Pig Hunt / Dark House / The Tomb / Grimm / Hunger / Fragile / Road Kill / The Haunting
STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
MSRP: $143.99 box set, also priced individually
• Making-of featurettes
• Director commentary
• Deleted Scenes
Fangoria challenges the After Dark Horrorfest for the title of “least necessary fest.”
Jeffrey Combs, Meghan Ory, Jason Foster, Sophie Lowe, Bob Morely, Xavier Samuel
Fangoria and media titan Blockbuster Video bring us eight films sure to make people flee in terror. In this batch, we review a trio of movies with binary titles: Dark House, Pig Hunt, and Road Kill.
Good horror movies – and by that, I mean movies that elicit real, palpable, safety-bubble-popping fear – can’t just be cobbled together from sources at hand like Mary Shelley’s monster. Every year, CHUD reviews dozens of DVD horror titles, and out of those, only a select two or three merit a second look. Most of the throwaway films are obvious cash-ins that ape or combine trends, like torture porn or long haired ghosts. Some of them craft unlikely scenarios out of shocking news headlines. Others try to imbue terror into something novel, like a new technology. These throwaways are in a desperate search for horror where none exists. A story in search of something frightening will rarely, if ever, find it.
On the surface, Pig Hunt, Dark House, and Road Kill are all very different horror movies. Pig Hunt wants to be a darkly offbeat hybrid of Deliverance and Razorback. Dark House blends cheap CG gore and bad comedy in a gag-filled spook show. Road Kill is a humorless supernatural grab at Wolf Creek‘s residual success. Each of these movies suffers from the same problem: they’re complicated, messy stories in search of a scary idea, rather than scary ideas looking for stories to call home.
In the late Blake Snyder’s screenwriting primer Save the Cat, he coins the term “double mumbo-jumbo,” which he defines here:
I propose that as an audience we can only buy one piece of magic per movie. You cannot have aliens land and then be bitten by vampires and become both alien and undead. Not fair.
Snyder’s rule-based writing system isn’t entirely useful, but with double mumbo-jumbo, he’s tapping into something important. If you insist on blending genre tropes like giant animals or killer rednecks, tread extra carefully or risk breaking your spell on the audience.
Pig Hunt could have been an effective killer pig movie… had it been about a killer pig. Instead, we get a dung gumbo of backwoods Deliverance antics, hippie cult japery, and a feature hog who doesn’t take the spotlight until the tail end of the final act. Hunt follows a group of weekend warriors as they navigate Appalachia in search of pig meat. They’re eventually besieged by pig, cult, and redneck, and it ends exactly as you’d imagine.
Pig Hunt succumbs to triple mumbo-jumbo. There are simply too many outlandish threats, and none of them stand out as particularly threatening.
I’m pretty sure this is some sort of stereotype
While Hunt‘s story is a total mess, it has a memorable look thanks to a dirty, goopy, shit-shack aesthetic. Blood oozes like syrup, and an oily grime coats everything. Too bad the story or characters never capitalize on this, because Pig Hunt‘s ambient grue might be the only genuinely nasty thing in the whole of Frightfest.
Counting the three “hero” rednecks and the two chief cult leaders, there are in the ballpark of ten featured characters in Pig Hunt. This is far too many people to track in a killer pig movie. Worst of all, if you’re looking for the HOGZILLA on the DVD cover, you’ll see him in only one sequence, with a full monster shot lasting about a second.
Here’s the shot of the pig. Save your money.
Pig Hunt wants to be several different horror movies, but isn’t good at being any of them. It ranks among the worst horror movies of 2010.
There’s an ongoing messageboard discussion in CHUD’s backyard that posits the following: “If you can’t make your horror movie scary, then at least have the good sense to make it funny.” The Shock-O-Rama brand understands this, and churns out bad horror with cheap, gleeful pride better than anyone. Dark House isn’t scary or funny, and might have found a home and a willing audience under the watchful eye of somebody like Brett Piper. Here, House stands out as unfunny schlock that fails despite a sharp look and the presence of a mugging Jeffrey Combs.
A living room full of loose, dead children: every nanny’s worst nightmare?
Dark House is Shocker in The House on Haunted Hill (2). A dead serial killer returns to life by possessing a high-tech 3D hologram system in a spook-house tourist trap. This goofy setup places one of the killer’s surviving targets, a college drama student, in the funhouse as one of the several real-life performers. Jeffrey Combs plays the Vincent Price role, and is aware that he’s in a terrible movie. Performers and guests are slowly eliminated by the 3D holograms, culminating in a showdown between the survivor girl and her ghostly nemesis.
Technology and horror can intersect in some powerful ways – Kairo did it best – but House‘s 3D hologram gimmick is a story solution in search of a problem. It’s possible that you’ll chuckle at the VIRUS DETECTED warnings when the ghost infects the network, and you might even get an ironic kick out of the CG gore effects that look like bad .gif photoshops, but if you’d rather laugh at a movie than with it, you’ll still do better elsewhere. Dark House‘s failures are just boring.
Knowing that it won’t succeed at horror, at least Dark House has the sense enough to paint itself as a comedy. If points were awarded for honesty, this movie would be Frightfest’s top contender. It still ranks among the worst horror movies of 2010.
Finally, there’s Road Kill, starring a guy who was in Twilight: Eclipse. On an empty road in the desolate Australian outback, a demonic diesel truck terrorizes a quartet of teen campers. When they commandeer the truck after the mysterious owner abandons it, the friends turn on each other and eventually the truck ends up literally eating some of them. To picture Road Kill, imagine Wolf Creek, but replace Creek‘s slowly encroaching dread and despair with this guy‘s giant hairdo. Also, replace John Jarratt with a hungry truck.
Xavier discovers that the number of gears you can safely operate is inversely proportional to the height of your hairdo.
And don’t think this is Death Truck: The Truck that Eats People. No, no, no, no. Road Kill isn’t any fun at all.
Like the Lance Henriksen segment in 1983’s Nightmares or Spielberg’s Duel, Road Kill is part of the horror road movie subgenre. After an opening scene that quotes Jeepers Creepers nearly note for note, the story devolves into a silly, self-serious mess about a truck that may or may not contain the actual Cerberus dog.
Very little about Road Kill‘s character interactions make sense. Characters attack each other with wrenches and forgive each other moments later. Some go on jaunts into the woods for no reason. One of the male leads is incapacitated by the same wrench by the same girl on two separate occasions. If it weren’t for the drudgery of Road Kill‘s insufferably moody and unlikable leads, it would be a minor miracle that such a dumb-ass movie even exists.
Road Kill borrows the same syrupy, oozy blood as Pig Hunt, but it’s not nearly as effective here. It avoids CG gore, although it needn’t have bothered. It ranks among the worst horror movies of 2010.
Despite a strong opening, Road Kill stumbles only a few feet from the finish line
Fangoria Frightfest is officially off to a stumble. Even After Dark Horrorfest ferrets out a few gems every year, like 2010’s terrific Lake Mungo. These are stories in search of a scary idea. In the end, this makes them not only bad horror, but bad stories.
Pig Hunt: 4 out of 10
Dark House: 3 out of 10
Road Kill: 2 out of 10