Halloween night I hung out with my brother, sister-in-law and one of their friends and watched horror movies. They were...okay? They weren't particularly scary, but they held my attention, I was curious to see their endings, and each had at some memorable scenes and intriguing character dynamics...for zero-budget, director debut films, that's a lot more than I expected.The Town That Dreaded Sundown:
A semi-sequel to a 1976 slasher film of the same name--according to my brother, the '76 movie inspired the Halloween series. The premise: some guy with issues tries to recreate ~~the horror~~ of the original movie and the true serial murder case it was based on, picks a really unfortunate
teenage girl to be his 'messenger,' and the girl tries to piece together clues from both the old and the current case to solve the mystery because of course the police force is useless and all the officers just sit around in the office, spouting exposition while saying things that literally just happened could not have happened, everything's crazy!
So it was a pretty standard slasher. Visually it was rather modern, with oversaturated colors, tilted camera angles, and lots of odd screen pans and transitions that were probably meant to surprise and scare viewers, but mostly came off as confusing. Brother's friend said it looked like an ameteur photographer's Instagram, which was not an inaccurate description. The over saturation effect got pretty annoying--I think maybe it was supposed to highlight the buckets o' blood onscreen but it tended to make scenes more comical than not. But maybe that
was the point?
The killer's true identity was kind of...( spoilers )
Plot aside, there were some really "ugh that's AWFUL" cringe moments during a few of the murders, which is better than the numbness that generally sets in during slasher films. Some of the trying-too-hard cinematography ends up being genuinely striking. The main character's narration isn't terrible?
I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but it's certainly not the worst slasher film I've seen. It's basically average, slightly above that if oversaturated colors and tilted wide angle shots are your aesthetic.Mulberry Street:
This is essentially a zombie/infection apocalypse film but instead of zombies people turn into poorly designed rat creatures. To disguise this quality, the rat creatures are shot in low green light and shaky 'documentary' camerawork is overused. The overall effect, once again, is that of confusion rather than creepiness. But at least no one was giggling at the rat creatures, which probably counts for something. Also the rat angle allows for some infection-as-social-commentary lines, but that's something expected in the genre so....whatever.
The movie spends a lot of time establishing the ensemble cast, and while the characters are stock horror movie types (washed-up boxer dad; sassy drag queen; tough soldier daughter; single immigrant mom with miserable teenage son; cranky, disabled vet and the cranky son who takes care of him...) they have believable dialog and the actors really inhabit their roles, and as a result they feel like actual people. So once the inevitable siege of rat creatures begins, you feel some sympathy for the characters and want them to survive.
The relationship between the washed-up boxer dad and the sassy drag queen is particularly well-done. They're roommates, and it's established early on that they don't have a sexual relationship, but it's also clear they have an intense, close relationship and the final scene between the two of them comes across as romantic, and intentionally so.
Recommended if you like infection/apocalypse horror films, silly-looking rat creatures, and/or well-developed characters and relationships. Not recommended if shaky-cam and dark green 'night-vision' lighting makes you nauseous (or frustrated) or you're sick of infection apocalypse movies.