Day 2 of THS most certainly didn't disappoint, with some great films and a few truly terrifying shorts. Let's get right to it, with my (Sickle's) reviews of Day 2.
Kill Command follows a group of marines and a mysterious cybernetic/human corporate agent as they perform a training session on a remote island, only for it to go awry as the training robots begin to fire with lethal intent.
This film reminded me of a scifi short one would see in great supply on Vimeo. The film's style, both in plot and design, reminds me of a group of recent college graduates testing their film and design skills on a scifi concept. I don't want to say that this film's characteristics as a short by any means devalue the quality. I could spend all day watching scifi shorts on Vimeo, to be honest. But I will say this film lacked the directing chops and cohesive writing to survive a theatrical film runtime.
I managed to enjoy the film for the most part, especially considering the killer robot action had some very impressive moments, but the director seemed to struggle to carry a script that left too many motivations and plot points up in the air. The pacing suffered, with lulls in scenes that would have been absent on a shorter runtime.
But still, my standard of holding it to short film parameters feels unfair to an extent, especially when I consider the film to be quite impressive for the budget. It utilized fantastic visuals and a decent crew of actors to drive an intriguing story. In the end, I was glad that I jumped into this film.
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 4/10
Film Quality: 4/10
A Dark Song
This slow-burning film follows a woman and occultist who attempt a ritual in order to have one desire for each fulfilled. As they perform the ritual, their characters come into view for each other and the audience.
A Dark Song is a relatively quiet film for horror standards. It has a purposefully slow pace with the fear factor based more on atmosphere rather than direct scares or extensive violence. Unlike Here Alone, which felt like a drama with horror elements, A Dark Song is more like a horror film with drama elements. The heavy dose of character-driven plot points drives the film amidst its heavy occult horror aesthetic.
Because this is very much a morbid character piece, the acting and writing must be in the upper echelon. In this case, the film succeeds. Our two leads bounce off each other well, blending in moments of conflict and conference. Their ability to feed off of each other emotionally helps keep the film established in the world created.
The horror itself is minimal, as it pertains to perceptive scares. The film eventually escalates in this category entering the climax, but very little could be considered a pay-off if you're looking for intense occult-provoking consequences. This movie simply isn't that type of horror.
The discussion of morality that is paramount in the film proves to be the vehicle for the film's intrigue. I was enthralled with the amoral behaviors of the two leads as they attempted to reach goals that may or may not be righteous. The whole concept has rarely been explored with this level of complexity.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 4/10
Film Quality: 7/10
Based on the short film of the same name, Terrifier follows a murderous clown by the name of Art who playfully and sadistically kills his victims in increasingly creative and malevolent ways. The film was designed as a form of self-aware grindhouse with a heavy influence on late 70's/early 80's slasher films.
Terrifier impressed in nearly every area in which it attempted to deliver. The gore factor, scares, and dark humor were all top-notch and left this film as a highlight of entertainment at THS. The grindhouse style approach works wonders for the feel of the film and helps establish an atmosphere absent in modern day slashers.
The horror icon designed in this film was as original and worthy of applause as the Miller from The Windmill detailed in my previous post. Actor David Howard Thornton makes the character his own unique, terrifying icon of horror. His performance reminded me of a sadistic Jim Carrey if he ever decided to play the part of a psychotic serial killer. On top of the performance, the serial killer's approach retains originality amidst its homage to other slasher films. Art doesn't limit himself to one particular weapon or type of weapon, like most horror icons. **SPOILERS** In fact, his use of firearms is a clear and effective outlier that really makes a difference. **SPOILERS END**
I have trouble fleshing out heavy complaints on the film. It certainly isn't for the squeamish and it provides little to no quality depth to character. But that isn't what this film is, and that isn't what viewers should expect from it. The film is a fantastic slasher piece, and deserves kudos on that fact alone.
Horror Qualifier: 10/10
Horror Quality: 8/10
Film Quality: 7/10