Tornadoes, storms, and planetary collisions ala the end of the world seem to be all the rage these days. While bigger, more arty and high-falutin' films like Take Shelter and Melancholia throw the weather our way via psychological chills, the yet-to-be released indie Nailbiter gives us monsters, and lots of them.
The story follows a family of females (mom and her three teen daughters, played by Erin McGrane and Meg Saricks, Emily Boresow, and Sally Spurgeon) who get waylaid by a storm on their way to the airport. Car disabled in a wind-induced crash, the ladies leave the isolated roadside head to the nearest home. Instead of finding asylum, they wind up at the mercy of a family that belongs in an asylum for the criminally insane.
Sort of a cross between The Hills Have Eyes and Twister, director Patrick Rea (first time feature helmer, longtime short vet) does an admirable — if somewhat too leisurely — job of making sure the monsters do their dirty work. The title of the film indicates pacing, as well as the literal fact the creatures have nail-like teeth and aren't afraid to chomp little girls up with them. Considering the low budget, the visuals in the form of CGI (by BranitFX) and cinematography (Hanuman Brown-Eagle) are impressive. Look for Nailbiter at film festivals in 2012.
If you want something scary you can watch right now, look no further than your favorite DVD or download outlet for Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (comedy) and Physic Experiment (supernatural thriller).
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is definitely my pick of the week (and will almost certainly make the top 10 of the year, as the list is compiled). I was lucky enough to catch an early screening before this year's San Diego Comic-Con, where I interviewed the director and cast. Starring Tyler Labine (who I absolutely loved in the tv series Reaper, and also Invasion) and Alan Tudyk (Serenity, I Robot — not comedic roles, but he's quite droll in person) as two woods-dwelling hillbillies mistaken for scythe-swinging psychopaths by a group of camping college kids, this gleefully gruesome and oh-so-wrong black comedy of errors is just what the country doctor ordered when it comes to the anemic horror-comedy genre. [Read our feature review here, then check out our interviews here]
Extras on the DVD are plentiful. There's a really funny commentary with director Eli Craig and actors Labine and Tudyk — all have great senses of humor, and good recall for events and anecdotes. Mostly, the talk has to do with smells (the pickled eggs poor Labine had to eat, take after take — these are also prominently featured in the gag reel — and the flatulent dog who rode in the small pickup cab with them), but there's plenty on the inspiration and back-story, too (Craig explains how broad 70s comedies Three's Company and The Jerk were particular reference points).
In addition to the feature-length commentary and outtakes, there's also an EPK style behind the scenes featurette boasting interviews with the entire cast and some of the other filmmakers. There's a cute recut of the film, showing things only from the college kids' perspective called "Tucker & Dale *ARE* Evil", plus the usual trailers and TV spots and such.
Also on DVD is Psychic Experiment, and all I can say as a lead is… the filmmakers or actors sure must have had a lot of ringers doing user reviews on IMDb! It's hardly a 10 star movie and it looks nothing like "Dante Alligheri-meets-Salvador Dali on a crack bender" (in fact, this same rabid reviewer also compares director Mel House favorably to the likes of Stephen King and David Cronenberg!).
Nope, it's just a low-budget thriller starring Reggie Banister as a pedophile and sprinkled with a few little-pond genre stars (Melanie Donahoo, James LaMarr, and Shannon Lark) who are grist for the horror mills. Fortunately, the actors are good and the story is competent. It's a solid indie timewaster, packs a few punches and does its job serviceably, but don't expect a masterpiece.
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