Directed by: Ryan Nicholson
Run time: 77 minutes
The Lowdown: Writer/director/special effects makeup artist Ryan Nicholson died in October at the young age of 48, which is a terrible thing and a big loss to independent horror.
Whether you liked Nicholson’s movies or not, no one should leave life that early.
His death is especially tragic given that he didn't get to see the Blu-Ray debut of Famine, which was filmed in 2011 but only now is getting a proper high-definition release.
I first became aware of Nicholson in 2008 with the release of Gutterballs, his gory, gleeful take on the classic slasher genre, which was set inside a bowling alley. It was not a great movie, but some of the special effects were definitely above-average.
As evidenced by Famine, which is set inside a high school, Nicholson’s approach to filmmaking seemed to strongly mirror that of Troma Films whereby a smattering of ideas, low-brow humor and body function gags get thrown against a wall to see what sticks and works and what doesn’t.
The problem with trying to make a Troma movie that isn’t an actual Troma movie is that such aspirations can become pretty obvious. Famine pokes pun at foreign students, Nazis, oversexed teachers – the list goes on, but you get the point. It’s brazenly non-PC, which is fine, but shouldn’t it at least be funny? Or original?
Again, I'm probably in the minority when it comes to that particular subgenre of horror that Nicholson often stayed within. While I appreciate over-the-top kills as much as any horror fan, it's not the main reason why I watch slasher films or horror films in general. And Famine is packed with a lot of over-the-top gruesome deaths.
The thing that people likely will remember most about Nicholson’s collected oeuvre is his affinity for gore and his more-is-more approach to filming sex gags and brutal killings alike.
It’s very sad that the horror community has lost one of its own, but at least for fans, they have a handful of feature film releases to remember Nicholson by and to use in educating new inductees to horror about his distinct and singular style of filmmaking.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – I think so.
Bad Guys/Killers – Take your pick, but my money is on the Nazi-loving principal.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Detention (SGL Entertainment, 80 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Detention is one of those direct-to-DVD titles that defies logic, as in “How in the hell did this get made?”
After opening with a three-screen scroll that talks about priests and nuns in the “so-called lost decade of the ‘70s,” um, what the fuck, who raped a bunch of children with impunity, again, I say, what the fuck, viewers are told that justice was finally served some 20 years later.
This, however, is not that story.
Instead, Detention opens at a Catholic school in 1978 with some really harsh language and imagery where two lesbian students are remanded to detention where they get chastised by a priest for being deviants.
Sample dialogue: “Whores! Concubines of Satan! Whores of Satan, that’s who you are!”
Suffice to say, that was about the point where I hit eject.
Acceleration (Cinedigm, 85 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Acceleration lives up to its title, if only by launching straight into a marquee fight between Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Liddell before the title credits even roll, but don’t get too excited.
The fight is cut short by the dreaded, “8 hours earlier…,” and Acceleration pumps the brakes hard at that point.
Lundgren plays the heavy, a mobster who has pinched a tough-as-nails female assassin named Rhona (Natalie Burn, who also produces) into doing his dirty work by kidnapping her son.
Rhona has to complete five tasks in order to see her son again. When I tell you that Burn, as an actress, is incredibly wooden in her delivery, what I mean to imply is that in comparison, she makes Gina Carano look like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.
Acceleration is that kind of movie where a bunch of recognizable actors appear, as if only to answer the question, “Whatever happened to…” Case in point, Sean Patrick Flannery, who unlike his The Boondock Saints co-star Norman Reedus, never achieved a higher level of respectability. To be honest, watching Flannery is like eating comfort food. It satisfies on a base level, even if it’s not very good.
Acceleration also is that kind of movie where big-name stars like Lundgren spend most of their screen time sitting in a room watching a live feed of some action unfolding elsewhere, or they just talk and talk and talk on the phone.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline action kick, sadly Acceleration is not the movie you’re looking for.
Night Howl (Wild Eye Releasing, 75 minutes, Unrated, DVD): I’m a sucker for a good werewolf movie, especially since there really aren’t that many good werewolf movies being made any more.
Sadly, Night Howl is a werewolf movie, and definitely not a very good one.
It’s basically a really, really slow movie about a chubby kid who grew up afraid of werewolves who begins imagining that a werewolf is trapped in his house with him.
Lifeform (Wild Eye Releasing, 105 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Lifeform starts out great with some gratuitous nudity and a giant creature, and quickly falls apart from there.
Writer-director Max Dementor shoots every other scene early on with a camera technique that causes flares and light-trails, which is completely off-putting, and I quickly abandoned ship before the meat of the plot kicked in.
Silver Bullet: Collector’s Edition
Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3
Feast of the Seven Fishes
Virus of the Dead