In this ongoing SHOCK column, journo Trevor Parker sifts through discount stores for the cheapest and coolest DVD’s and Blu’s he can find and lives to tell the tale.

It’s an old trick often perpetrated by low-end DVD releasing companies, that of slapping a “horror” label on a set filled with whatever unrelated claptrap that might have previously been mouldering away in their vaults. Case in point would be the HORROR TRIPLE FEATURE from Screen Media Films, most of whose contents having little to do with the genre. Before TRIPLE’s shrink wrap is even breached, the warnings of carelessness are there: from bleary, generic cover art to the careless homonym flubs found in the back-cover blurbs (For the record, ‘grisly’ means gory. ‘Grizzly’ means bear.)

First off is NATURE’S GRAVE (2008), a remake of 1978’s cult Australian eco-horror flick LONG WEEKEND. GRAVE is directed by Jamie (URBAN LEGEND) Blanks, and has a bickering married couple (Jim Caviezel and Claudia Carvan) fleeing the city for a conciliatory camping holiday. Once they arrive at their isolated coastal destination (and tick some horror cliché boxes on the way, like encountering ominously standoffish locals and loudly declaring the area’s lack of cell phone coverage) the couple’s relationship begins to further deteriorate as the wilderness around them becomes both a threatening and suffocating presence. Despite the slasher-type buildup and timely theme of a reactive retribution from our natural environment, GRAVE is much more a grim relationship drama than a horror movie—unless domestic strife and bitter verbal sniping fulfills one’s idea of terror. Other than one bloody moment at GRAVE’s climax, there’s not much to quake over, other than some soggy corpses (human and manatee) and a flapping, fluttering eagle attack. Even the oppression posed by the rugged Aussie landscape, shot by Blanks to act like some stifling and impenetrable straitjacket, will be a matter of the viewer’s opinion—the lush jungle and unspoiled beachfront on hand look like a slice of absolute paradise to your columnist. Caviezel, best known from his turn in noted gore extravaganza THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, is a bright spot; his cavalier character revels in moments of monumental dickishness, whether berating his wife or disrespecting nature by littering and ploughing into hapless wildlife trying to cross the highway.

Next is GONE DARK (2003) by director Lewin Webb. The rationale for including this film in the TRIPLE pack, a routine and forgettable drugs-and-detectives “thriller”, is in no way apparent. DARK has elderly May (the legendary Lauren Bacall) as neighbor to an undercover agent, and she is accidently given an envelope containing evidence incriminating a local mob figure (Pete Postlethwaite). A second undercover agent (Claire Forlani), wrestling the throes of heroin addiction, must convince May to give the envelope back. DARK is a flat and dreary slog, with a stale deep cover plot poorly communicated through long scenes of apartment-bound yakking and confounding flashbacks-within-flashbacks. Sadly, the DARK cast is far better than the material provided—the eternally glamorous Bacall is stuck playing a cross old biddy, while Forlani, at one time earmarked as Hollywood’s next big ingénue through her role alongside Brad Pitt in Martin Brest’s doomed MEET JOE BLACK, overdoes her addict role with an excess of twitches and a croaky voice. DARK’s single point of amusement is in spotting where the filmmakers were either too pressed or too lazy to conceal their cheapo Canadian shooting locations, such as the gang’s speakeasy hideout sporting a huge photo portrait of Queen Elizabeth on its panelled wall. The DARK disc does boast a special feature—an electronic press kit with interview clips and raw on-set b-roll footage that nobody bothered to edit into an actual featurette.

Finally, there’s the novel treat of discovering an actual horror movie within this TRIPLE pack: James Merendino’s EVIL REMAINS, a.k.a. TRESPASSING (2004). EVIL’s premise is your standard issue, factory-settings slasher fluff: a graduate student (Daniel Gillies of THE ORIGINALS) and his annoying schoolmates investigate a dark, decaying plantation house as part of a study into local folklore. The house was the site of horrific murders some years back, and now the killer appears to have returned in order to fulfill a voodoo curse that was supposedly laid upon the property. EVIL has its moments of eerie efficiency, and the villain is conceptually strong with his dog-skull mask, gardening shears a la Cropsey from THE BURNING, and a fondness for spring-loaded leg traps. Those eerie moments do go to waste, as EVIL is lots of thunder and very little lightning; any tension sunk by tedious sequences of characters walking, joking, or arguing. Further waste is in this bland EVIL having such an excellent cast—besides Gillies, brief appearances are made by character actor Kurtwood Smith of ROBOCOP and THAT 70’s SHOW, and former Bond GIRL Maryam D’Abo, who is probably best known to SHOCK readers for her turn in 1982’s lovably bizarre ALIEN riff XTRO. The cast also includes pillow-lipped model Estella Warren, who like Forlani was once erroneously tipped for stardom through a role in a big-budget remake, hers being Tim Burton’s limp version of PLANET OF THE APES. Also of note is the film’s hilariously and shamelessly slow end credits crawl to pad out the running time.

EVIL is a horror movie by definition, but it’s not enough to rescue the deceitful HORROR TRIPLE PACK. Avoid this set at any price.


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