Archive for August 2, 2016

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In case it’s not already obvious, I’ve been on a semi-massive “found footage” horror kick lately, and while I suffered through a lot of sub-standard crap last week, the weekend brought with it a welcome spate of much-worthier efforts (all of which — including the one under review here — were found on Hulu), and perhaps none have been better (so far,at any rate) than Delivery : The Beast Within, a low-budget indie effort lensed in 2013 in, I believe, the Los Angeles area by director Brian Netto, who also co-wrote the script along with Adam Schindler. The flick got a little bit of play on the horror film fest circuit, but it’s obvious this was intended as straight-to-video fare from the outset, and as such is duly available on DVD (though not, interestingly, Blu-ray), as well as any number of major streaming services (with the notable exception of Netflix).

The set-up for this one is refreshingly different, with the first chunk of the film taking the form of an aborted — sorry, bad pun — episode of a “reality” TV show focused on the trials and tribulations of expectant parents Rachel Massy (played by Laurel Vail) and her husband, Kyle (Danny Barclay). This helps to head off at the pass assumptions (shared by yours truly going in) that what we have here is little more than a Devil’s Due knock-off (even if it kinda is), and as events play out we discover in pretty short order why this particular program never saw broadcast. Simply put — as if you hadn’t guessed as much already — Rachel is acting stranger and stranger as her pregnancy progresses, and there’s plenty of weird shit happening around her, as well. Still, all is not lost, as the show’s producer, Rick (Rob Cubizo) is apparently so moved by the couple’s plight that he returns to their home, ostensibly with an eye toward “helping” them through this difficult time. Uh-huh —

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The horrors in this one are predominantly of the psychological variety, but what the production lacks in balls-out effects and viscera it more than makes up for in tense and unnerving foreboding. You’re not surprised in any way when things get worse, of course, but the manner in which they’re successively laid out is highly effective, and if you can put aside one glaring plot inconsistency (sorry, but the idea that a mother-to-be enduing a “high-risk” pregnancy would choose to have her baby at home with a midwife rather than at an actual hospital seems in no way realistic, especially since given the fact that her complications are both mental and physical) and go with the flow, you’re likely to find this an enjoyably bumpy ride from start to finish.

Of course, demonic possession — or the distinct possibility thereof — looms large over the proceedings here. and there are some religious overtones of a different sort sprinkled in due to Rachel’s Catholicism and Kyle’s lack thereof, but it never gets heavy-handed or annoying, and a semi-deeper understanding of the characters like this really helps to ratchet up the tension when their inevitable relationship strains emerge more fully — if understandably — right in the middle of everything else. If a clusterfuck of bad stuff crashing down on a couple of nice folks is your idea of a good time, then you’ll find a lot to like here.

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When it comes to the ever-crucial finale, Netto has a searing and brutal one in store for his viewers here, as elements that were telegraphed earlier converge with any number that — hallelujah! — weren’t, and the film’s strong production values and above-average acting , put to good service throughout, really come up trumps in terms of delivering (sorry) a concluding act that could easily “go the other way” in less-capable hands, but borderlines on knock-your-socks effectiveness here. Well done all around, folks.

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So, yeah, this is one you’ll want to check out ASAP if you haven’t already. If you’ve lost all confidence in “found footage,” as many have, Delivery : The Beast Within will likely convince you that this old dog can still hunt after all.

 

 

 

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When you really sit down (or, heck, stand up) and think about it, no two horror subgenres are a more natural match for “cross-breeding” purposes than Sasquatch stories and “found footage” flicks. The 1970s were absolutely rife with low-budget “In Search Of Bigfoot”-type documentaries, so it’s something of a wonder that once the “shaky – cam” craze took hold in earnest in the wake of the enormous critical and commercial success of The Blair Witch Project that it took several years before intrepid (and, perhaps crucially, broke) indie filmmakers chose to chronicle the exploits of “mockumentary” crews out for a weekend of ‘squatching. As a matter of fact, I foolishly believed that Bobcat Goldthwait’s admittedly-quite-good Willow Creek was the first of its ilk, but I’ve recently discovered that my assumption was — contain your surprise, please! — wrong and that he was beaten to the punch a year earlier by director Corey Grant’s low-budget 2012 offering Bigfoot : The Lost Coast Tapes (or simply The Lost Coast Tapes, as it was originally known during its brief run on the horror film festival circuit).

The plot for this one revolves around disgraced “reality” TV host Sean Reynolds (played by Drew Rausch), a guy who was pretty big shit a few years back but whose career was derailed when a purportedly “paranormal” lead he was following up on proved to be not just a dead end, but a hoax. In short, he was “punk’d,” and now he’s looking for a big comeback. He thinks he may have found one — or not — when northern California resident/outdoorsman Carl Drybeck (Frank Ashmore) tells him that he’s in possession of a real-life Bigfoot corpse, and that for a mere $75,000 the “exclusive” of a lifetime can be all his. Who could say no to that, right?

Sufficiently intrigued — and prepared to air a very public “debunking” of Drybeck if he turns out to be full of crap — Sean duly heads north, cash in tow, with his LA-based crew consisting of producer Robyn (Ashley Wood), cameraman Darryl (Rich McDonald), and sound technician Kevin (Noah Weisberg), hoping to snag a story that will re-establish his credibility whether it’s true or false. And, needless to say, Grant and screenwriters Brian Kelsey and Bryan O’Cain are determined to keep us guessing every step of the way.

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Most of the acting, believe it or not, is pretty good in this one, with Ashmore in particular standing out as a semi-stereotypical “mountain man” type who can spin an enthralling yarn with the best of ’em but seems downright cagey when it comes time to follow through on his big promise. Events move at what I can only assume to be a deliberately slow pace for most of the film, but taking his time with the build-up works in Grant’s favor as he actually manages to establish a full ensemble of reasonably-fleshed-out characters — and as they delve deeper and deeper into a mystery they don’t understand, we’re right there with ’em in the “confused but ultimately intrigued” department. The director makes some questionable choices as far as his camerawork goes, it has to be said, but that’s not too terribly debilitating a flaw given the “rough-cut” trope he’s exploiting, which relies on feigned — or even actual — unprofessionalism in order to sell audiences on the “truth” of what they’re seeing. All in all, then, this is a quality production that everyone involved with can and should be proud of.

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Unfortunately, it also succumbs to the customary “third-act stumbles” that so many flicks of this nature do, and while the ending itself redeems some of what immediately preceded it to a degree, those who don’t care much for ambiguity would do well to take note that it leaves you with many more questions than it does answers. If you don’t mind being forced to think for yourself and come up with your own conclusions, though, you’ll probably like the open-ended manner in which things are left every bit as much as I did, which is to say quite a lot indeed. Certainly the possibility of a sequel exists — although one has yet to materialize — and if it happens, I’d be more than game to check it out.

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Bigfoot : The Lost Coast Tapes is available for streaming on Hulu right now for free and at Amazon for $4.99, and is also available on Blu-ray and DVD from XLerator Media. I’m not sure that it’s quite strong enough to recommend purchasing it in either of its physical-storage iterations — and I didn’t, so I can’t comment on their particulars — but it’s most definitely worth a look at least once, and truth be told if it sticks around on Hulu for awhile I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I gave it another go sometime down the road.