Monday, April 14, 2008


Well this was certainly a nice surprise. The After Dark Horrorfest films have undergone a sudden sharp turnaround in overall quality with Friday’s Tooth & Nail and particularly with this film today. We just need The Deaths of Ian Stone or Mulberry Street to continue the quality streak and we can safely say this batch of films has indeed been an improvement over last year’s (yes, despite Unearthed and Crazy Eights).

The film follows a group of roughly college-age friends as they decide to go on vacation along the U.S./Mexico border, where Life Is Cheap! * thunder crash * Ahem. Well, stereotypes aside, they actually do run afoul of a gang of drug runners/cultists who offer up human sacrifices to their dark lords in exchange for theoretical magic powers to aid them in their drug running. While two of the three guys find romance down there, their nerdy friend, afraid of fifth wheeling around them all day, goes off alone to trip on mushrooms, and is soon kidnapped by the cult. It’s now up to them and a disabled old cop who lost his partner to the cult a year prior to find their friend and bring the cult down.

You know, it all sounds a little pat and easy when put like that, but I did find myself getting more and more engrossed in the film the longer it went on. It’s a little refreshing to find a horror movie that obligingly frontloads all of its retarded moments (such as once again cell phones not having service, or the camerawork turning silly when everyone starts tripping on shrooms) so that the middle and climax can just be nonstop tension and violence. The characters are actually pretty fleshed out and likeable here (except for the captured one, who just annoyed me), with even the asshole friend transforming into an interesting guy over the course of the film. These are people that (retarded kidnapped guy aside) you actually don’t want to see die, which is always a plus and a rarity in these films.

There’s quite a few really good scenes once the action starts heating up. There’s a daring escape attempt by the annoying guy at the cultists’ complex, a chase up to the rooftops, and the entire climax involving an assault on the compound, and a final defense back home. If I had to point to any one moment that perfectly exemplifies how this is better than most of its kind, it’s this: at one point, our hero has caught one of the gang members and blocked off his escape. The gang member, having just seen the hero kill his partners, is lying on the group saying he surrenders and begging for his life. In any other movie, you know what you’d see next: the hero accepting his surrender, the gang member pulling out a gun, and the hero whipping around and shooting him now that the rules of engagement say he’s allowed to. Not here though. Here the guy begs for his life, and our hero just starts hacking away at him with a machete. His mama didn’t raise no fools.

Rating: *** ½

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