1863. After a brutal bank robbery, with plenty of civilians brutally slaughtered, a group ofConfederate deserters hole up in an abandoned farmhouse to pass the night before heading downto Mexico. There are already a few problems: the younger brother of leader Henry Thomas hasbeen injured, and two of the other gang members are thinking they should have a larger shareof the gold (i.e. all of it). But they will all soon have much bigger worries, as the house is stalkedby demon….
At one level, this is a very traditional horror film: plenty of characters wandering off on theirown to walk nervously through dark and spooky rooms. But the old conventions are servedstraight-up and with considerable skill by first-time director Alex Turner. The atmosphere is oneof creeping dread, and the supernatural manifestations are very creepy. The gore effects now andthen are maybe a bit too OTT, threatening to puncture the carefully wrought mood, but othersfind the right balance between restraint and nausea to be just as disturbing as one would wish.Highly recommended.
No small part of the film’s terrifying effect is due to the superb soundtrack. The music isominous, the sound effects are startling, and the placement of the sound is among the best I’veever encountered. Enormous care has gone into the choice of which speaker is going to producewhat sound, and the audience is plunged willy-nilly into a thoroughly realized nightmareenvironment.
The picture is very strong, too. The colours are excellent, as are the contrasts, flesh tones andblacks. So much of the movie is dark that murkiness could easily have been a real problem here,but the transfer avoids this pitfall easily. There is a little bit of grain and edge enhancementvisible, but these issues are minor, and the image is nicely sharp.
There are two commentaries, one by Turner alone, and another where he is joined by castmembers Thomas and Nicki Aycox, composer Peter Lopez and writer Simon Barrett. Turnerdoes most of the talking in the second track, and there is a fair bit of repeated information,though each track on its own is worthwhile, and Turner is engagingly honest about what hethinks works and doesn’t work in the movie. The making-of featurette is far more irreverent andinformative than the usual (the script meeting footage is terrific). There are five deleted scenes,with optional commentary by Turner. A clutch of thriller/horror trailers rounds things off, alongwith the trailer for Dead Birds. The menu’s main screen, intro and transitions areanimated and scored.
A superb exercise in nastiness, this is a horror film that should have had a wide theatricalrelease. As it is, at least the disc is excellent.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Making-of Featurette