creatures” in the script.

Remember ... these AREN'T vampires!!

But what really kills this film is the details.  The reason for having to go to Chicago, in order to get the apartment, is flimsy at best (as I pointed out, is there only one fucking apartment for rent in the entire city??), and the lack of attention to something as lame as their cell phones is really annoying.  When they first break down no one goes for their cell phone.  When they’re in the back of the truck Amber uses her cell phone to call her friend who was up in the cab with the trucker.  She’s able to talk to him then.  But then when they get to the slaughter house and they realize something is very wrong no one can suddenly get a signal on their phone.  Finally when Amber and Suzy are hiding Veronica uses one of their dead friend’s phones to call Amber to find out where she’s hiding.  So sometimes the cell phones work, sometimes they don’t; then they work, then they don’t.  Make up your fucking minds!!  It was very annoying and extremely insulting to use something like cell phones to further the plot along when the writer wrote himself into a corner.

Don't ask!!

The acting was pretty forgettable.  Ruta Gedmintas does the best job here and is the only one who’s convincing.  Courtney Hope (Amber) is a pretty bad actress and really wasn’t up to the task of carrying this film as the lead.  The gore is also at a minimum.  The most we get is a scene where we see a bunch of hacked up arms and limbs being dumped into the trash.  It really kinda looked like the boys over at KNB EFX offices were doing some spring cleaning.  But I will say that I liked the make-up for the vampires … er, “creatures”; it was simple and effective.

I really wanted to like PROWL.  It has a solid idea that is just horribly executed through terrible writing, lackluster acting, and a really stupid twist ending that detracts from the really interesting aspect of the plot (the creatures being trained).  I also got the feeling they were trying to set up either a franchise or at least a sequel.  I don’t think so.  Not recommended.

My Summary:

Director:  Patrik Syversen

Plot:  1.5 out of 5 stars (a solid idea pissed away)

Gore:  1.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

After Dark Originals 2011: Scream of the Banshee (2011)

Well another Saturday night, another 6-pack of Guinness, another SyFy Original, and another night of low expectations.  Luckily SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE, the third After Dark Original (ADO) made in conjunction with the SyFy channel which premiered ON the SyFy channel, proves to be a pretty fun flick.  This one also has the distinction of being SyFy’s 200th original film.  That’s right folks the SyFy channel has made 200 original films and they all come with interchangeable parts (i.e., the acting, f/x, plot points, etc …).  Now this next statement you have to read carefully because it could be confusing.  Ready?  Ok.  For a SyFy Original, SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is your pretty standard, formulaic film.  But for this years ADO line up this is the best of the three films I’ve seen so far (pretty sad, eh?).  So let’s get into it.

The film begins back in the times when swords and folklore ruled the land.  We follow a group of Irish Templar Knights (I’m serious) as they track down and kill a Banshee, a female Irish creature seen as an omen of death whose scream can kill you (but then again what woman’s scream can’t … am I right guys!??!  Guys?).  The Irish Templar Knights (I just wanted to be clear about this point) builds this shield that when thrown on the Banshee cuts off and seals it’s head up in a nice carry-friendly box.  Cut to the present day and we join Isla Whelan (a still pretty hot Lauren Holly) who’s a … come on take a guess … you’ve seen as many of these films as I have.  She’s either a scientist, a (ex-) special forces soldier, or a … a professor!!  She’s a professor.  Her specialty is never really explained but I’m assuming her Ph.D. is in “old bitches cut-off heads in old dirty boxes.”  I’m just saying.

The still pretty hot Lauren Holly.

She has the basement offices where she’s doing some kind of research with quirky grad students Otto (Todd Haberkorn) and Janie (Leanne Cochran).  Her daughter Shayla (Marcelle Baer) is also helping out but really doesn’t seem too interested in mom’s work.  There’s an attempt at throwing in a sub-plot about how mom and daughter don’t get along because Isla wasn’t around when daddy was dying.  But that sub-plot was forgotten as quickly as it was introduced.  Isla and group find the box with the head in it, open it, the head dissolves into dust after screaming out a note that was almost more annoying than listening to Celine Dion, and then a full-bodied Banshee appears to start offing the cast one by one.  Standard stuff by all means, but a quick pace and some good performances raise this one above the typical SyFy Original fare.  The cast does as good a job as they can with the silly dialogue and rice paper thin story line.  But the filmmakers here were smart enough to throw Lance Henriksen (as Broderick Duncan)into the mix to give it all some genre credibility (he’s in it maybe 10mins towards the end and plays his typical bat-shit crazy character that we all know and love).

Pretty sweet practical f/x in here as well!!

The production values here are way better than your average SyFy flick and in this aspect felt more like a theatrical release.  But best of all the Banshee creature itself was done with practical f/x.  Yeah I know, right!!  The practical f/x stick out in SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE because we’re all so used to SyFy cranking out shitty CGI creatures like the History Channel cranks out documentaries on Hitler.  Let me tell you that it was really fun and exciting to see a creature done the old school way.  Don’t worry, though, folks there’s still some shitty CGI here to make you feel at home (one scene has smoke and then a huge arm coming out of a TV screen done through CGI … it was really retarded looking).  Kudos to the makeup department for designing and executing a really cool looking Banshee creature.  There’s also a few juicy moments with some blood flow; nothing over-the-top, have you, but bloodier than most SyFy flicks.  This extra extra bit of blood can be attributed, no doubt, to director Steven C. Miller, who directed the indie zombie flick AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION back in 2006.  SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is nowhere near as fun as Miller’s zombie flick (which will have a sequel coming out next year), but Miller definitely brings some of his own crazy filming style to the party.  For the most part we get a typically shot film, but there’s quite a few nightmarish/hallucinatory-like scenes where Miller gets to strut his stuff and show off his directing chops.

Uuhhh why does Henriksen's character have so many mutilated mannequins in his yard?

Considering the first two After Dark Originals lineup for 2011 that I saw, HUSK and 51 (big “blechs” on both those films), SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is a tremendous step forward.  The pace moves quick enough so you won’t be questioning every ridiculous theory and plot hole that comes around (and there are plenty like why is Lance Henriksen’s front lawn and house filled with mutilated mannequin parts?), the acting was better than most ADO/SyFy Original, and we get lots of practical special f/x.  This is definitely one of the more enjoyable SyFy Originals I’ve seen in some time.  By no means should you go out and rent or buy this one, but if you catch it on the SyFy channel check it out.  It’s good for a few laughs and for a good looking creature.  Who knows, maybe in another 200 films SyFy will hit another winner!!  Recommended for TV viewing only.

The always great Lance Henriksen!!

My Summary:

Director:  Steven C. Miller

Plot:  3 out of 5 stars

Gore:  2.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

After Dark Originals 2011: 51 (2011)

In 1928 Mr. Reese combined chocolate and peanut butter to give us Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  In the 1890’s some genius combined popcorn with caramel to give us Caramel Popcorn.  In 1994 members of the bands Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Screaming Trees combined to form the powerhouse group Mad Season.  Well forget about every classic match-up in the world … just throw it out of your thoughts.  In 2010 The SyFy Channel and After Dark label combined forces to bring us a string of new, original films under the moniker After Dark Originals (Lionsgate also threw their hat into the ring).  The first film of the After Dark Originals (ADO) 2011 that I saw, HUSK, was very lackluster, unoriginal, and silly (see my review here).  Now I have another film from the ADO label under my belt, 51, and it’s looking like this years line-up might be the weakest line-up yet (and that’s really saying something).

Just like with HUSK, 51 will be premiering on the SyFy channel (Saturday, February 26 at 9pm ET/PT).  This should right away throw up a few warning flags, warning flares, and huge neon lights.  Towards the end of this past January most of the ADO’s were released in the theaters for a limited run.  But the ADO films HUSK, SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE, and 51 were kept behind specifically to premier on the SyFy Channel.  After watching two of them I can understand why.  51 is an extremely amateurish film that steals shamefully from other more well-known scifi films and has the feel of a made-for-TV-movie that should air on the Hallmark or Lifetime Networks.  Every second of this movie dares you to keep it on and not use the fast forward button.

I must have blinked & missed this scene in 51!!

The story in 51 is that the government has finally caved in about it’s uber-secretive Area 51 and decides to let in a few journalists to take an in-depth tour of the facility.  Hhmmm; that sounds realistic and believable.  The U.S. government has a long history of caving in to the press [please note the sarcasm].  So who’re the lucky, world-renowned journalists given full access into the most secretive place in America?  Well there’s the Peter Jennings-like talking head Sam Whitaker (John Shea) and his female cameraman Gomez (Jillian Batherson) and news blogger Claire Fallon (Vanessa Branch) and her photographer Kevin (Damon Lipari).  That’s right; out of all the possible hard-hitting journalists in the entire world the government chooses a male bimbo news caster and a blogger — a BLOGGER!!

Bruce Boxleitner fighting off a different (more lame) alien in 51.

Col. Martin (Bruce Boxleitner) is responsible for taking them on a tour and convincing them that there indeed have never been nor are there currently any aliens at Area 51.  But guess what?  Deep down on level 6 there’s an alien that our own damn government has been holding since the Roswell crash back in the late 1940‘s (wait; our government holds secrets from us??).  The alien is the size of a human male, likes European techno music, and looks like a really veiny, leathery scrotal sack wearing a Rorschach-like mask.  The alien costume is extremely pathetic and embarrassing; you can even see the form of the actor inside the suit, which kinda looks like a burlap body sack.  Oh but wait; this alien can morph into anyone it touches, and can morph exact copies of it’s victim’s cloths.  Pretty good trick, eh?  It’s one of those cinematic mysteries like why doesn’t Dr. Banner’s pants shred off of him after turning into the Hulk?  So the second we’re told the alien can morph into anyone it comes in contact with, the entire rest of the film will flash into your mind in an instant.  It did for me!!  Blech.

Well the alien escapes and we get endless scenes of (ho-hum) “is it the alien or is it really the person.”  Our “journalists” and a handful of soldiers are trapped below with the alien while Sgt. Hannah (Rachel Miner), Airman Aaron “Shoes” Schumacher (Jason London), and a handful of soldiers are outside the facility trying to keep the alien contained.  We get the standard action we’ve all come to expect from an After Dark and SyFy Original, but unfortunately we get the same level of acting as well.  All the actors look pretty bored, as if they knew they were making a standard scifi-alien flick that rips off better known films.  Most notably writers Lucy Mukerjee (who’s produced about 10-11 After Dark films) and Kenny Yakkel (who also wrote THE TASK which is in the ADO line-up this year) don’t even attempt to offer anything original or new here.  They steal liberally from Carpenter’s THE THING, but only some concepts and none of the mood or atmosphere.  One scene in 51, in fact, rips off the “blood testing” scene from THE THING (but here it’s simply a quick flashlight test to the eyes).  Shameless.

I could say something like, "This soldier gets the point" ... but I'm not gonna.

And just when you think things couldn’t get dumber we’re introduced to another alien.  This alien, though, is friendly and dressed in a cute little Airforce uniform.  Yup that’s right; there’s a helpful little alien that freely walks around Area 51 and offers intelligent, insightful advice to all the officers and soldiers.  It’s name is J-Rod (VyVy Nguyen) and it looks like it has a huge vagina for a nose.  I wish I was kidding.  But there’s yet another alien and this one is big and does most of the killing in the film.  This last alien is never really explained and looks like a left over prop from a SyFy gargoyle flick.  We’re also privy to some effects that aren’t CGI.  Yeah; no shit!!  We get some truly terrible puppetry that is an embarrassment to all special f/x artists everywhere.  So we have dumb looking aliens (that have green blood, nonetheless), bored actors, very predictable action (there’s even a self destruct countdown in the facility), and very low production values.  What the hell were the filmmakers thinking (Jason Connery, Sean Connery’s son, directed)??

Yeah ... I got nothing for this still!!

Look I’m all for a cheesy SyFy flick.  Hell; I love most of them!!  But 51 is part of the new batch of After Dark films under the ADO banner and I was expecting way more.  So far the two ADO films I’ve seen have been extremely disappointing.  I think the people at After Dark and SyFy bit off more than they could chew by wanting to develop their own films, having total control from pre- to post-production.  51 is an exercise in banality and tedium that will really challenge you to stay tuned (and awake).  But if you don’t believe me then you can check it out for yourself when it premiers on SyFy on Saturday, February 26 at 9pm (ET/PT).  But you might have more fun shaving your balls with a rusty lid from an old soup can.  Skip this one.

My Summary:

Director:  Jason Connery

Plot.5 out of 5 stars

Gore:  2 out of 10 skulls (for a few dismemberment scenes)

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

After Dark Originals 2011: Husk (2010)

Well it’s that time of year again.  The holidays are long behind us, visions of a nice warm summer are already consuming our thoughts, and the good folks over at the After Dark label are releasing their new batch of films.  The first of these films I’ve had the (ah-hem) privilege of seeing is HUSK.  How did I see HUSK, you ask?  A screener; no.  Early press pass to its theatrical release; no?  No I saw HUSK on the SyFy channel, and if that don’t summarize this film to a “T” then nothing does!!

First let me explain the difference between the After Dark Horrorfest and Originals monikers.  The new After Dark Originals (ADO) is their new film series that takes the reigns and doesn’t just simply acquire already made films.  According to their website these original films are

comprised of 100% original scripts and not from acquired, previously created films.  After Dark takes complete control of the development of the films, from script to post production in partnership with SyFy and Lionsgate.

Makes sense to light up a cigarette right after a car crash before finding out if there's any gas leaking out!!

Makes sense, right?  I mean they’ve consistently illustrated over the last few years that they know what makes a (ah-hem) solid film (please note the sarcasm).  But regardless, at least they’re making the effort to put out some original content (ah-hem).  And this brings us to the film HUSK.

HUSK is the story of five twenty-something’s who’re driving through the corn belt on their way to someplace else.  We get the typical dialogue when suddenly a murder of crows (yes that’s what a group of crows is called) slams into the car crashing it into a ditch on the side of the road.  Confused and slightly injured the group gets out of the car and tries to figure out what to do next.  Johnny (Ben Easter) seems the least injured and decides to go out and find some help at the nearest gas station.  But instead of taking the road RIGHT NEXT TO THEM Johnny instead dives into the very dense corn field to find the gas station.  Hey; maybe he needed to find an ethanol station?

Pretty cool image but this just never lives up to it's potential.

When the others realize Johnny’s been gone for a long time they also decide to jump head long into the dense corn fields and search for him.  Our group consists of couple Natalie and Brian (Tammin Sursok & Wes Chatham), the geek Scott (Devon Graye), and the everyday guy Chris (C.J. Thomason).  Scott and Brian jump into the corn fields first and when Natalie, who’s on some kind of pills, has a mini panic attack she and Chris join in the corn-filled fun.  Now can I just point something out here?  Though I’m not from the corn fields of Nebraska (I grew up in South Jersey and now live in Austin, TX) even I know that corn fields are extremely dense and dangerous to travel through.  It seems to me it’d be extremely easy to loose one’s sense of direction and end up lost for a really long time.  So how is it that even though our twenty-somethings have no idea where they’re going or heading, they all end up at the same farmhouse (buried in the corn fields) practically exiting the corn field at the same friggin’ location!!

I guess he didn't have the skills to make a "Freddy Glove!!"

Soon after they get to the farmhouse they start getting attacked by a scarecrow with nails hammered through it’s fingers.  I know this film is under the label of After Dark Originals … the key word being “Originals”, but from the moment this flick starts you’ll be plagued with deja vu.  There’s not an original bone, or straw, in it’s floppy scarecrow body.  Writer-director Brett Simmons has nothing new to add to the sub-genre of the “killer scarecrow” and let’s face it, this sub-genre has the potential to be really creepy.  But the potential here is wasted and the execution is poorly done.  When Brian and Scott first get to the farmhouse they of course just walk right in yelling for help.  They walk upstairs and find a dazed Johnny at a sewing machine, nails hammered through his fingers.  After Johnny finishes sewing he simply collapses, but instead of running over and trying to help him, Brian and Scott get preoccupied with a strange noise and seem to completely forget about him.  Good friends.

Then it happens; Simmons writes himself into a corner and needs to come up with something to further progress the story.  Hhmmm; what to do … what to do.  Hey I know; let’s unexpectedly and without explanation give one of the main characters visions about the farmhouse’s past and how this whole mess with the killer scarecrows began.  Really?  This is the best Simmons could come up with?  So geeky Scott, suddenly starts experiencing very detailed visions about the history of the farmhouse and what created the deadly scarecrow (which you quickly realize isn’t a scarecrow at all).  This turns out to primarily be a ghost story … and a silly one at that.  The characters are constantly running around blindly in the corn fields never getting lost; the film breaks it’s own “rules” about the scarecrow not being able to leave the corn field (it leaves plenty of times to go into the farmhouse); it’s full of characters doing stupid things (Chris finds the keys to the car at the farm, gets in, and guns it through the dense corn field until he slams into something, wrecking the car); and it’s full of ridiculous dialogue (“We’re surrounded; we’re surrounded … the corn is everywhere”).

Actress Tammin Sursok (who plays Natalie) looks NOTHING like this in HUSK!!

Thankfully the acting is above average for an After Dark film premiering on SyFy, but it’s nothing that will blow you away.  Everything here is very routine and there’s nothing original going on.  This is pretty much the standard After Dark flick that we’ve all come to expect over the last few years.  Standard story, standard characters doing the same standard things, and the same standard dialogue.  Add to this an extremely convenient way of progressing the plot and you’ve got yourself a 90 minute eye rolling waste of time.  After Dark Originals?  More like After Dark Typicals.  Skip this one.

My Summary:

Director:  Brett Simmons

Plot:  2 out of 5 stars

Gore:  2 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer