I was excited to see this after first hearing about it: a melding of a traditional road trip with friends gone wrong horror romp with a western tinge. My interest was further piqued by a genuine and well pointed article written by the director about internet piracy over at Horror-Movies.ca. So in an effort to show support, I bought the film. Unfortunately, the film is a bit of a mess, great conceptually but falls short execution wise.
The story goes like this (stop me if you've heard this one before): a group of five teenagers, fresh off of graduating high school, embark on a road trip to god knows where (literally nowhere, as its not really clear other than that they are meeting up with another friend). After a series of stops along the way, one in which an old man makes a 'You's be careful now' pronouncement, they come across their friends abandoned car along the side of the road.
Driving on a little further, they come to a stop after their tire blows out near what looks to be an old western town that's off the beaten path. The kids go back and forth about what they should do, neither one of them agreeing on a rational course of action (no matter how creepy the deserted town looks). So they decide to hang out and explore the town and do what it is that douchey teens do: goof around and mess shit up.
It's not long before the inhabitants of our abandoned(?) little town show up: a goofy old man dressed as a clown who tries to entertain the kids with magic tricks and by being woefully unfunny, a parapalegic son who tries to get the kids to get the heck out of dodge, a harlot-y dressed mother who tries to make the kids believe that they will be taken care of, and the sheriff of gun town himself. A pale face masked man who doesn't speak. The kids play along with the fun and games but things take a turn for the worse when the sheriff challenges one of the boys to a draw and guns him down. The kids scatter and fend for their lives, each one fending off the deathly advances of the masked sheriff and his wacked out family.
Sounds great right? The problem with the film is that there is no real tension or build ups to the kills and very minimal blood and gore. The film is beautifully shot albeit a little weak on the editing side (multiple scene transitions were choppy). The acting, as to be expected from this, was OK and over the top which I don't have a problem with that as I love a good cheeseball flick. The coherency of the story is what ultimately killed it for me. As the kids are heading out and come across the abandoned car of their friend, they move on and come across a guy who's car has broken down on the side of the road. They don't help him out and he shows up later in the film as the father of the girl who's gone looking for his daughter. Not only does A) he have no idea that these are the girl's friends but B) at no point does he ask 'Hey, have you seen a young teenage girl about yay tall?'
As mentioned, conceptually its great. The back story to the family was pretty interesting: they bought the land about 20 years or so prior with the dream of making a real-life western town where tourists could re-live life in the old west, but tragedy struck when the sheriff's son was accidentally struck by a stray bullet and it sent him batshit crazy, to the point where he had to be committed. The wacked out family is back to fulfill their dream to any sucker who may happen along.
Not a completely bad film for first time director Lee Vervoort and I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. I just would have liked a little more terror and mayhem with what was quite honestly, an interesting cast of characters. Especially the sheriff, he actually had the makings of being an iconic character in the realm of western themed horror (or any horror film for that matter). And also, overall, I think the western horror genre is an underserved one. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I really thought this was going to deliver.
Ed. note: The director wrote me to clear up a plot point. When the kids first come across the father, he believes that the girl was returning home after getting lost on the way out to meeting up with them. He doesn't know she is 'officially' missing until he meets up again with our gang later on in the picture. A little confusing there. Thanks Lee for clearing that up.
Cortez the Killer