A dysfunctional family unit (single mother and infant, her sister and loutish husband, their autistic teen) are travelling through rural New Jersey when their car gets stuck. One after another, they head off to seek help, only to knock on the door of the sinister Mrs. Leeds and her homicidally retarded crew. And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s some kind of monster flapping through the woods.
Writer/director Dante Tomaselli has assembled a mixture of The Texas Chainsaw Massac…e (with the family of lethal nut-jobs) and The Evil Dead (with the demon-cam swooping of the invisible force). In the past, Tomaselli has proven to be an enthusiastic and interesting filmmaker whose reach tends to exceed his grasp. To a degree, this is true once again, though his means are becoming more impressive with each effort. So there are plenty of problems: the sets look a bit too much like sets, for instance, and the biggest issue is that he has nowhere near enough plot to last 81 minutes. So there’s a hell of a lot of the same thing happening over and over again. Perhaps recognizing this, Tomaselli inserts a moment (which I will not spoil) of truly inspired comedy that makes up for much. He may not yet be playing in the pro leagues, but he remains a filmmaker to watch.
The volume is a bit low overall, and there isn’t much by way of surround FX. The dialogue, too, is prone to distortion. One can’t holler TOO loudly about all of this, given the film’s budget. On the plus side, the score is quite energetic, and there are plenty of nice music cues that are given the full surround treatment.
Much the same sort of deal with the picture, where the budget must be taken into account. That out of the way, the picture is admittedly a bit soft now and then, some of the shots are very grainy, and there is some very noticeable aliasing occurring. The colours, though, are nice, as are the contrasts, blacks and flesh tones. Not perfect by any means, but serviceable, in other words.
On the commentary track, Tomaselli is very clear about what he was going for in each scene. An interview with him (“Dante Tomaselli and the Jersey Devil”) provides a fair bit of background as well. The behind-the-scenes featurette is simply footage of the shoot. There’s a poster and still gallery, an extended trailer, the teaser, and trailers for other Anchor Bay releases.
It’s a flawed piece, but its enthusiasm and love of the genre make it hard to dislike.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Interview with Director
- Poster and Still Gallery