Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Superstition | The Butcher

By Steve Anderson
November 1st, 2005

SuperstitionSuperstition
****
DVD
Directed by James Roberson
Written by Donald G. Thompson
Starring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, Lynn Carlin, Larry Pennell
Produced by Ed Carlin
85 mins
NR
2006

Anchor Bay Entertainment resurrects a fairly choice horror movie with "Superstition", one among several in what looks like a long-term program for them.

So what we have here plotwise is an alcoholic priest and his family moving into a house on Mill Road. The house has something of an unpleasant history to say the least, and not too far from the house, a witch was drowned. Another priest, meanwhile, is staging an investigation into the house along with a cynical police detective--ostensibly because priests generally can't get search warrants. So now we've got priests gone wild, houses gone crazy, and the weight of a church about to go up against the great haunted house phenomenon.

If it looks a little old and dated to you, it's because it is. This is actually a rerelease of a much older movie--if I've read the box right it's from the bad old days of 1982, which means strap yourselves in, folks...it's either going to be a long and bumpy ride on through the night or electric candy nightmare country for the next hour and twenty minutes.

And there's plenty of 1980s-style silliness abounding in this little beauty. Take the first five minutes (please!)--you're going to have make-out coercion AND people jumping and screaming at the sight of badly designed mannequins dropped onto cars from a height of four feet.

Frankly, as much as I'm not in favor of watching movies made before 1980 (the quality of the playback is usually so godawful that it gets in the way of the story), more and more I'm grateful for the cleaned-up rerelease of some of these old gems on DVD. The rediscovery of some of these gems, some lost beyond repair to the ravages of time and the necessity to clear space on video store shelves for DVDs, is an important event in the history of horror.

Plus, I'm also leaning toward the necessity for today's self-styled horror mavens to watch these old movies just for the sheer laugh factor.

Not laughing? Try this thought exercise at three minutes thirty five seconds:

"In theatres in 1982, half the audience probably screamed at that."

NOW see if you're laughing!

And yet, at the same time, the shoddy quality of the special effects throughout the movie also shows just how spectacularly dependent on plot and pacing movies of this era were. They were doing great things with very little, and as a result, they managed to make some pretty sweet movies back then. Sure, they had their dogs, but sometimes, they could have a real bang-up splatter flick on their hands.

Examples? Sure. Try the sequence at ten minutes and seven seconds. Clearly, this is a fake head. And yet, when it blows up in that microwave, even I'm willing to put disbelief on hiatus and follow the movie's lead.

Even as I'm shrieking, "Just BREAK the window, idiot!" just a little over thirty seconds later, I'm still kinda freaked out by what happens next.

And check out the shocker that hits eighteen minutes and thirty eight seconds in! Man, that was cheesy and I STILL jumped at it!

The rest of the movie frequently develops a kind of chill-inducing quality by virtue of good storytelling and suspense-building easily on par with the best of Japanese fare. Apparently, at one time, we knew how to do it too. I guess we just forgot for the sake of better effects. Sad, really.

Though it was probably a bad idea to, at the fifty one minute thirty six second mark, show the witch laughing so broadly that her dental fillings were perfectly visible. Especially given the fact that this scene was supposedly taking place in 1692....

The ending is a whole lot of thrills, some pretty decent surprises and just a bit of horror-standard stupidity packed into one fairly confined space. It's a beauty, really.

The special features include trailers for "The Evil Dead", "Dellamorte Dellamore", "Superstition", "Warning Sign", and "Baby Blood".

All in all, "Superstition" makes for great watching, whether you're just now seeing it, or you've already had the pleasure of it the first go-round.

The Butcher
**
DVD
Directed by Edward Gorsuch
Written by Ellis Walker
Starring Catherine Wreford, Tom Nagel, Myiea Coy, Alan Ritchson
Produced by Michael Feifer
84 mins
R
2006

If you happen to be in the mood for nothing special, if you find yourself in the midst of the video store looking to not be challenged, or not have anything new to deal with, or nothing in particular to be scared by, but you just want a big loud gory romp with a plot so antique it could be featured on PBS, then go ahead, and grab that copy of "The Butcher" off the shelf.

So what we have here plotwise is six college students stranded on the road. In the middle of the night. Following a car accident. Yeah, you can already tell what's going to happen here, now can't you? They're going to find an abandoned farmhouse in the middle of the night because their cell phones don't work in the middle of nowhere they've found themselves in (though as it turns out, no one seems to have brought one along with them for a change), and the abandoned farmhouse in question isn't as abandoned as anyone thought it was. Because the owner is a crazy homicidal weapon-wielding maniac prepared to turn them all into an assortment of chewy bite-sized pieces, possibly to eat them.

If it sounds familiar, it's because it is.

Right down to the multiple lesbian makeout sessions in the first five minutes. And the incredible display of driving idiocy that leads them to become stranded in the first place. And an even better display of idiocy that allows the first death by overhanging tree branch to the solar plexus to take place in the first TEN minutes.

Despite the sheer familiarity of "The Butcher", I do have to admit that I've never seen this much idiocy in one movie. Every stupid thing these half-dozen morons could rally together, they do. They flash and taunt the serial killer. They drive around with people stuck out of sunroofs. They get blind drunk immediately after the first person gets killed.

And then, at the twenty one minute twenty two second mark, the biggest insult to our intelligence comes into play so far when Mark, one of the main idiots, says: "Don't you watch scary movies? Bad shit always happens inside the creepy farmhouse." Not only does the movie know that it makes use of every threadbare cliche the horror movie genre has to offer, it also has the gigantic brass ones to tell us about them!

What cliches, you might ask? Well, in addition the ones I've already laid out, how about portraying the sheer balls-out idiocy of sticking around a seemingly-abandoned farmhouse after a girl with no tongue cuts her wrists on a bottle just so she can write "hell" on the nearest wall in big bloody letters? Catch that little beauty at the twenty nine minute twenty second mark.

Or the inspired stupidity of running into the killer's house at thirty eight minutes seven seconds.

Although, and I will give them some begrudging respect after the thirty eight minute seven second mark, I have seen very few scenarios where the killer is actually locked out of his house. Though they don't manage to do very well with this surprising advantage....

And for once, in a surprisingly strange twist, the cops aren't actually complicit with the family of lunatics living out in the middle of nowhere. Usually, that's the so-called twist--that the cops are working with or otherwise related to the killers, but this time, the cops aren't related.

The ending is home to a couple clever twists, and a couple of decent-sized plot holes, but nothing worth writing home about.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "Komodo Vs. Cobra", "After Sundown", and "Santeria: The Soul Possessed".

All in all, "The Butcher" accomplishes nothing new, but does it in a fashion that's at least passable. It's worth your time to pick it up, but only if you're not looking for anything special.

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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