Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH $11,000?




The Invoking aka Sader Ridge (2013)

While working on They Saved Hitler's Brain I realized that I was seriously starting to burn out my own brain so that one is in the works and coming up but not right now. It's not that it's complicated, or even long, just very, very tiring. So I found, by pure chance, this movie and decided to give it a go, hoping for something to distract me from visions of Hitler's head in a glass jar.



Really subtle guys...
I have to confess that my very first thought when I found this that it was probably a knock-off of The Conjuring. Whenever I do a movie review, I find out a little about it first - that doesn't change my opinion one way or another but I get an idea of what I'm in for. It wasn't good. Words like 'boring', 'waste of time and money', and yes, 'tries to get viewers who watched The Conjuring' were knocked about - I was afraid of that. And you movie making guys, here's a little information because apparently you think we viewers are really, really stupid. One, nobody 'invoked' ANYTHING and two, THIS IS NOTHING LIKE THE HOUSE IN THE MOVIE. 'Kay?

Looking at the IMDb to find out where this was shot, I found out that the budget was $11,000, filmed by a company called Ruthless Pictures, produced by The October People. That's a pretty low amount - and yet this indie film made some good impressions and nominations at several festivals. Okay. I looked some more and found it was made as a result of a Kickstarter program. 

For those of you who haven't heard of them, Kickstarter is a great way to forward a project, whether it be something like a movie, or a product, book, whatever. You can look through projects that are local to your area, or search a particular subject you like.

Those circumstances caused me to prepare to excuse a lot of dumb and bad stuff - but I really didn't have to. This is truly a decent film.

Again, wrong house, nothing to do with movie...
The movie was first called Sader Ridge when it was presented at several festivals. Whoever decided to cash in on The Conjuring to push the film did it a disservice. It left the viewer expecting something they weren't going to get, which is probably why the negative comments listed above came about. Using ONE word from Fangoria's review didn't help them much either. Fangoria DID have some good things to say about this film, but using just one word makes it seem like that's all they said that was positive and that's not fair.


So putting everything aside, I decided to see just what $11,000 and some imagination can buy. As it turns out, quite a lot. I've seen low budget films before, some with as little as $5,000 to work with. That means you'll see amateur actors probably wearing their own clothes, driving their own cars, and if a house is involved, no doubt it probably belongs to someone in the film. And special effects will be at a minimum. Which makes horror movies extra hard 'cause unless it's not a slasher flick or paranormal piece of garbage...

But wait. For the price of what the crew of Paranormal Activity (pick any one of 'em) spent on coffee for the crew, this film maker managed to create something genuinely creepy. Not the outright BOO kind of scare, nobody gets gloriously gutted, and no damned cupboard or bedroom doors mysteriously open and shut for an hour and twenty minutes so there can be a five minute climax.




What you get with this movie is very competent photography, wonderfully directed and shot. This movie takes place on a farm on Sader Ridge (actually shot in California) and the location they chose (or could afford) was great. The house was a normal house that any family could have lived in, and the actors, while obviously being a little rough around the edges did a pretty good job with this different take on the paranormal theme (except for one female who overacted so badly I wanted her dead but we won't go into that). 




I was also impressed with the sound quality. I can't even count just how many movies, cheap or those with big money, that have horrible sound quality - echoes, bad dubbing, horrible or inappropriate background music and worse. This was good. It's too bad that big film companies can't be made to sit down and watch films like this and say 'See? This is how it's supposed to look/sound'.



The basic story in a nutshell: A woman named Samantha (Sam) inherits a farm from an aunt who had recently died. She finds out that this was her biological aunt, she was raised by adoptive parents.  She and her college friends check it out. It's a modest house on a good sized farm. Soon after arriving however, her friends start to act strange. Sam thinks she is imagining things but the longer they stay, the stranger things are becoming and Sam is getting flashes that she's been in this house before...



You do have to go through the irritating we're-driving-and-arguing-the-whole-way scenes that start so many of these things. Finally after a lengthy drive where they start to lose their cellular signal... as you know, cell phones are only useful for telling the audience that practically every horror movie takes place 'out of range'. The only other useful function they serve is as a makeshift flashlight. The hubby saw that being done on another show and asked 'Is she using her iPhone for a flashlight? Yup. We have dumb phones but guess what - WE HAVE FLASHLIGHTS THAT WORK GREAT! Smarten up people.




Strangely (they don't quite explain why) one of the guys has an old tape recorder on a shoulder strap - the one with cartridges and the little microphones? You have to hold down the play AND record buttons? Remember those? No? Then go to bed, you're up too late. For whatever reason during the trip he has been recording what he thinks are strange sounds - including some vibrations from a radio substation they pass. Why? Why not?



Anywho, the four arrive and are shown around by Eric, who her aunt had hired as a handyman. He's recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan and constantly messes with his tags like he's trying to remind the audience of this - or it's just a nervous habit. He tells Sam that they played together as children and she is shocked to find out that she lived there until she was five - she has no memory of it at all. She is even more shocked to find that it is actually the family farm and belonged to her parents named Sader before they died.

I think this next idea is a combination of original ideas mixed with low budget restrictions. Sam is hearing one friend recite prayers at night, she catches two of them messing around, at one point two look as if they're about to fight each other - Sam notices that when this happens, their voices are a bit different too but when she mentions all of this her friends just stare at her. 



They have no idea what she's talking about. If there is a character flaw in the Sam character it's that she shows a shocking lack of curiosity about what's going on. Now that may be from fear, or maybe her lack of acting experience, or the script. You'd think by now she'd at least be grilling Eric, who seems to remember a whole LOT of stuff just what happened in that house and why she was sent away.

Because Eric DOES know more than he lets on and there WAS a very good reason to send Sam away when she was five. I'm going to do something I don't usually do in my reviews - let you see the rest play out for yourself. If you want to.

Let's give you a bit of a hint: Eric tells Sam that her family, her father in particular, were not liked by the community for the way her father 'practiced his religion and raised his children'. Children? As in more than one? Sam has also had flashes of being burned with a cigarette and checks where she thinks the scar is. They don't show it, but from the look on her face...

The end is a good twist, with backstory being provided slowly but surely, building up to quite the finish. Not spectacular, not wonderful, but pretty darn good. And I don't say that very often.