WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
First of all, let it be stated for the record that I was given a screener copy of this movie for review, but that doesn’t mean that I have to say nice things about it. Let me also say that I’m not the biggest fan of found footage movies, purely because they can either turn out spectacularly (eg. the original Blair Witch Project) or as a horrible mess (eg. Cloverfield). Skew manages to pull off the genre quite well, mainly through blending in a number of other genres to keep the storyline going. On the whole it’s a good movie and worth a watch, but it does have a few problems. While it does deliver on the scares they are, at times, a bit few and far between and you have to sit through a lot of mundane dialogue before the next thing happens. The acting tends to come in waves, going from outstanding one minute to nightmarishly amateur the next (and there are only 3 people in the movie, so this is quite something). The main thing that actually does this movie in is not what it was so much as what it could have been: with all that was built up there was SO much more that could have been done with it. Anyways, enough of all that, let’s get on with the story!
Simon, Eva and Richard have been friends for ages and, as good friends do for other good friends, they’re getting ready to go on a little road trip to a friend’s wedding. Simon’s been having issues with his girlfriend Laura so she’s decided not to tag along (you will be reminded of this many times during the movie). Simon’s also a bit of an amateur film maker so he’s decided to record absolutely everything that happens on the road for reasons relating to a damaged childhood that you don’t really want to know about here. The trip starts out nice enough and everyone seems relatively alright with having a camera shoved in their faces for the greater part of the day, but things soon start to become a little weird for our little trio of travelling besties. First they run over a coyote (something that Eva seems to think should be reported to the highest echelons of power in the land), then the desk clerk at the motel they’re staying at is killed. To distract themselves from the terror Richard and Eva take turns filming their very private conversations that Simon mustn’t hear on Simon’s camera.
The trip becomes even stranger as we move on from coyotes to entire bus loads of people, shop owners and policemen dying wherever our little group ventures. To top that crazy, the camera also has this weird way of distorting people’s faces while recording and it has a tendency to show the viewer angry ghosts everywhere. Simon’s starting to get a little freaked out but feels mysteriously drawn to the camera and compelled to continue filming everything. Eva’s beginning to feel uncomfortable with his odd obsession and Richard, as the big strong boyfriend, won’t have someone unsettling his lady, so he starts going off on random angry outbursts that amount to nothing. The fact that they amount to nothing may have something to do with the fact that this guy can’t really pull off a facial expression other than loveable douche, but that’s beside the point.
The group must now make their to the wedding party in the face of Simon’s growing paranoia, a camera that may or may not be a portal to hell and an odd love triangle that doesn’t really go anywhere but serves to help heighten the “tension”.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Speedometers are just one of the many modern pieces of technology Jeeps come equipped with.
- Nobody appreciates how hard it is to pee and film at the same time.
- Woman’s intuition gives females the right to interfere in everyone’s business.
- Being 100% sure of something and knowing something are not the same thing.
- Roadkill should be left on the side of the road as carrion. It’s nature’s way.
- In the event of running down a coyote alcoholism can be used as a means of getting over the trauma.
- People should buy video cameras as a way of getting back at their parents for not being amazing photographers.
- Camera smashing is uncalled for and unfair.
- As an exception to the rule atheists are permitted to worship one deity / totem of their choice.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
OK people, I’m back! After a little self-imposed hiatus to recover from the year in general and too many Syfy movies in particular I decided that the time had come to go back to basics and watch a crap horror movie with a cast you kind of recognise but can’t quite place and an idea that’s been done before and just as badly. The result is Hard Ride to Hell, which in itself is misleading because the roads look like they’re in good condition, so the ride itself does not appear to be that hard, and hell is nowhere to be seen. The only hell you may experience is the hour-and-a-half you’ll lose actually watching the movie.
Tessa and Danny have been having a terrible time lately. Having recently miscarried the doctors have told Tessa her chances of having any more children are very slim. Understandably depressed the couple decide to do the only sane and rational thing to do in times like this: grab your friends, rent an RV and go camping in the badlands of Texas. Nothing will take your minds off things like being in the world’s most rundown campsite in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone reception and where the only other visitor to the campsite is a travelling cutlery salesman. Bet Oprah’s sorry she never recommended this to anyone before her show ended. Anyways night falls at some point and the group decide to get heavily drunk. Being the token black guy and the most drunk of the lot Dirk decides to go relieve himself in the woods, where he’s about to discover a terrifying secret…
And by ‘terrifying’ I really mean thoroughly confusing. In the middle of all this nothing, surrounded by some trees and more nothing, is a kind of cult. They have in their possession a number of naked females who they are asking to offer themselves willingly to the fire in return for immortality. They start off by invoking Babylonian fire goddesses (note: goddesses = plural), but this quickly changes to invoking a goddess (singular) named Babylon or, alternatively, Lady of the Fire. We are told later on, though, that pagan magic is useless to stop this cult, and what they really are are Satanists. I’m going to assume that this is, therefore, an offshoot of mainstream Satanism where Satan is now a woman and, at times, can multiply himself / herself into a number of clones. The cult is led by a very uncharismatic leader who speaks in a rather mousey and monotone voice. Dirk happens to witness what is going on and tries to record it with his phone. Missing him back at camp, Danny gives him a call, whereupon the cult sees him hiding behind a rock and gives chase.
The cult makes their way back to the camp site and proceeds to variously capture, lop off arms and eat the members of our little group. They take a particular interest in Tessa since she apparently features in some or other prophecy that says she will be the mother of the cult leader’s evil death child. She must, of course, give herself willingly to the fire and she only submits to this after her boyfriend and friends are tortured a little bit. As a side note, it turns out that submitting yourself to the fire in no way involves going anywhere near an actual fire. Thankfully for all concerned the travelling cutlery salesman turns up to try and save them and they proceed to make a daring escape in the RV with the help of a number of knives and alcoholic beverages. They must make their way to an abandoned little town where the old preacher that lives there holds the key to saving them all and stopping the hell child from being born.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Some men just aren’t strong enough to handle their pregnant wife’s cannibalistic cravings.
- When journalists can write no more about Britney Spears, they write about Habitat for Humanity.
- Miscarriage can be used to trump any other form of loss or misfortune.
- Babylonian fire goddesses can be invoked as a complicated way of falling pregnant.
- A good way to judge a person’s character is by tasting their blood.
- Every cult needs one uncharismatic leader, one intelligent goon and five or so morons to stand around a fire smirking.
- Babylonian Satanic demons can only be defeated with the help of an Aztec amulet.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
How I detest movies like these. There clearly wasn’t the budget to pull this off effectively, but somehow they managed to make it alright enough to escape being ridiculous. Everything was just a little sub par, but not enough for me to raise my eyebrows in confusion. I don’t like these movies that fall into that grey area of being neither good enough to be enjoyable nor bad enough to be funny. A movie watched is a movie watched, however, and people need to be warned that they’re in for a somewhat boring / mildly entertaining time should they decide to dedicate 95 minutes of their lives to watching this.
Some terrible things have been going on in the little town of Shady Grove, a bizarre mix of a community comprised of Americans, Latinos and British people. A decade or two back a drunken, useless father came home to find his wife in bed with another man. The wife, being a Latina and therefore distinctly cocky, rubbed it in the man’s face that her affair had been going on for ages and that the son the two of them had been raising was, in fact, her lover’s child. In a fit of rage the man kills his wife and her lover and buries them out in the woods. To ensure that the child is suitably punished for choosing the wrong father to be born to he is tied to a tree with chains and left there for many years, gradually becoming more and more animal-like. The chains also begin to fuse into his arms. One day is one day and two young people who’re freshly engaged are getting it on in the middle of nowhere when our killer crops up out of the woods and brutally murders them. The case, however, is never solved and the murderer never brought to justice…
All of this was five years ago, and the storyline must move on. Five years on and five Latino individuals are making their way to an unnamed destination for a last weekend together before growing up, with some going to college and others going to play soccer in Europe. As soon as our main female Nella takes the wheel the car, of course, breaks down and the group needs to stop over in Shady Grove. Parts need to be ordered and non-white people need to be looked at with suspicion. Our group has two options: sleep in the mechanic’s garage or hike 10 miles to the nearest seedy motel. Thankfully a third option materialises in the form of Maria, a quite Latina who kindly offers to drive these 5 complete strangers to her house and let them stay the night until the car is fixed. Once at the house burgers will be fried, sausages grilled and intense games of Guitar Hero will be played. All in all, a fun evening.
Well, it’s all fun and games with the exception of the raving lunatic stalking around the house. Shane is his name-o, and he has a machete in his hand and chains fused into his wrists that he simply isn’t afraid to use. Before he can kill anyone, however, it is incredibly important that the group first fragments itself to make his job a lot easier. One must cheat on his girlfriend with her best friend, the best friend must then go and have sex with her asshole boyfriend and then argue with him, and two others must go upstairs and initiate tentative sex out of earshot. Then, and only then, can Shane strike. The budget didn’t allow for an awful lot of gore, so most of the time is dedicated to telling the group Shane’s back story before he quickly dispatches his various victims. Maria and her assorted stranger-guests must find a way out of the house or run the risk of being hacked open and leaving their intestines all over the floor.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Europe is a country.
- You shouldn’t let a bloodied victim ruin a night of good sex.
- Creepy guys breaking into a woman’s bathroom are just trying to be good Samaritans.
- Men will exchange their girlfriends for not being brutally gutted.
- It’s perfectly natural for women to want to do a striptease in front of a man that’s been chained to a tree for years.
BUY BEWARE AT AMAZON.COM
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
There have been times in the past where I have accused directors of forgetting to have things happen in their movies. As some form of karmic retribution for that comment I was subjected to Road Train (a.k.a. Road Kill), a movie where there’s just far too much going on. We have angry couples, cheating couples, a haunted truck, madmen with guns, road trips, the Australian outback, Cerberus and what I believe to be an unintentional homoerotic subtext. With so much going on the movie never really has time to explain anything properly, and a truck really isn’t as menacing a killer as the director was probably hoping it would be. It’s an interesting idea, but one that isn’t properly developed and one that doesn’t really have the effect you can feel the movie was going for.
I’m always a bit concerned when a movie opens with a sex scene. It gives you the sense that this isn’t a very confident movie because it’s not saving the nudity for later when the plot might be taking a little dip and it needs to keep the audience’s attention. Since this isn’t Dead Boyz Don’t Scream I was also a little perplexed as to why we saw more naked man than woman, since this is very uncommon in the horror world. The sexing twosome are Nina and Craig, and a little bit off from their tent is the non-sexing couple Liz and Marcus. Craig, Liz and Marcus have been friends for donkey’s years and they go on little camping excursions into the outback every year and Nina’s just tagged along for the ride. There’s also a very strong Brokeback feeling going on between Marcus and Craig. Whether it’s meant to be there or not I’m not sure, but something’s just odd between them. Anyways, having sexed themselves out and had coffee the group heads on to find even more nothing in the great outback for them to enjoy and camp in.
Whilst driving and looking for more nothing the group spots a road train coming up the road. A road train is a really enormous truck and the kids are pretty excited because apparently being overtaken by one is the ultimate road trip high. Things take a little turn for the worse when, instead of overtaking them, the truck plows into the back of them. After trying a few evasive manoeuvres the truck eventually rams into them again, forcing their car off the road and sending it flying. The car ends up being completely wrecked and Craig has a little bit of bone sticking out of his arm, but other than that the group is left reasonably unharmed. Marcus and Liz notice that the truck has stopped just off in the distance, so they decide to go and have a little chat with the driver while Nina tries to calm Craig down about the excruciating agony he’s in.
The rest of the movie is just a mix and match of ideas that desperately try to hold onto one another. When Marcus and Liz get to the truck they find that there’s no driver to be found anywhere. When Craig and Nina join them a madman appears out of nowhere and starts shooting at them, so the four jump in the truck and drive it off. The truck then puts them all to sleep and drives them into a dead-end where it starts pitting them all against one another. Nina also discovers that the truck has no fuel, and judging by the smell of its fuel tanks it never has, so how it actually manages to drive is another story that no one gives much thought to. Cerberus also seems to be locked in one of the trailers at the very back and lures Craig in there and possesses him. Everyone’s fighting with one another, the madman at one point passes the torch onto Marcus, there’s a cult of sorts in an abandoned house, who’s been cheating on who comes out and leads to more arguments, water runs out, heads are placed under tyres and so on and so on and so forth. By the end you don’t actually care what’s happening, you’re just begging for it all to end.
Road Train was clearly made on a decent budget but its whole premise was just poorly executed. Without all the bickering and the inclusion of Cerberus (which really doesn’t make sense and is never explained) it may have worked, but this was really painful to sit through.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Women who hear other people having sex instantly want to have sex themselves.
- Being part of an enormous accident where the car flies off the road and flips will only result in mild bruising.
- Even with absolutely no experience it’s dead easy to drive an enormous truck.
- Independent women are often threatened with becoming dingo food by Australian men.
- Women think you can flag down a commercial plane and ask them for help.
- When your best friend sleeps with your girlfriend a homoerotic bromance is bound to break out.
- Women are oblivious to things like miraculous healing, a blood-stained muscular torso and Satanic possession.
ROAD TRAIN TRAILER
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