Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Unearthed | Nightmare Man

By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2008

UnearthedUnearthed
***
DVD
Directed by Matthew Leutwyler
Written by Matthew Leutwyler
Starring Emmanuelle Vaugier, Luke Goss, Charlie Murphy, Beau Garrett
Produced by Francey Grace, Miranda Bailey, Jun Tan, D.J. Marini
R
93 mins
2008

You know, putting in "Unearthed" was a real on-the-fence moment for me. It had a really overdone plot...but how would it watch? And when I found out how it watched, I definitely got my money's worth.

As for the plot, well, it's simple monster-movie kind of stuff: a monster trapped underneath a small, middle-of-nowhere burg for nine hundred years (somehow, they KNOW it's been nine hundred years) has just been unearthed and, somehow, awakened. It runs amok in said small town and only the local sheriff and some stranded folks passing through are left to deal with the problem.

See what I mean? Total ops-standard monster movie. Which of course leaves me wondering just how THIS got into the After Dark Horrorfest, a sentiment I've expressed a couple times throughout this series. This is supposed to be the place for legendary, weapons-grade horror that you can't see just anywhere because it's too good and too graphic for normal theatres. But with "Unearthed", I'm halfway through the series and really, really starting to doubt this one.

Ah, but there will be some intriguing and redeeming features in this one--the small town will be suddenly fenced in by forces beyond its control, essentially turning this desolate burg into a very tightly packed survival horror scenario.

I've said it before but it will bear repeating forever--bad plot cannot be saved by any kind of execution, but "Unearthed" will prove beyond doubt that a sad, mediocre retread of a plot can be made into a fantastic movie if you go all-out on execution.

This may be "just another monster movie", if you look at it elementally. But when you consider HOW they put it together, it's going to be one of the best monster movies you've ever seen. Bar none. It will somehow, despite logic and common sense, manage to be a scary monster movie, and movies like that do NOT come along just every day.

Definite kudos are due to "Unearthed" for its scathing pace, tense moments, and surprises along the way.

The ending will be a lot like the rest of the movie--par for the course, strictly normal, and absolutely ferocious.

The special features are limited to Miss Horrorfest Content Webisodes and English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, it's downright unbelievable that these guys took what should have been a movie so dull that it put people to sleep and turned it into a nightmarish experience laced so deeply with adrenaline you could use it in place of a defibrillator.

Nightmare ManNightmare Man
***
DVD
Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Written by Rolfe Kanefsky
Starring Tiffany Shepis, Blythe Metz, Luciano Szafir, Richard Moll
Produced by Rolfe Kanefsky, Victor Kanefsky, Frederico LaPenda, Esther Goodstein
R
90 mins
2008

Now, this one's sort of a surprise. The last time I saw a Rolfe Kanefsky flick (as most of his usually say in the title credit roll), it was "The Hazing", and it also handily featured Tiffany Shepis. But that, "The Hazing", was just a straight direct to video romp. Rather unremarkable, halfway decent, especially compared to its peers.

Now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere comes Kanefsky once again with a piece that's supposed to be so good it can rank on the After Dark Horrorfest? Oh, sure, he's got always-kickass Tiffany Shepis involved, who is still, if I may say so, a TOTAL badass. He's even managed to bring in crowd-favorite Richard Moll, whom most remember from his "Night Court" stint back in the eighties.

The plot is nothing to write home about, which doesn't exactly bode well. Ellen Morris believes she's being attacked by an otherworldly figure she can only refer to as "Nightmare Man". Naturally, her husband thinks she's a total loon and thus drives her to the insane asylum to be committed. On the way to the nut hatch, the car runs out of gas and Bill leaves the crazy lady by herself in the car.

Which is a logical inconsistency the likes of which I've never seen before, and my suspension-of-disbelief engines are glowing white-hot and making a really unpleasant whining sound. What will completely blow them is when Ellen, now alone in the car, sees her "Nightmare Man" vision once again and runs for...safety?...finding at least a tentative form in a cabin full of friends who now become prey for Ellen's vision monster.

Which may or may not be real.

Son of a bitch, Kanefsky! This is your entry into the After Dark Horrorfest? A cheesy monster movie? You're making the whole thing look bad! This is not some shitty little direct-to-video romp here! This is the AFTER DARK HORRORFEST! This is supposed to be the BEST the industry can muster! The stuff that's too good and too graphic and too downright POWERFUL to be shown in theatres! And you're mocking the entire concept by bringing a sad little retread to the party?

Kanefsky's sheer lack of respect for the work horrifies me, or would, except for one minor detail. Though he has made little more than a cheesy monster movie, he actually made a pretty damn good monster movie, pulling out all the stops in terms of building suspense and burning it off with plenty of creepy little surprises. Even better, he'll manage to throw in some laughs, which is no small surprise given the genre.

Ten for ten on style, Kanefsky! Minus several million for piss-poor judgment, but still. You definitely put together an insane little romp that should manage to scare some people. You even managed to get my adrenaline humming, and that's a feat!

The ending is actually a couple pretty big twists out of left field, and thus is something of a credit to Kanefsky's somewhat low-end concept. Even the shaky parts manage to look better in light of the ending and that's a definite credit to Kanefsky.

The special features include commentary tracks, extended scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, a making-of featurette, a gag reel, audio and video options, Miss Horrorfest contest webisodes, and English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, despite the fact that this is one of the oldest and most horrendously misused themes in all of horror filmmaking, Kanefsky has managed to put together a very high-quality example of the art. It may have been done before, but very rarely so well.

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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