Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat | Hack!

By Steve Anderson
January1st, 2009

Sundown: The Vampire in RetreatSundown: The Vampire in Retreat
****
DVD
Directed by Anthony Hickox
Written by John Burgess, Anthony Hickox
Starring Bruce Campbell, David Carradine, Maxwell Caulfield, M. Emmet Walsh
Produced by Jefferson Richard
105 mins
R
2008

It's not every day I get to use phrases like "forgotten art form" or "horror western", so I have to eat a bit of crow here and thank Lions Gate, who often winds up as my whipping boy in pieces like this, for routing me a copy of Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat.

It truly is a horror western--basically, a group of vampires lead by Count Mardulak (remember this name, it's going to be really important later) moved out west in search of a new life, much like settlers of the American West often did. Sick of murder and bloodsucking, they founded the town of Purgatory and developed Necktarine, a kind of synthetic blood (at least that's the label I saw on a machine dispensing it) that provides the same nutrients as human blood. Many of the vampires aren't fond of this beverage, and thus a rebellion is growing in the town. Soon, a human being and his family arrive in town to get the Necktarine plant up and running at full capacity, and thus finds himself in the middle of a vampiric civil war.

I'm already very enthusiastic about it just from the synopsis, and watching it will prove to be an even bigger thrill. The horror western is a forgotten art form--seriously, when's the last time YOU saw one?--and actually finding a decent vampire movie is a change so welcome that it can't help but be good. I'm positively bubbling out here; not only am I getting a GOOD vampire movie for a change, I'm also getting a full-on horror western.

And even better than that, I'm also getting a Bruce Campbell movie! That's right, this is one of those great sort of "lost movies" that was originally released way back in 1990, but got a full-on DVD release thanks to the folks at Lions Gate. This is back before Bruce Campbell's career started to turn into a vague mush of Old Spice ads, voiceover work, nonstop cameos and, sadly, Burn Notice. So what you're looking at here is an almost unheard-of subgenre featuring a horror master at the top of his game, and that all adds up to be an absolutely spectacular movie.

It will prove to be great fun, and will challenge certain parts of the ever-amorphous vampire mythos in directions that will prove just as exciting as the rest of the movie around it.

The ending will manage to be several surprises in one handy package.

The special features include interviews with David Carradine, Bruce Campbell and M. Emmet Walsh, director's commentary, English and Spanish subtitles, audio and display options, and one trailer, but for The Monster Squad instead of Sundown. This is kind of strange, but I'll live with it.

All in all, man, what a way to end a year, huh folks? A rare early Campbell that also happens to be a good vampire horror western? I couldn't have asked for much better.

Hack!Hack!
**
DVD
Directed by Matt Flynn
Written by Matt Flynn
Starring Danica McKellar, Lochlyn Munro, Jay Kenneth Johnson, Juliet Landau
Produced by Brian Hartman Sean kanan, Mike Wittlin
2008
R
100 mins

Hack is one of those strange movies that I have absolutely no idea what to say about it.

But before I get into the commentary, let me introduce you to the plot and give you a better idea of why I'm so downright baffled by this thing. Basically, a biology major is leading a group of stereotypical college students on an extra-credit excursion to an island owned by a couple of horror movie buffs who pretty much meet every convention you'd expect of horror movie buffs. Specifically, they're completely insane. And they're working on a little project of their own--a horror movie.

Guess who gets to play the victims!

I spent literally the entirety of Hack! on a roller coaster ride of sorts, where my respect for the movie dropped (ugh, just what I need--yet another horny coeds get slashed movie) and then climbed (tell me I didn't just see someone take an oversized croquet mallet to the head!) and then dropped (someone please tell me why the flaming Asian guy is singing Fame in the middle of the woods) and then finally got on this strange rickety track where it would go up and down in rapid oscillations until, finally, the movie was over.

My reaction to Hack! was like one of those weird YouTube videos you see every so often where someone's facial expressions change so rapidly you almost can't follow them.

This, of course, makes for a big problem for me. I'm supposed to tell you what I thought of this--and I certainly did that--but I'm also supposed to tell you whether or not you should go see it yourself. And for the life of me, I can't tell you either way.

I can't tell you that Hack! was a good movie. It spent a lot of time being derivative--even the characters would call events taking place in the film thus. It spent a lot of time insulting my intelligence--thank you for specifically killing off the promiscuous and the drug-users, guys; I love it when writers make their films EXACTLY according to Randy from Scream's rules.

And yet, it gave me some good laughs and a couple good scares. These are not hallmarks of a bad film. Bad movies usually don't make me laugh and they almost NEVER make me jump.

This of course adds up to one inexorable conclusion: man am I ever glad I put the two-star rating in place. Seriously, that's what this sucker is--a prime on-the-hoof example of a two-star movie if I've ever seen one.

The ending is, much like the rest of the movie, solidly not bad. It's entertaining, yet it's already been done. They'll even cite the movie from which it was stolen! It was Dead Calm.

The special features include Spanish subtitles and a trailer for Hack!

All in all, if you're looking for a movie that takes way too many lessons from the past and applies them haphazardly to the future, and includes some good laughs and scares, then Hack! will make a good rental. But if you have no taste for cliche, then Hack! is a total loss.

 

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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