Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Hillside Cannibals | Dracula's Curse

By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2006

Hillside Cannibals
zero stars
DVD
Directed by Leigh Scott
Written by Steve Bevilacqua
Starring Heather Conforto, Tom Nagel, Vaz Andreas, Tom Downey
Produced by David Michael Latt, David Rimawi, Sherri Strain
2006

R
84 mins

This...is hard for me.

I've seen a lot of movies from The Asylum. And they've put out a lot to see. Now, generally, The Asylum can be counted on to turn out a good product--certainly at the very least a mediocre product--but that has all changed with the release of "Hillside Cannibals."

"Hillside Cannibals," you see, is a sick, sad affair involving five twentysomethings out for a weekend of spelunking (cave exploration for the jargon-challenged) when they are attacked by a clan of quasi-human cannibals.

This is, apparently, "based on the terrifying true story of the Sawney Bean clan that inspired 'The Hills Have Eyes'", which those of you who haven't been spending your time under a rock for the last few months will be well aware was remade and released in theatres.

So it's a huge question on The Asylum's judgment as to just why they'd decide to pull such an obvious "Me, too!". Maybe it's in keeping with their recent revival of older, more "classic" films--I can't be sure.

But the way they went about it...it makes me shudder to this very moment.

I'm sure that, given Leigh Scott's directorial ability, this could have been a really thrilling action / suspense title.

But, thanks in large part to the train wreck that is the script from writer Steve Bevilacqua, what we really have here is an exercise in casual brutality and mindless sadism. Not to mention just really lousy writing.

There are holes in this plot like no tomorrow. Let's take a rundown of the troubles with Bevilacqua's script. You may want to grab a snack--this could take a while.

First off, check out the twelve minute thirty one second mark, in which one of our cannibals renders a victim for transport. Two strokes of the machete, and the victim is split completely in half. With almost no blood. And no real sign of intestines.

I want to mail Bevilacqua a copy of "Grey's Anatomy" so it will be perfectly clear that this is, for want of a better term, a long shot bigger than Secretariat taking the Super Bowl. Unless this cannibal has superhuman strength a la "Ravenous" or is in possession of the first ever monomolecular machete, slicing through intestines, the top of the pelvic bowl, and the human spine in two strokes of a machete is ludicrous.

Second, Bevilacqua's script must have been written with an audience that has an attention span of gerbils on crack in mind. Because not only will we see a scene of bloody torment and people eating starting at about twelve minutes in, that same bloody torment and people eating will come back roughly fifteen minutes later in a series of disjointed, black and white flashbacks as our last surviving female lead explains things to police.

That's right--in case you missed it, Bevilacqua's going to show it to you again!

Third, with almost twenty seven minutes left to go, Bevilacqua's going to introduce a whole new set of characters, including a survivalist type with a grudge against the cannibals who will last all of about ten minutes before being killed messily. I barely know why he's there.

The back of the box is no help either. We know the party is going spelunking, and the back of the box says that the clan can be found in "seaside caves". Well...unless I missed something the size of the Pacific Ocean, I see sky, I see rock, I hear wind and coyotes but I don't see so much as a DROP of water anywhere in sight.

This was just a lousy movie. When it wasn't being cruel or sadistic or actively participating in the gore-for-gore's-sake school of filmmaking, it was being unintentionally comic. Watch how the cannibals interrelate through grunts and gestures. It's like watching "Gorillas in the Mist," only with a lot more blood. Oh, and this time around, the gorillas ate Dian Fossey.

The ending is an insult. It's a fifteen minute stretch of face-wearing, people-eating, flashbacks, attempted rapes, cannibal sex, screeching, and an assortment of lesser events that have no bearing on what little plot there is.

The special features include audio options, a behind the scenes featurette, and filmmaker's commentary, along with trailers for "When a Killer Calls", "Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers", "Shapeshifter", "King of the Lost World", and of course "Hillside Cannibals".

All in all, this was the single worst thing I've ever seen from a studio I've come to expect big things from. My disappointment will say more than any string of invective I could have launched.

Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse
***
DVD
Directed by Leigh Scott
Written by Leigh Scott
Starring Tom Downey, Eliza Swenson, Rhett Giles, Jeff Denton
Produced by David Rimawi, David Michael Latt, Sherri Strain
NR
2006
107 mins

After the worst debacle in The Asylum's growing history, "Hillside Cannibals", it was high time for a really GOOD movie to come flooding out of The Asylum's doors just to wash the taste of that reprehensible slop out of our collective mouths.

And indeed, The Asylum delivers by letting Leigh Scott take the reins completely on a new project, "Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse."

The more I see out of Leigh Scott, the more I'm convinced that he's an absolute genius. He wrote and directed "Beast of Bray Road," "Frankenstein Reborn" and "Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers", each of which was a solid movie in its own way. He even directed "King of the Lost World." The Asylum's putting a lot on this guy's plate, and it's working out nicely.

What "Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse" is putting out for us is in one way very much like "Blade". There's a whole society of vampires out there in the night, and they're not hungry for pasta. No, they're going after people blood, which is pretty much what you'd expect. And of course, as long as there's a Dracula involved somewhere in this, there's naturally a Van Helsing that follows shortly after. This particular Van Helsing has founded a pocket unit of vampire-hunting mercenaries (on what, Monopoly money?) that tracks, pursues, and ultimately kills every vampire that so much as breathes in their direction. This unit is called The Nine, and The Nine and the vampires, represented by a cabal called the Vampire Council, are about to set up peace talks, which go off with surprising ease.

Except for one critical fact which is about to crop up five years down the line, the formerly-idly-dismissed Countess Bathorley.

Yes, Bathorley, not Bathory. All those who are thinking about "Stay Alive" right now should be giving themselves the proper self-flagellation. It'll just clutter up the perspective if you think about it too much.

But that aside, this really is going to be a hoot for anyone who's even vaguely interested in vampire movies. Genuinely. I'm even sure you WILL love this.

This movie is quite possibly the movie all vampire LARPers have been waiting for. It's a coked up Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. In fact, this is a blueprint for the most ambitious scenario you role-play types have ever seen. We got FOUR different vampire factions here. We got The Nine. We got the Random Vampires that show up every so often to provide aid and comfort for The Nine, and even better than that...

...we got an ending with so many twists it'll make your EYES BLEED.

Seriously.

I was watching this, and when they got to the one hour twenty eight minute mark and pulled out those swords and got down to the dueling, I thought, damn. Somewhere, every vampire LARPer on earth just had a simultaneous orgasm and they're only vaguely sure why.

"I--I don't KNOW what happened! It just suddenly felt like vampires and Highlander just got crossed over and...and...and then I needed a change of pants."

But levity aside, "Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse" is an incredible intermingling of the vampire mythos and pure-T asskicking. There's plenty of action here for anybody, and the sheer ambition makes its closest comparison "Blade" look sick.

Sure, there are some flaws in this. The vampires are walking cliches--either sneering Mafioso types or snarling goths. Countess Bathorley is awkward at best in the light of "Stay Alive." And man, that green blood coming off the vampires' wounds looks suspiciously like toy store green slime.

But these are really minor quibbles at best, and a third of them come from poor timing.

Even better, the special features that come with this movie include a blooper reel, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted and extended scenes, a music video, audio options, and trailers for "Hillside Cannibals", "When a Killer Calls", "Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers", "Dead Men Walking (which for some reason is listed as "Dead Line" in the trailer menu) and "Dracula's Curse".

All in all, "Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse" is going to be a wild ride no matter how much you like vampire movies, and if you're into them, this will be a top pick. Even those who couldn't find anything all that thrilling about Blade or Buffy will get a kick out of this.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line. 

Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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