The awful screams of the damned echo the way. Lanterns long neglected bandy to and fro within the whipping wind and how it cuts to the bone. The table, marred with the remains of victims long sense decayed, is littered with utensils of torture and violence. Fear is a palpable thing, fragrant and exhilirating. El Jefe de Santo makes his opponents feel that very fear every time they step into the Squared Circle yet, sometimes, he dares to seek out that big scare. Horror movies have been a staple of his cinematic diet for years. The weekly (sometimes more) chronicles are what follows.
Those who have followed my work have seen that along with the more recent releases out in theatres I tend to dabble in B-movie shenanigans as well. One thing that most don't know about me is that I have adored horror cinema nearly all my life. It was not long into my education in film that I was introduced to a little movie named Night of the Living Dead. The little black and white stunner helped to solidify an entire sub-genre of horror movies and was damn good to boot. Zombies were my first love, but soon vampires, serial killers, demons and aliens soon followed.
The summer of 1999 was one in which I saw many, many movies. It was the summer of Star Wars but also of a little found footage movie known as The Blair Witch Project. It was a flick that I walked out of feeling a bit disappointed honestly. I later grew to appreciate it more for what it helped to spawn, in terms of camera work and the type of movie it helped to make popular, but also for, in parts, being a frenetic horror flick. My second viewing it of many years later saw me finding more to like in it, though I still don't agree with numerous critical appraisals of it.
The job of direction on the Blair Witch fell to Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. The writer/director duo managed to spark a small revolution in the cinema regarding horror, though their success would not be matched again. Sanchez, however, has moved forward and directed a few decent direct-to-video releases. The one I'm mentioning tonight is a little creature feature known as Altered.
This one is a few years old now, and well, what it lacks in terms of special effects budget (mostly in the digital effects department) it really makes up for in the practical f/x and make-up. Direct-to-video has long been the realm of really terrible horror films and there never seems to be a shortage of them to rent or stream via services like Netflix. I happened to catch this one via Netflix and I'm glad I did.
The story is simple enough: Some friends, all of them country folk (to say the least), had a shared encounter in the woods on a hunting trip. All of them were abducted by alien life forms and forced to endure horrific testing at the hands of their captors. Some of them didn't survive, and the ones who did were left with tracking devices in them and memories of numerous horrific nights lingering in their heads.
These hunters, let's call them, manage to capture one of these aliens. This is where the film turns into more of a revenge flick mixed with a rather gruesome looking extra-terrestial.
It is clear, from the start, that things aren't going to end well with this movie. There is a bleak nature to the photography of the film, muted tones for the palette and the scripting is rather deliberate in parts. That doesn't mean the action doesn't come, for it does in heavy doses.
The alien, for nearly half the film is obscured in blankets, chains and a welding helmet. It is made clear that this visitor from another world is very powerful and is able to easily control the minds of those around it that are weak enough. There is not only the threat of a rather nasty alien breaking free and wreaking havoc but the very friends themselves start to turn on one another in fits of alien-inspired rage.
The acting is just about what you'd expect from a straight-to-video release with some bright spots here and there, but nothing spectacular overall. The score is rather typical and, honestly, the plot can plod along into cliched territory at times.
All that said Sanchez and crew redeem themselves with rather fantastic creature effects and just disgusting gore segments. The stuff that fans of the genre just love are all present here complete with infected wounds, disease riddled rednecks and a semi-Geiger inspired creature design.
The film, for its faults, wound up being an entertaining little foray into the horror of abduction and the pitfalls of revenge. The lessons of this movie are not that revenge is the way, but rather the path to damnation. The trail of bodies littering the way would attest to that.
One of those movies that will surprise you if you give it a chance. Find it on Netflix or at a local rental establishment if you can.
This is but the first of numerous treks into the world of horror movies. Sometimes it will be for the latest genre release while other visits will cover lost foreign classics that many might not know of. El Jefe de Santo shall deliver Hurricanranas of Horror to your face every week nonetheless!