HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DEATH DO US PART -- DVD review by porfle

One of the oldest and tired-est horror subgenres is the hoary story of the young party animals spending a fun weekend in an isolated location, only to get scared, stalked, and slashed by some Jason-like psycho killer.  Every once in a while, however, a movie comes along that proves the old genre's still got a little life left in her. 

DEATH DO US PART (2014) does this and more--in fact, it's been awhile since I started watching a movie with such low expectations only to end up being blown away to this degree.   Everything we've all seen a thousand times is right here--same premise, same set-up, same cabin in the woods, same, same, same--and yet how it's done and by whom is what makes the difference between just another piece of dreck and what, for me anyway, has the potential to become a genuine cult classic.

Writers Ryan Copple and Peter and Julia Benson know they're treading over familiar ground here, so instead of just dishing out the same rehashed story they infuse it with every imaginative twist and turn they can come up with and then supercharge it with exceptionally good filmmaking. 

Nicholas Humphries, whose previous directorial output appears to consist entirely of short subjects and some TV episodes, proves himself more than ready for feature films by giving this one a look and style beyond its budget and by keeping the pace at a fever pitch from start to finish. 

Even the familiar stereotypes are a little more interesting than usual thanks to a dash of realism and a cast that can act.  The Bensons play Kennedy Jamieson and Ryan Harris, a couple of lovebirds celebrating their impending marriage by having a "Jack and Jill" stag party in a secluded cabin with a small group of friends and family.  Unsurprisingly, the previously unseen cabin turns out to be a dump haunted by a crazy backwoods caretaker named Bo (Dave Collette), who looks like he'd be right at home stalking and slashing city folk.

Kennedy, we discover, has her own history of emotional problems and is on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck as her nuptials grow nearer. She insists on bringing her wedding dress along--the same one we see her wearing at the beginning of the film as the police find her staggering, blood-splattered and delirous, along the road.

Emilie Ullerup (HUNT TO KILL, "Smallville") is the lonesome Emily, who fears losing her best friend Kennedy to Ryan, while the bride-to-be's sister Hannah (Christine Chatelain, FINAL DESTINATION) has a really big and potentially devastating secret that she's doing her best to keep.  Chet (Kyle Cassie) is the usual obnoxious party animal, while Ryan's mysterious cousin Derrick (Benjamin Ayres, who reminds me of a young Billy Zane), is mixed up in some very dangerous business and has an ulterior motive for coming along. 

Things progress as you might guess with the group's party plans eventually interrupted by sudden terror and death.  But instead of simply presenting us with a clearly-identified "boogeyman" and then serving up a series of gore-enriched kills, DEATH DO US PART does something a lot more difficult and infinitely more satisfying by keeping the killer's identity a mystery, which not only helps generate edge-of-your-seat suspense but also keeps the story consistently scintillating and surprising. 

Due to the various jagged edges in this mismatched group's dynamic,  everyone is a potential suspect with a motive to kill.  So along with the jump scares and blood-chilling suspense (director Humphries does "creepy" right) we're constantly second-guessing who the killer is and changing our minds about it from one scene to the next. 

Even when the final reveal happens, or we think it happens, this story isn't through pulling the rug out from under us.  Which is so much more interesting than just sitting through a succession of boring death scenes garnished with gore effects and followed by the obligatory "Chucky" ending in which the killer seems to be dead and then keeps coming back to life over and over again.

The cast is terrific, with delightfully buxom Julia Benson ("SGU Stargate Universe", "Harper's Island") really selling us on her character during each stage of Kennedy's emotional turmoil.  The acting in general is much more realistic than in the usual slasher flick, and while the script contains an undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek humor, it's all much more subtle than SCREAM's self-aware self-awareness.  And never does it reach a point in which DEATH DO US PART is anything less than a full-blooded and richly effective horror flick with an old-school feel. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a making-of featurette.

It seems to me that taking a seemingly worn-out genre and doing something worthwhile with it is one of the hardest things filmmakers can do, especially when so many others have already had a go at it.  That's what makes DEATH DO US PART so impressive, and such a joy for the hungry horror fan.  It's like a full-course dinner after a steady diet of junk food, and it's done to a tantalizing turn. 

Buy it at


No comments: