Monday, September 12, 2011

Savage Harvest (1994)

I want to revisit my reviews of "The Severed Head Network" and 1994's vampire splatter-flick "Darkness." First "Darkness", because in that review, I mentioned how in the 90's there wasn't any demand for the likes of Italian gore movies and other exploitation films, so some ended up trying to fill that gap with movies that they shot on home video that tried to emulate the likes of "Burial Ground" and "Zombi 2." I mention "The Severed Heads Network" because while I haven't enjoyed the movies of Wicked Pixel, I do appreciate that in the world of underground horror, they at least seem to be trying something different.

So, why did I invoke those two? Because "Savage Harvest" was the first movie from Wicked Pixel main man Eric Stanze, and to be honest, isn't all that original.

The premise is pretty simple: Mikki (Lisa Morrison) has been given the task of being the counselor of a summer camp, and decides to hang out with friends so they can clean up her pal Karen's (Ramona Midgett-*snicker*) Uncles cabin. Well, Mikki's old boyfriend (David Berliner) comes in with some old rocks and an old tale about an Native American curse and demons. Well, it turns out to be true. If you've seen "The Evil Dead", "Night of the Demons" or "Demons", you know what happens next.

As you can see, "Savage Harvest" isn't that original, as it's pretty much a no-budget, shot on camcorder riff on the above mentioned movies. Thankfully, Stanze actually shows some talent behind the camera, with some neat camera angles and tricks on display. Also, for a movie made for nothing, the gore looks fantastic, with a few inventive moments (tongue with a poisonous stinger on the tip) to keep momentary interest. Plus, I gotta hand it to him for taking the mythology (no matter how dumb it feels sometimes) within the movie seriously. Most micro-budget debuts offer gore and no structure, but at least Stanze is clearly putting a lot of effort into this.

Sadly, this still isn't a good movie. Why? Well for starters, none of these characters are particularly interesting. You have to wait until after the (actually creepy) opening until anything gory happens. For a while, it's just amateur level acting and dialogue that's hard to decipher at times due to sound and budgetary reasons. I try not to complain about that sort of thing in these kinds of horror movies, but the attempts at characterization presented are awkward, and reek of a first time director not fully realizing how to hone his craft yet. Then there's the music. The score at times is kinda neat, but other times it's really, really annoying-especially during the attack scenes. Then there's the awful songs from a band called Hotel Faux Pas, which is just really dull sounding garage rock that has no personality.

I'm going to bring up "Darkness" again, because like that film, this feels more like a rough-draft or demo for a movie. Still, while I don't like it, the direction does show some potential, and I gotta give the director credit for sticking with his guns and making a movie for nothing. A sequel came out eleven years later, and to be honest, I'm kinda interested in it.

Rating: 5/10

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