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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

OLD 37 -- DVD Review by Porfle

Two horror heavyweights join sinister forces in OLD 37 (2015), a throwback to the better 80s slasher films which, for once, has all the two-fisted punching power of the old contenders. 

Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH series, HACK!, CHILLERAMA, MUCK, B.T.K., LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS) and Bill Moseley (HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2) command our attention as Jon Roy and Darryl, very psychotic and dysfunctional brothers who have taken over their equally loony dad's hobby of showing up in an ambulance ("Old 37") at auto accidents on lonely, remote roads, and then subjecting the bloody victims to their homicidal hijinks. 

Hodder's size and intensity are, as always, great assets in his creation of yet another very imposing maniac, again wearing a mask to hide his disfigured face.  We learn the shocking details of how he got that way in one of several disturbing flashbacks which add depth to the characters and clue us in to why this family is so messed up.

Moseley, meanwhile, goes all out yet again to portray a convincing madman capable of any horrific act, even if it's directed against members of his own family.

After our introduction to this murderous pair, the film then veers off into teen movie territory when we meet a group of overaged high schoolers with all the usual inner conflicts and romantic complications.  There's good girl Amy (Caitlin Harris), who wants to be more like bad girl Brooke (Olivia Alexander) in order to get the attention of handsome boy Jason (Maxwell Zagorski), even to the point of dyeing her hair blonde and convincing her mom Mary (Sascha Knopf, HE WAS A QUIET MAN, SHALLOW HAL) to let her get a boob job.

Trouble is, now Amy looks so much like Brooke that when Darryl sees her, he's convinced she's the same girl he saw in the car that ran down his and Jon Roy's mom one fateful day.  (Shades of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.)  This leads to a carnage-packed finale with Amy and her hapless friends suffering the effects of a full-scale homicidal rampage courtesy of the bloodthirsty faux paramedics of Old 37. 

Much of the film plays like a non-horror teen movie, and a good one at that--their story is actually kind of interesting rather than simply being an excuse to set up cardboard stereotypes as victims.  The fact that we become so invested with these characters makes the horror stuff hit even harder when it finally kicks in, especially when the script starts throwing some wicked surprises our way. 

Some of the early scenes play on our fears of auto mishaps (some of the wilder teens like to indulge in reckless road games) as well as meeting up with the wrong kind of people on lonely highways.  Sharp, punchy editing and ear-bending sound design keep us feeling jumpy, while the direction is confident and imbued with loads of style. 

This is, in fact, one of the most cinematic and visually stylish slasher flicks I've seen in a while, so I can't understand why whoever directed it decided to go by the infamous nom de plume "Alan Smithee."

The film certainly accomplishes everything it sets out to do in harrowing fashion.  Hard-hitting and unapologetic, it bombards us with short bursts of meat-grinder violence without having to descend into torture porn.  Best of all, it gives us characters that are developed enough to make us care about what happens to them instead of simply cheering their flamboyantly bloody demise.  (Even bitchy Brooke gets her brief moment of audience empathy.)

The DVD from Epic Pictures is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  No subtitles, but closed captions are available.  Extras consist of a fun commentary track with producer/writer Paul Travers and composer Darius Holbert (a couple of cut-ups), storyboard-to-scene comparisons, and cast and crew interviews (including Miley's half-sister, Brandi Cyrus).

The severely twisted OLD 37 reminded me of one of those grim, "feel-bad" slasher flicks of the 80s that were more disturbing than amusing (like HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE or SILENT SCREAM).  And not only is it one of the best homages to the 80s to come out in this century, but this time the writers have actually come up with a way to work cell phones into the story without having to ignore them or pull the old "I can't get a signal" card.

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