Off the Beaten Path

Dir: Jason Stephenson
Star: Todd Hanson, Carrie Sizemore, Jessie Welsch, Tommy Thompson

Film-maker Chuck Stevens (Hanson), his cameraman and his girlfriend, head to a rural Minnesota town to investigate tales of Satanism, murder and eerie happenings on a farm. While initially sceptical, Chuck soon finds out that there may be a great deal more going on than stories... Yes, the influence of the Blair Witch rumbles on, clearly visible here, though the makers of this obviously watched The Evil Dead a good few times too. While not necessarily a bad thing: the problem here is more that those films are less inspiration, than slavishly copied. I mean, when someone's girlfriend turns into a demon, and attacks him, shrieking, "Join us!" - you've just stepped over the line from homage into plagiarism. [Quentin Tarantino seems pleased to see you...]

That aside, it's not bad, though the low-budget is often painfully obvious, with demon make-up little more than a bit of white face-paint. It's at its best when not trying quite so hard; the background is nicely thought-out, but the exposition of this is sometimes doubled-up and redundant, or stumbled out (were there no second takes?). The bottom line is, however, that the film did keep me interested, even at a scant 64 minutes, including credits, which would make Charles Band wince. There are moments which are genuinely creepy, helped by the locations used - it's only a shame Stephenson didn't come up with something less derivative. Their next effort is a zombie flick, Doomed to Consume, and I'd not mind seeing that - providing, at least, there is more to it than a shameless combination of bits from George A. Romero movies...

[The DVD was released in August this year, with the DVD including behind-the-scenes footage, out-takes, a photo gallery, etc. To buy it, visit the Brain Damage Films' site.]

October 2006

Beaten' a dead horse

Two girls in a forest. 
What could possibly go wrong?
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