Sunday afternoon at the Phoenix Film Festival: three films in a row. Pretty intense, especially since they were all in the IHSFF category. First of the afternoon:
Winner of the 2014 Best Horror Feature award
Marshall Caswell as Bobby
Erin Hammond as Alison
Nick Sommer as Kyle
Max Williamson as Danny
Written and directed by Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer
Fifteen years ago, a horrifying triple murder occurred at a baseball field: two little-leaguers and their coach were murdered. The young boy responsible was committed to an institution. Fast forward, and we see the remaining team members being picked off, one by one, by a vengeful character in a catcher’s uniform, complete with a nasty nailed bat. A small group of former teammates gather in the woods one weekend to remember their fallen friends, and that’s when things start to get nasty.
I was first drawn to this film by the flyer given to me by a friend. With my sports background and love of baseball, it was a given that I’d enjoy this. Then you throw in the horror/slasher aspect and it gets even better.
What did I like about it?
• The clichés that work so well for this genre: a group of people goes into the woods overnight, there is alcohol (and I couple of illicit substances) involved, and since there’s only one woman in the group, someone is going to (try to) have sex with her. So cheesy, but think about it: even the most recent big-budget films have these characteristics—Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead, etc. They’ve all got them, and we expect them, but they work. So we don’t worry.
• The actually “billy club”. Not, in fact, a true billy club, but there’s some word play at work: the kid who was locked up for murdering his teammates and coach was named Billy. I’m really glad that, in terms or realism (as much as there is in a horror/slasher film, anyway), there were no nails in the club that pointed in EVERY direction. We got to see the killer make the nail bat, and he pounded them in from one side. It was neat. And scary.
• The baseball field in the pond. As the killer makes his way through the surviving members of the little league team, he puts the bodies in a pond and props them up so their gloves are in the air. Then he stands on the edge of the water and hits balls into the field. Very interesting little psychological twist: no matter how high their gloves are, they can’t catch him.
• The back story, told in a series of flashbacks, mostly from the perspective of the four main non-killer characters. The audience has to have a little bit of sympathy for the antagonist, otherwise the story doesn’t work. It’s actually pretty awful, so the level of sympathy is pretty high.
I had to ask the obvious question (to me it was obvious) during the filmmaker Q&A session after the movie was done (both writer/directors were on hand, so that was awesome): “which of you had the traumatic little league experience that inspired the film?” Luckily, neither of them had; that would have REALLY sucked. I don’t think I’d have made a movie about it if I’d been through it, you know?
Scream Meter: 7/10 I jumped. And laughed. It scared me. I knew what was coming for the most part, but it was still very intense. And who doesn’t get freaked out in the woods in the dark?
Man Meter: 9/10 Baseball, hallucinogenic substances and murder in the woods. He’ll TOTALLY go for it. Since it’s an indie film, it’s on limited release, so it’s highly unlikely that he’s seen it.
Overall Rating: 7/10 Some pandering, obvious sequences, and a bit of cheesy dialogue, but it was a good film and a unique story. Any longer than the 94-minute running time and I may have lost interest. Two relatively enthusiastic thumbs up.
I have to add this line because the final word count of this post was 666 words. Appreciate the irony and thank me for not cursing your weekend. You’re welcome.