Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
Stake Land TV series in the works? – Jim Mickle’s Stake Land is one of the best indie horror films to emerge in years. The tale of an apocalyptic America overrun by vampires is far more nuanced and well written than your standard vamp film, featuring a rich world where countless other stories could be told. Now, it looks like we might be seeing more from this dark cinematic universe.
Mickle and star/cowriter Nick Damici are hard at work developing a series based on the film. No word yet on where this project might land, but it seems like a perfect fit for cable – particularly a network looking for an apocalyptic horror series to compete with AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Murder takes center stage in Stage Fright trailer – When I first heard there was a new horror film titled Stage Fright headed our way, my immediate thought was “please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t let this be a remake of Michele Soavi’s brilliant ‘80s slasher flick”. Luckily, it’s not – they just share the same name – and this offering featuring Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf actually looks like it could be entertaining. Take a peek at the trailer, which features a Kabuki-masked killer offing thespians, and see if you don’t get a twinge of nostalgia for the 1980s.
No tricks here, this trailer for short film The Last Halloween is a real treat – Halloween is still 239 long days away, but it’s never too soon to get into the ghoultide spirit, and this nifty teaser trailer for Marc Roussel’s short film The Last Halloween is sure to get you longing for cool autumn nights and pumpkins.
In the clip, a man is tormented by a group of costumed children – which evokes memories of both Trick ‘r Treat and Monster Squad. Honestly, it looks awesome. No word on when we’ll see the finished short, but if this trailer is any indication, it’s going to be worth the wait.
We hear a lot about saints and sinners – but what happens when the future saints are the sinners? That’s the premise behind J.T. Petty’s entertaining new feature Hellbenders.
The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints is a top secret organization run by The Vatican. This select group of holy men (and woman) battle the forces of darkness to keep the world safe from evil, but unlike Father Karras in The Exorcist, the priests of the Hellbound Saints don’t combat the forces of darkness with their own inherent goodness – no, they do it by being the worst of the worst sinners. This way, when demons come calling, the priests can invite them in, kill themselves, and drag the hellspawn right back home.
Led by Clancy Brown’s Angus, the Hellbound Saints revel in the seven deadly sins and break the biblical Ten Commandments on the regular – all as part of a plan to keep them ready for the showdown between heaven and hell. It makes for some pretty hilarious viewing if you don’t mind copious amounts of blasphemy.
Based on Petty’s own graphic novel, the film finds the Saints tasked with taking on an ancient God-killer with designs on ending the rule of the heavenly father above, all while dealing with bureaucratic B.S. from the home office, who now wants to shut them down. It’s impossible to miss the Ghostbusters influence in this subplot, right down to Steven Gevedon’s riff on William Atherton’s character in that beloved comedy classic.
Featuring an ensemble cast filled with fantastic character actors (including Clifton Collins Jr., Andre Royo and Larry Fessenden), it’s easy to love these sinners even if you hate their sin. Brown and Collins do the heavy lifting, and occasionally you’ll find yourself wishing that maybe the film had simply focused on these two foul-mouthed priests instead of the whole ensemble, but each member of the cast is appropriately hilarious when asked to be. Dan Fogler really steals the show – he should have had more screen time.
So, based on the gushing so far, it sounds like Hellbenders is a cult classic in the making right? Well, not exactly.
Petty’s film has a bit of a haphazard approach to the material that makes it feel both longer than it needs to be in some spots, yet unnecessarily rushed in others. It’s an unusual phenomenon for a film to feel both too long and rushed, but somehow Hellbenders manages it. The opening is strong, but the middle drags a bit in spots, before crashing into the final act that’s over before you really know it.
The pacing issues seem to stem from the fact that Petty is trying to cover a whole lot of ground in just under 90 minutes. This is another instance where the larger ensemble cast feels like it's more than the film needs. Some characters get minimal screentime, while the movie occasionally bogs down to give us info on others that aren’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things.
That problem aside, there’s certainly fun to be had in Hellbenders. The cast is uniformly excellent, the jokes are entertaining, and even the horror bits work well. I doubt anyone will ever mention this film in the same breath as Shaun of the Dead or Dead Alive when it comes to discussions of great horror comedies, but I’d be more than willing to spend more time with the Hellbound Saints should they ever get a crack at a sequel.
Horror on the Horizon
After a dead February, horror finally returns to the box office in March.
We’ve got two limited releases happening on March 7 – Jeremy Lovering’s In Fear makes its mainstream debut after garnering praise on the festival circuit, and it's joined by IFC’s haunted-house flick Haunt.
If you don’t happen to live in a city that gets a lot of limited releases, then the week of March 14 might suit you a little better. That’s the day when we’ll all finally be able to see the remake of cult flick Patrick – which involves psychic shenanigans emanating from a comatose patient in a mental hospital.
Home Video Horror
March starts off with more of a whimper than a bang on the homefront. The only really notable release on March 11 is the original Patrick. Lena Headey’s Black Plague is also out that Tuesday, but it seems mostly notable for how the cover rips off Game of Thrones.
March 18 offers up lots of ultra-low-budget fluff, but it does also feature the Blu-ray release of cult classic slasher flick Slumber Party Massacre. I definitely recommend adding that one to your collection.
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