Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Goregoyles: First Cut' is a nice package

Goregoyles: First Cut (2003)
Starring: Robert Harvick, Sebastian Croteau, and Matt Busch
Directors: Augustine Arredondo, Kevin J. Lindenmuth, and Alexandre Michaud
Rating: Six of Ten Stars (for the film)/Seven of Ten Stars (for the overall DVD package)

This was a hard one for me to rate, not only because it's an anthology film of wildly varying quality, but also because the entirety of the DVD package is something I feel needs to be taken into account in the review. This is rare for me, as Most of the time, the "bonus features" on DVDs are fairly dull or just recycled/archived marketing materials. With the "Goregoyles: First Cut" DVD, however, most of the extras are interesting and well-worth being considered "bonuses.")

First, the movie. I'll rate each part of it seperately, and then give an overall rating for the film alone. "Goregoyles: First Cut" is the first in a series of films that will feature several short horror shorts, framed by introductory comments from Uncle Dodo (Croteau).

The Uncle Dodo sequences are both amusing and informative--the long-haired host is a combination of Joe Bob Briggs and the Cryptkeeper--something which isn't true of other low-budget anthology films I've come across. I suppose I should admit with some degree of shame that the Uncle Dodo set bears a disturbing resemblence to my office. (Okay, there's no blow-up doll in the corner, but the rest is strangely similar....) By themselves, I rate the Dodo sequences at Six of Ten Stars.

Then there's the first of the two short films, "The Holy Terror." This is the story of a man (Harvick) who gets possessed by a demon and then finds himself pursued by occultists and assassins for the Catholic Church.

"The Holy Terror" should be required viewing for anyone who makes or is contemplating making a horror film on a limited budget. Reportedly made for around $800, this short film is better crafted than some horror flicks with ten times its budget. It features good acting, nice camera work, a well-done and well-used music soundtrack, and is nicely structured and paced. The producer/director, Augustine Arredondo, also seems to have had a realistic sense of what he was able to accomplish--he limited his special effects to movie gore and didn't make any attempts putting monsters, physical transformations, or anything else that required lots of money to pull off on the screen--and he didn't attempt to pad his film to the 70 minutes minimum for a feature. Most low-budget horror movies are ruined not so much by crappy acting, but by padding and filmmakers attempting things their budget and resources simply don't allow for, and Arrendondo avoided both those pitfalls. Even better, he clearly understands that if your effects are cheaply made, you don't want to feature them in long, loving shots so the audience has a chance to roll their eyes and snicker at you. It seems like something that should be easy to understand, but given the number of filmmakers who don't do this, it must be a hard concept to grasp.

"Holy Terror" was Arredondo's first outing as a director, and so far his only one. This is a shame, because while it's not a perfect film--it could have done with a few more minutes of running time and story to fill in a couple of niggling plot issues, and a stronger ending would have been nice--it is still good enough to earn a rating of Eight of Ten Stars. It's a shame he didn't stick with directing.

The second film that Uncle Dodo presents is titled "Bezerker". Almost everything that "The Holy Terror" got right, this one got wrong... despite the fact that this one is supposedly the product of a "legend" of low-budget filmmaking, Kevin J. Lindenmuth, while the first film was the product of a newcomer.

"Bezerker" is a short zombie movie with a storyline so muddled it trips over itself, despite being thinner than a supermodel on a hunger strike. Basically, it's Viking zombies show up and kill people. To make matters worse, it has a cast of actors who range from bad to awful, and some of the worst zombie costumes put on the screen.

(Free tip to filmmakers: If you have a zombie who is rotted and decayed from wandering the woods for a decade, don't put it in a clean, bright white, freshly washed night gown. Similarly, rotting walking corpses shouldn't all be wearing black sweatshirts that look brand new, particularly not when some of them supposedly are 1,000 year-old zombie Vikings. Thank you. You're welcome to acknowledge me in the credits of your next film.)

Given that Uncle Dodo's description of "Bezerker" both in the intro and the lead-out make it sound interesting than it it, and seem more like a description of what SHOULD have been on the screen instead of what is, it sounds like the producers of the "First Cut" anthology were as bored with this worthless piece of trash as I was. There are two good scenes in it, one of which is almost ruined by terrible child actors, and the other undermined by an ineptly done gore effect--although the zombie eating himself while walking around still made me squirm and will stick with me for some time. This one gets Two of Ten Stars.

Overall, I give "Goregoyles: First Cut" a rating of Six of Tomatoes of Ten, skewing the rating a bit high, because as awful as "Bezerker" is, it's thankfully short.

The final thing I touch on here are the extras that are included on the DVD. Like I mentioned above, I don't usually take those into account when reviewing a film, but I make an exception here.

First off, the interview with "Goregoyles" producer Alexandre Michaud is interesting, insightful, and far more honest than the self-congratulatory marketing crap we usually get in these sorts of offerings. He talks about the origins and intent of the "Goregoyles" series, and even touches upon some shortcomings. Similarly, the "making of" documentary about "The Holy Terror" also features some very candid interviews with its star and director that provide an interesting look into "no-budget" filmmaking, and it's a real look at the production process, not just an extended ad that originally appeared on HBO.

Among the extras is also a "bloopers" section that doesn't actually contain bloopers but instead feature longer versions of Uncle Dodo's commentary. I liked these longer riffs better than what appeared in the film, although I also agree with the choice of shortening them; the films shouldn't be secondary to the host.

Finally, the disk contains previews for numerous movies in the Brain Damage Films catalogue. I'm impressed with the way they can make movies I know to be completely and utter turds (because I've had the misfortune of seeing them) look like they may actually be interesting. It's a nice look at what this distribution company offers--even if some of the previews are better than the films they are made to advertise!

When I add the high-quality extras on the "Goregoyles: First Cut" DVD into my considerations, the overall package gets an extra Star, bringing the rating up to Seven of Ten Tomatoes. I applaud Brain Damage Films for producing a DVD package where the "bonus" material is worth watching, and I encourage lovers of horror films to track this one down for "The Holy Terror" at the very least.

Note: "The Holy Terror" is also included in the Catacombs of Creepshow 50 movie pack. That might be a better way to get your hands on it, as you'll be getting a slew of other indie horror flicks... some good, some pretty awful. But the price is good.

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