RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
• Brian Cox interview
• Behind the Scenes featurette
It’s Marley and Me with gunfights and revenge fantasies.
Cast: Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, Noel Fisher, Kyle Gallner, Shiloh Fernandez
Directors: Lucky McKee, Trygve Allister Diesen
After the senseless murder of his dog at the hands of a group of teenagers, Avery Ludlow (Cox), a reclusive shop owner in a small town, tries to set things right by tracking them down and making them answer for the crime. After the wealthy and politically connected father (Sizemore) of two of the teens turns him away, Ludlow goes to the police and hires a lawyer. Threats turn to violence, leading to a very bloody resolution.
With the recent releases of The Lost, The Girl Next Door, and now Red, Jack Ketchum is having quite the year on DVD.
Red‘s a neat little movie, and might be the most refined of the Jack Ketchum adaptations so far. Intensely faithful down to the dialogue, Red isn’t really a horror film. Sure, it often looks and feels like a horror film, but it’s more of a straight drama undercut with the same dark, Ketchum-ian meanness that pervades his novels. Unlike the rest of Ketchum’s library, it’s surprisingly light on gore, and even has a subversive optimistic streak beneath its gritty surface; compared to something like Off Season, Red‘s the Apple Dumpling Gang. While both the book and the film seem to mismarket this as a revenge fantasy, it’s hardly that – Red seems like Ketchum’s defense of angry old men, and doesn’t glorify revenge as it does ponder the futility of senseless conflict. It’s much more of a traditional story than The Lost or The Girl Next Door, and isn’t quite as bleak as either.
Brian Cox shines as Red‘s protagonist, effectively portraying Ludlow as a gruff-yet-sensitive Korean war veteran with a soft spot for canines. Cox’s Ludlow is cautious and slow to anger, but when he’s inevitably pushed to violence, he explodes with a calculated anger that’s both painful and satisfying to watch. The keystone of the film is a five minute monologue where Ludlow details a horrific family tragedy to a journalist, and Cox sells this in a way that very few can. It’s the film’s most riveting moment, and easily eclipses the drama of gunfire and fisticuffs that Red also does well.
The rest of the cast does decent work, although nobody steals Cox’s thunder. Tom Sizemore is a nice fit as the slimy, murderous father, but doesn’t get enough screen time to make a lasting impression. If there are weak points in the cast, they’re the kids, whose faces all seem locked in perpetual scowls. It’s all Cox’s show, though, so it’s not a deal breaker.
There are a few differences between the cinematic Red and the novel, but they’re mostly for the best. An unlikely romance subplot doesn’t show up on film, and Ludlow’s daughter never makes an appearance. The film works fine without either of these elements, and may even benefit from their absence, as they might have shifted focus from the story’s main conflict. While the ending was a little too saccharine for me – stories like this seem to end three or four minutes too late – it provides a reasonably well earned resolution for Red‘s characters.
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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 156 minutes
• Gag Reel
• Behind-the scenes featurettes
• Trailer Vault
Next up: Shock-O-Rama’s Necroville, a zombie/vampire/werewolf apocalypse film shot in Albuquerque for around $9,000.
If you’re familiar with Shock-O-Rama titles, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from Necroville: the acting will be awful, and the writing will be even worse, but that isn’t the point. Necroville features some great gross-out moments and some surprisingly good effects, and is a fun, unapologetically awful piece of horror trash.
Set in the eponymous monster-infested city, Necroville features Jack (Billy Gaberina) and Alex (Adam Jarmon Brown) as two “undead exterminators” who, for a fee, kill zombies, werewolves, vampires, and so forth. After a master vampire sets up shop and begins a hostile takeover of the city, it’s a race against time for Jack and Alex to save the denizens of Necroville and… yawn. It’s all setup for the zombie kills, which, thankfully, are pretty great. The digitally rotoscoped gore effects belie Necroville’s tiny price tag, and highlight a few of Necroville‘s more creative kills.
Forum member Patrick Ripoll made the observation that even throwaway horror films might have one or two shocking, gruesome, or creative moments that can make the movie memorable. Necroville might not be a good film, but it features a vampire who drinks baby brains straight from the soft spot. With a straw. For someone who didn’t flinch too much during Nacho Cerda’s Aftermath, this gruesome little beat nearly turned my stomach.
While it’s hard to recommend, there’s enough gleeful, cheap, and comical brutality on display that I can’t give it a bad review. For a no-budget release, it looks great. If you liked Drainiac, Cannibal Campout, or Bacterium, you’ll probably like Necroville.
$8,000 of Necroville’s $9,200 budget was spent getting David Cross
to appear in blackface.
Red is a pretty lean release, with a brief Brian Cox interview and a making-of featurette as the only real extras. The video looks great, and the audio is a robust Dolby Digital 3/2.1.
Necroville‘s extras are a little more fleshed out, with gag reels, behind-the-scenes features, and the omnipresent TRAILER VAULT that gets tacked on to all Shock-O-Rama releases. The video quality is unsurprisingly poor, and the audio is a disappointing Dolby 2/0. Since the soundtrack might be the worst thing I’ve heard since Cap’n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, maybe that’s a blessing.
NECROVILLE: 6 out of 10