When warner Brothers decided to start their Raw Feed line of direct-to-DVD horror films, Daniel Myrick was brought in to Produce. The choice of Myrick was a no-brainer, as he (along with his partner Eduardo Sanchez), was the creative force behind the “Blair Witch” phenomenon. While the team Directed the first film, they served as Producers on the second. Admittedly, “Blair Witch 2” was not as well received as its predecessor, but it was exactly the type of film that would be successful as a direct-to-DVD release.
Myrick Produced the first two Raw Feed releases (“Rest Stop” and “Sublime”, which both received high marks on this web site), and he has moved back into the directing chair with the third film in the series, “Believers”. Truth be told, this is really Myrick’s traditional Directorial debut, as the faux documentary style of “Blair Witch” was not a typical feature. I had high expectations for this film, but unfortunately, it looks like Myrick is better wearing the hat of a Producer than that of a Director.
For the first time in the Raw Feed series, I found myself getting bored by the halfway point, and losing all interest by the time the credits rolled. “Believers” tells the story of two paramedics that are called out to help a patient in the countryside. When they arrive to assist the woman at the scene, they are kidnapped at gunpoint by the members of a religious cult intent on leaving this world before the end of time.
It is an interesting film concept, and it made me start to think about how few films are made about cults. It is a fascinating topic, but I can’t think of a single quality film that has explored the phenomenon. When you think about Jim Jones, the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate, it is shocking to think that there haven’t been any big budget films on the subject. Unfortunately, poor acting, a dull visual style and a bland script means that this offering was unable to rise to the occasion.
While the sets and costumes used here are about as exciting as an afternoon in solitary confinement, I was pleased to see the interesting quality of the film’s transfer. The film stock is a bit grainy, and the colors are washed out, but it just adds to the low budget feel of the picture. It is certainly not as distressed as something like “Planet Terror”, but it still gives the impression of a modern drive-in movie, which is precisely where a film of this kind should be viewed. Think of this transfer as a good kind of bad video.
However, some scenes resort back to the shaky digi-cam look, which is both overused in modern films, and pulls the viewer out of the great retro style used through the majority of the piece. I would have liked to have seen Myrick stick with the vintage distressed style that is displayed early on in the film, instead of utilizing the more modern film techniques that are peppered throughout the production.
I was a little disappointed with the audio quality on this disc. I didn’t detect anything coming from the surround speakers, which made the bland set design feel even more lifeless. It seems that an attempt was made to augment the flat audio presentation by using extra bass, but the subwoofer just comes across as boomy and overblown, instead of falling neatly in sync with the rest of the speakers. The dialog levels also seem to be mixed pretty low, which made for a constant struggle between having to turn down loud bass effects and having to turn up quiet dialog. For me, the goal of a DVD audio track should be for the viewer to be able to set the sound at a respectable level at the beginning of the film, and not touch the remote again until the end. The constant adjustments that a track like this demands, however, act as a persistent annoyance that takes the viewer out of the film experience.
At first glance, this disc looks like it is packed with extras. Upon further inspection, however, it is clear that the vast majority of the extra features on this disc are really just deleted footage. The extended “Lina Vance Show” interview, Introduction to the Facility, Hidden camera video of monologues by The Teacher, Hidden glasses camera video of lo explaining The Formula, and the Forensic crime scene aftermath are all nothing more than footage shot but not used in the final film. I was impressed with the way this footage is presented, but in the end, it’s really nothing special.
The only other extra feature here is a commentary by Daniel Myrick and Writer Julia Fair. As commentaries go, this one is pretty middle-of-the-road. I have certainly heard many tracks that are much worse than this one, but there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy here either. Still, if you are someone who enjoyed this film, it is certainly worth your time.
I hate to say it, but Raw Feed has struck out on this effort. However, with two really entertaining films under their belt, they were probably due for a sub-par effort. I think Myrick is a valuable member of the Raw Feed team, and I am very excited to see that he is back in his role as Producer for the next two Raw Feed films in production, “Supermarket” and “Otis”.