BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Sep 5th, 2013 •

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Well, if the director/screenwriter/editor didn’t see Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT a number of times, than he must have picked it up on a psychic level. LAST HOUSE is all over this film, and in ways Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER wasn’t. The film has the forced, contrasty look that Wes went for in LAST HOUSE’s brutal rape/disembowelment sequence. There are two girls who get the brunt of the abuse here, as in LAST HOUSE, and the dynamics of a very twisted family of killers are explored. This time the two girls are members of the feral family, not outsiders, but as with Wes’ film, they exact revenge on their tormentors.

The Distributor, Artsploitation, is trying to find films that live up to its moniker. I’m a big believer in the combination of the two seemingly dissident concepts. When STREET TRASH (which I wrote and produced) came out in the US in ’87, Vestron/Lightning’s in-house PR genius, David Whitten, wanted to coin the sub-genre term “Art Gore” and debut it with ST. There were a number of other films coming out during that time period that would have fit the title, including EVIL DEAD 2, HELLRAISER, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and RE-ANIMATOR. So I always keep an eye out for what this relatively new company is releasing.

Two girls are raised isolated from society by a brutal drug-dealing father who abuses them relentlessly. There’s also another child, the result of the father’s raping one of his daughters, who grows up hideously deformed. At a certain point the three children, now adolescents, make a run for it, trying to survive in the deep woods.

Casting is good. Both girls are seen in three incarnations, the final being young adulthood, and both Siboney Lo (who has the most to do) and Carolina Escobar are firmly imbedded in their seedy, amoral characterizations. Daniel Antivilo as their abhorrent father, is quite convincing. Francois Soto as crime boss Uncle Costello is a little less satisfying, but adequate, and rises to the demands of his role in the final act.

The screenplay is the best thing about the film as a work of perverse art. While there are a few gargantuan lapses in inner logic, for the most part screenwriters Valladares and Andrea Cavaletto admirably avoided falling into the clichés of this kind of flick. I never knew where things were heading, and that kept the material, as well as the film’s power, constantly fresh.

Cinematography: at times the shaky-cam stuff, and the ensuing editing, covers for effects they either couldn’t afford, or which didn’t come off well. Some of that’s noticeable, but for the most part, the grungy look, and the hand-held beating we take, are appalling and effective.

The score: creative, to be sure, but only sporadically powerful. The brief excerpt we hear over the DVD menu was encouraging, but I never heard quite that orchestration again during the film. Maybe it was buried in the mix. Otherwise counterpoint is striven for at times, which is admirable, but the idea exceeds the execution.

The DVD box contains an informative and enjoyable booklet/essay by Travis Crawford, who points out how well the film was received at Fantasia in Canada, only to be bashed to bits when it played a festival in England. To this I say, have we forgotten what the Brits did to Michael Powell when he made PEEPING TOM? Effectively ruined the career of one of their greatest filmmakers. I rest my case.

LAST HOUSE probably still holds up in terms of its visceral effect on audiences. But HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is definitely a bit more up-to-date, and pushes the limits further. It’s crueler, involves more sexual explicitness, has no comic relief, and mixes cannibalism into the stew, though that is one of the narrative elements that comes out of nowhere. I was on the fence for the first half of the film, but very much liked and responded to the second half. This was done in Chile, and IMDB suggests that an American version is already in the works. Needless to say, it’s not for everyone. But it is artsploitation.

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