STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $112.99


The Pitch

The annual independent horror festival returns for 2009 with a new octet of films.

Reviewed in the first installment: Autopsy, From Within, and Dying Breed.

It’s time to question your doctor’s credentials when he puts the gas mask over your eye.


The Humans

Cast: Robert Patrick, Jenette Goldstein, Jessica Lowndes, Ross McCall, Robert LaSardo, Michael Bowen

Director: Adam Gierasch

The Nutshell

During a final cross country road trip together, four college friends find themselves wounded and stranded in a rural town after an auto accident cripples their car. Taking refuge in the strangely deserted hospital, they soon realize that the staff might be more interested in murdering than healing. Chief Robert Patrick terrorizes 90210 starlet Jessica Lowndes, and Jenette Goldstein (Near Dark!) jams a few syringes into naughty places as the hospital’s demented nurse.

Rather than some kind of edgy commentary on the cutthroat nature of
life in the hood, Mark “Zaphod” Reyes’ tattoo was an homage to the late,
great Yul Brynner.

The Lowdown

Autopsy‘s a notable member of this year’s Horrorfest flock, if only for its monumentally dumb title. In its 90 minutes, there isn’t a single autopsy. Sure, it’s just a horror movie, so most people might not even notice or care, but if you’re going all-out dumb, why not have some fun? Here are some better titles I came up with on the fly:

The Doctor Needs Your Innards

Autopsy might not show any autopsies, but it’s still a member of the Evil Hospital horror subgenre
, and although it’s nearly worthless as a movie, horror fans with low standards and a lust for gore might find a few scenes worth watching. For anybody else, this one’s an easy pass.

The survivor characters are made up of stock bullshit, which wouldn’t be nearly as bad if Autopsy hadn’t wasted the sleazy charms of Michael Bowen and Robert LaSardo. Robert Patrick’s evil hospital chief feels like he’s in on a joke that isn’t very funny. The plot – Four friends in a desperate escape from deranged, organ hungry hospital staff – isn’t nearly enough to sustain a 90 minute running time, much less make these filmsy characters any more interesting. It’s also a pity that Autopsy steals wholesale from Hostel. You’ll be watching for Jay Hernandez peeking out from beneath a pushcart during a very familiar body butchering scene.

“We can collect urine samples the easy way, or I can do some
old fashioned Urethra Mining. Your call.”

Autopsy shows off a few shocking gross out moments, including a goofy-as-hell human intestines pinata, and a dangling organmobile that’s almost gross enough to be proud of. See the screencap below.

It’s occasionally gruesome, but not nearly as fun or scary as it wants to be. Here’s the really bad news: Autopsy is one of the better movies in the set.

After his famous cameo in The Thing, Chester went on to a very successful career in Hair and Makeup.

The Package

Bonus Features include an alternate ending and a short featurette. A decent Dolby 3/2.1 track and better than average video make the experience a little more palatable.

Would this have made for a better 30 minute Tales From the Crypt episode:


3 out of 10

From Within

The Humans

Elizabeth Rice, Thomas Dekker, Kelly Blatz

Director: Phedon Papamichael

The Nutshell

A string of bizarre suicides leaves high school senior Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) looking for answers, and her fundamentalist family and neighbors ravenous for guidance from the local megachurch. When the pastor’s aggressive, overzealous teenage son (Prom Night‘s Kelly Blatz) fingers a family of shut-ins for using witchcraft to cause the suicides, confusion turns into violence as the death count grows.

On top of forgetting to take his daughter to school, Spy Hunter
also forgot to turn off the flamethrowers.

The Lowdown

Director Phedon Papamichael was set up to fail. With a name like that, you expect something great, or at the very least something weird enough to be watchable. From Within is neither. It’s main conceit isn’t terrible, but again, like Autopsy, isn’t enough to justify 90 minutes: A family of ostracized witches gets revenge on a xenophobic small town by unleashing a curse whereby dopplegangers stalk and kill their victims, resulting what looks like a gooey suicide. Since this curse is person-to-person contagious, hero girl Lindsay embarks on a ticking time bomb quest to stop it. She’s hamstrung by her creepy megachurch-attending boyfriend and family, leading to a mostly silly and telegraphed shock ending.

While Autopsy‘s derivative story gets a tiny boost from some fun gross-out gags, From Within doesn’t even have an ounce of intentional levity or gore. The doppleganger stalkers look like little more than sullen, Hot Topic-y teens with bad skin. The town is populated with a rogue’s gallery of trite and unsurprising characters – there’s the brooding, handsome love interest who likes poetry and witchcraft, there’s the innocent waif fighting to save her misudnerstood boyfriend, and there’s the abusive and alcoholic stepmom who’s probably gonna get what’s coming to her. The worst of the bunch is the offputtingly childlike Kelly Blatz, who plays Lindsay’s violent, hot headed boyfriend. He looks and sounds like the kid from Boy Meets World, making the barrage of threats that perpetually come out of his mouth really hard to take seriously.

From Within’s most amazing spectacle. How did someone convince this many people to be in this movie?

There’s a particularly effective wrist cutting sequence that almost smacks of creativity, but don’t count that as any kind of endorsement of the film. It’s ultimately a boring and literally lifeless drag.

This less fortunate reviewer almost made it to the credits.

The Package

Bonus Features include a short featurette and a handful of deleted scenes. A decent Dolby 3/2.1 track and better than average video transfer don’t do much to save this movie, either.

Would this have made for a better 30 minute Tales From the Crypt episode:

From Within wouldn’t have been a very fun installment of that, either.

2 out of 10

Dying Breed

The Humans

Cast: Mirrah Foukes, Nathan Phillips, Leigh Whannell, Billie Brown, Melanie Vallejo

Director: Jody Dwyer

The Nutshell

In search of the mythical Tasmanian Tiger, naturalist Nina (Mirrah Foukes) invades the dense forests of the legendary island, bringing along her beau Matt (Whannel), his old friend Jack (Phillips), and Jack’s girlfriend Rebecca (Vallejo). She’s also in search of her sister, who disappeared in the region while hunting down the elusive animal. Will the hungry, drooling, inbred locals be able to help her find the tiger, and, more importantly, save her lost sister? Probably not. Culling from stories about real-life cannibal convict Alexander Pearce, Dying Breed‘s cannibal hillbillies stand in the way of Nina’s research.

Percy finally finds a good use for Cadbury’s flavored choco-bolts.

The Lowdown

Rarely does 8 Films To Die For pass without a Cannibal Hillbilly entry, with last year’s Frontiere(s) being the most noteworthy so far. Dying Breed, much like Frontiere(s) and even more like Wrong Turn, is clearly Cannibilly horror, and while it’s not as effective or shocking as Frontiere(s), it’s still better than Wrong Turn.

Breed’s characters aren’t very compelling, but they’re as compelling as they need to be to make a Cannibal story work. It’s nice that the movie introduces our survivor characters slowly without thrusting them into danger too early, and that the conflicts between the characters feel real enough to care about. Nina’s Tiger Hunt expedition isn’t a very elegant or original way to get everyone out into the woods, and, for that matter, Cannibal Hillbillies aren’t very elegant or original monsters – but when the expedition goes belly up and the cannibals start hunting down the survivors, Dying Breed really starts to have fun.
It’s a well paced and brutal thriller, and features someone getting their face caught in a bear trap.

Dying Breed‘s Cannibal Hillbillies point back to Alexander Pearce, an actual Cannibal Hillbilly who terrorized Tasmania in the early 1800’s. Breed posits that Pearce started a feral clan of inbred cannibals who eat outsiders and occasionally scavenge for breeding sows to enslave and impregnate. It might have been more fun to see a dramatization of Pearce’s story, but as it stands, it’s still a neat callback.

It won’t rock anyone’s world, though, mostly because it skews a little too close to hillbilly horror convention. There’s the obligatory Drayton Sawyer/Captain Spaulding character – the local shop proprietor with a friendly face and ambiguous ties to the villains – as well as a number of other worn out tropes. When Matt approaches a covered pot of boiling water in a cabin stove, you’ll probably know what to expect.

As far as this 8 films package goes, Breed might be the best entry. Give it a peek if you’re a fan of the Cannibillies.

It’s just a real doll, but it’s still NSFW.

The Package

Bonus Features include a chronicling of the Miss Horrorfest beauty pageant. It’s dumb, and totally unrelated to the film. The transfer and audio are both fine.

Would this have made for a better 30 minute Tales From the Crypt episode:

Surprisingly, No. Dying Breed is an effective and entertaining 90 minutes.

6 out of 10