DVD Movie Review Roundup: Super Hybrid, Grave Encounters, Medium Raw: Hour of the Wolf, & The Last Circus

DVD Movie Review Roundup: Super Hybrid, Grave Encounters, Medium Raw: Hour of the Wolf, & The Last Circus
Updated: 09-01-2011


Here's a quick look at some of the horror movies I've had a quick look at lately...
We've got Duel. We've got The Car. We've got Christine. We've got Maximum Overdrive. We've even got Dolan's Cadillac. And now… we've got Super Hybrid.
Director Eric Valette impressed me years ago with Malefique, then disappointed me with his remake of One Missed Call… and now, he's left me running cold with Super Hybrid. Which is not to say the concept isn't rather enticing — the killer car in question is an alien cross between a Lovecraftian creature, a Transformer, and a scrap-yard beater that'll run on baling wire, spit and a promise.
Speaking of promise, that's exactly what's delivered in the opening sequence, which is beautifully and glossily shot in Chicago, showing a black beauty muscle vehicle stalking and killing its prey (in this case, a couple of car thieves), before getting T-boned and thrown on the heap. Cut to a lackluster "pimp my ride" style garage, and there we stay for the rest of the movie as the wicked whip wreaks havoc on mechanic Tilda (Shannon Beckner), various grease monkeys, and big bad boss Ray (Oded Fehr).
There's gore galore, plus a rather unhealthy dose of CGI, making Super Hybrid a less-than-super killer car flick.
Who doesn't love the found-footage genre? Oh, right: me. Occasionally, I find it effective, but Grave Encounters is no exception to my usual reaction to this sort of thing (i.e., a blank stare). The stilted story follows Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and the skeleton crew of Grave Encounters, a Ghost-Hunter style reality TV series. They're doing an episode from inside an abandoned psychiatric hospital, when they get locked in and eventually done in.
Terrorized by the evil spirits of dead inmates, the paranormal investigators must negotiate a series of maze-like corridors, basements, attics and the like, before they can be saved by the light of day. Of course, they aren't — but the footage is saved, and presented to us (the fake audience) by the show's reluctant and traumatized (fake) producer, in a series of going-through-the-motions force-fed freak-outs.
Medium Raw is one of those horror / mystery / drama / dark comedies that just can't seem to find a happy medium within any of the genres it tries to tackle.
The DVD packaging promises, along with the subtitle, a promising Little Red Riding Hood theme, but alas, the story contained reveals nothing of the sort. The child-killer is called The Wolf, but for reasons basically unknown (aside from his signature bite) as he roams the halls of an insane asylum where —  again, for reasons unknown — small children are playing, unattended. Very strange. Stranger still is the nonsensical nature of the characters who just seem to drop in and out of the frame to disseminate information and then disappear again until needed for more exposition.
While the plot couldn't give you change for a dollar because it makes no sense, there are a few cool-looking motifs such as The Wolf's suit of armor complete with a bear-trap jaw, the flow of blood from each of the 15 victim's gory deaths symbolized by detached dolly heads, a cannibal called Mabel, and the bright red-and-green x-mas night blackout.
What can really only be described as a baroque dark drama, The Last Circus begins with the trials and terrible tribulations of the "happy clown" and the "sad clown" as they are forced to leave the big top and become players in the militia of the Spanish Civil War. Cut to several years later, after one of the machete-wielding clown's sons has grown up and has, shall we say, a few "issues".
Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia brings us his typical visual feast (he also directed the beautifully shot and gorgeously realized The Oxford Murders, reviewed here last year), but it's not as much a horror film as one might be led to believe. The Last Circus is quite political and metaphorical, which is fine if you're in the mood for that sort of thing. However, if you're looking for another The John Wayne Gacy Story or a Captain Spaulding killing spree, keep on looking.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
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