As you will read no doubt on all my reviews of recent films in the series, the ‘After Dark’ label is renowned for offering solid, traditional horror; and by that I mean that if you are looking for innovation, you won’t find it here. That said; whilst the movies offered this year tread familiar ground, I sometimes feel knowing what you’re going to get has just as many arguments for than against. Ironically, so does the movie ‘HUSK’, an enjoyable supernatural slasher, which, for every fresh idea it presented seemed to open up another plot continuity or bad horror cliché; a movie which critically comes across a lot worse off than the overall viewing experience actually proved to be!
Bear this in mind when reading this.
Horror scenarios seem to continuously revisit similar territories; the spooky odd ball house on a hill or by a cemetery, the camps by the lakes, the run down eastern European/S. American hostels with an on call doctor, and let us not forget the perpetual cornfield – which, in daylight becomes the field of dreams – but at night becomes the killing grounds to all manner of horrific murderous creatures. Well perhaps not creatures but creature; the scarecrow. I won’t bore you with the history of the pagan believe of the scarecrow effigy, but needless to say they are pretty ominous to say the least! and prove to be quite the adversary in HUSK.
Rather predictably ‘HUSK’ begins as a group of 5 teens, stranded after a car crash, are forced to take refuge in a remote house which is surrounded on all sides on by a corn field. After one of their number goes missing a sequence of bizarre circumstances follow in which their friend reappears and takes it upon himself to hammer nails through his fingers and try-out sewing as a new hobby. This scene was actually quite a creepy experience to watch despite my jovial writing. From here on in the shit hits the fan, murders happen and it becomes apparent that escaping is not likely to be an easy task.
The plot is predicable, however the supernatural twist (which I will not divulge), gives that little extra to the mix, and I would go so far as to say makes this particular corn-field massacre stand apart from others you might have seen. Sadly however, as I already hinted at, for every positive, this movie delivers some pretty weighty negatives. In this case, despite the innovation of the plot, the characters are as bland and as cliché they could possibly be. With an 80 minute run time there was going to be little time for in depth character development but seriously these characters are as hollow as the title of the movie suggests! Their ridiculous actions only added to my frustration, and in all honesty, never mind the corn field, I’m amazed that with their problem solving ability I’m amazed they managed to survive this long in society!
This aside, pretty much everything else about ‘HUSK’ was a success. The locations were naturally creepy, the scarecrows suitably creepy and the deaths nice and brutal. There was come commendable pacing of shots, pitching the suspense scenes just right – a confidence which was rewarded with some genuine jumps and chills. The gore too, although limited, was nicely graphic – nails through the hands was a lovely touch, if you will forgive the pun! The ending too was a fantastically sadistic piece which really left the movie on a high.
Overall then, critically, it’s certainly more middle of the road than anything else, its by-the-numbers dumb teen characters limiting its score to sub 4 stars. However, credit where it’s due, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and would recommend it for any beer/popcorn evening which I suspect was film-maker Brett Simmons was hoping to achieve.