Three Horror Films from Dimension Extreme
Broken (October 23/07)
Though Broken opens with a gimmicky scene that's right out of the Saw series - a woman has to cut her own stomach to extract a blade that might save her life - the majority of the film transpires entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a small clearing within an oppressive forest. Said woman - Nadja Brand's Hope - has been kidnapped by a crazy mountain man (played by Eric Colvin) who keeps her chained up and forces her to clean pots; though she receives several opportunities to escape, Hope essentially resigns herself to her fate and spends her days glaring glumly at the man. Directors Simon Boyes and Adam Mason have effectively peppered Broken with a number of admittedly suspenseful sequences - particularly one in which Hope grabs a hold of a knife - but it becomes apparent fairly early on that the filmmakers simply don't have enough material to sustain a 90-minute feature. There's consequently a repetitive air to much of Broken, with Hope and her captor spending an egregious amount of time just staring at one another. That Hope often behaves like a stereotypical horror-movie victim certainly doesn't help matters, as the character constantly (and consistently) refuses to make any proactive choices regarding her situation. By the time Hope has squandered her third or fourth escape opportunity, even the most forgiving viewer won't be able to help rolling their eyes in disbelief - ensuring that, while the movie is generally well made and sporadically chilling, Broken ultimately comes off as a decent short that's disastrously been expanded to feature length.
Aside from the admittedly effective casting of Saw's Tobin Bell as a crazy old coot, Buried Alive is conspicuously lacking in overtly positive elements; it's a shame, really, as the movie marks special-effects wizard Robert Kurtzman's first directorial effort since 1997's above-average slasher flick Wishmaster. To his credit, Kurtzman tries his hardest to liven up Art Monterastelli's tedious and hackneyed screenplay - though, as becomes evident early on, even the most talented filmmaker would be hard-pressed to inject life into Monterastelli's lifeless script. The story follows six college friends - including a virginal nerd and a pair of would-be sorority sisters - as they pile into an old convertible and head for an abandoned house, where they're eventually forced to fight for their lives after encountering an axe-wielding demon. It's the sort of exceedingly familiar premise that could've been used as a launching pad for a fun and bloody little horror flick, yet the film remains oddly inert for much of its running time - with the egregiously slow build and dearth of kill sequences certainly playing a key role in its downfall. Monterastelli's emphasis on the demon's backstory - involving Indian mysticism and the like - only exacerbates the movie's various problems, while the one-dimensional nature of the various characters makes it awfully difficult to care about their survival. There's little doubt that it'd be easy enough to overlook such problems if the movie moved a little faster, as the gore - what little that there is - is undeniably quite impressive and appropriately over-the-top. Buried Alive is ultimately just another run-of-the-mill straight-to-video slasher, albeit one that's sporadically elevated by some better-than-expected production values and Bell's scene-stealing turn as the aforementioned eccentric prospector.
Welcome to the Jungle
Welcome to the Jungle is a sporadically chilling yet undeniably uneven horror effort that follows two couples - Sandy Gardiner's Mandi and Callard Harris' Colby, and Nick Richey's Mikey and Veronica Sywak's Bijou - as they travel deep into the New Guinea wilderness to track down Michael Rockefeller, who has reportedly been living with the natives since his notorious disappearance back in the early '60s. Naturally, it's not long before the foursome discovers that the practice of cannibalism is alive and well deep within the jungle. Welcome to the Jungle transpires entirely from the point of view of the four characters, as director Jonathan Hensleigh - clearly inspired by the similarly-themed 1980 flick Cannibal Holocaust - places the proceedings within the context of their self-shot home movies. And while there's little doubt that this choice does lend the film an authentic, downright creepy sort of vibe, Hensleigh's emphasis on the increasingly hostile relationship between the two couples ensures that Welcome to the Jungle's mid-section possesses a tedious (and distinctly superfluous) feel. That being said, there's no denying that things improve considerably once the couples go their respective ways and slowly-but-surely start to realize that they're not alone - particularly as Hensleigh offers up a number of genuinely suspenseful set-pieces (including an eerie scene in which several natives travel alongside one couple's raft). The incredibly effective finale is somewhat hindered by the film's inherent lack of brutality, yet one ultimately can't help but admire the exceedingly bleak manner in which Hensleigh concludes the proceedings.