Horror has been so commercialized that I sometimes wonder if we as members of the viewing community have forgotten about the roots and fun that the “bad” horror movies (also known as the “B” or independent movie) can bring. Thankfully, with the recent influx of independent filmmakers and direct-to-DVD releases, we have an abundance of new, fun, “bad” movies.
Now the first mistake one can make is to assume that a “B” feature can’t be good, fun, and flat-out enjoyable. The truth is, with the new technology available a “B” feature don’t have to be “B” quality; a direct-to-DVD release can be as good as a theatrical release, and a “bad” movie can fit the contemporary definition of bad by being really good.
During the month of October I always try to engross myself in some horror. I have to admit, even at the blasting of many Christians, I love this genre. I happen to believe that no genre of film address real spirituality as eloquently as does horror. I try to watch at least 31 horror movies during the month, not to focus on Satan, but to focus on how good overcomes evil and God reigns supreme.
This month, I have watched more than my fair share of independent, “B,” “bad” (really good) movies. In this article I want to focus on two of those: The Creek, an independent direct-to-DVD written, directed, edited, and produced by Erik Soullaird, and the “B” direct-to-DVD release of Trailer Park of Terror featuring (among others) Trace Adkins.
I will start with Trailer Park of Terror, which frankly reminded me of Dawn of the Dead and a comedic version of Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses. This movie is targeted toward an audience that likes contemporary horror, mixed in with some gore, a good soundtrack, and some comedic moments. In those departments it delivers on all counts.
This movie addresses spirituality right off the bat. It seems as if a group of high school problem students is being taken by a good Reverend to a camp to work on some of their behavior issues. Along the way, the Reverend loses his temper and ends up wrecking the van in a thunderstorm; but thankfully there is a trailer park nearby where the kiddies (albeit, slightly-crude kiddies in their late teens) can get out of the storm. Unfortunately, the Reverend and kiddies don’t realize the seemingly-abandoned trailer park is run by a sexy, voluptuous young lady who in reality is a zombie who had some years earlier made a deal with the devil. With that being the case, how much more could the devil and zombies that are hiding in the town enjoy the opportunity to cause the young derelicts and preacher to fall into sin?
In seeing a movie like this you likely aren’t looking for a Citizen Kane performance. You are looking for a little gore mixed in with some humor and thrills, and in that regard this one delivers.
There are a couple of things I will mention to give an indication of how fun this movie is. One of the classic zombies in zombie films appears in Trailer Park of Terror. My personal favorite was Roach, a guitar-playing, drug-addicted individual prior to becoming a zombie, and thankfully, still a guitar-playing, rough-singing, drug-addicted individual after he becomes a zombie. I don’t know if there has ever been a zombie like this before, but to my recollection he is the first. Not only that, though, but poor ol’ Roach, when accidentally getting blown up by a land mine, has dear zombie friends who find another benefit of duct tape in putting a zombie back together again.
This movie obviously addresses spiritual themes, from Pastor Lewis, who is weak in his own areas, to The Man (Trace Adkins), who takes on the role of Satan in having others sell their souls for temporary gain and long-term damnation. Even when decent, seeking-a-better-life characters sells their souls to the devil, there is hell to pay. It would make one wonder about the real benefit of selling out to Satan. As Trailer Park of Terror shows, there is no real benefit to being among the living dead.
While Trailer Park of Terror is built in part on effects, gore, and a much higher budget, The Creek is a ghost story built on character development and story. Eric Soulliard had a much smaller budget to work with. In fact, he takes on the role of editing, directing, writing, producing, and acting alongside his wife Nancy Soulliard.
This coming-of-age ghost story has a few unique twists that keeps the interest of the viewer and has them guessing as to what is going on until the final moments of the film. While I would have liked to have had better lighting for this film, I was actually pleased with the story.
One of the things about The Creek is that the making of the movie, the love and desire to make the movie, is as impressive in many ways as the movie. The Creek is in many ways what Independent film is really all about. It is about the love of film and the desire to birth and see film come about. While some may watch a film like The Creek and be disappointed, I remind those individuals to understand the root of horror, to understand the intent of what the genre is all about. It is often times, especially for young film makers like Soulliard, a process of going from one film to another, hopefully breaking even (if not making a profit) to go to the next film and make the next one better. It is, if you will, a sort of working resume. We have seen that type of resume take place with other filmmakers, and I suspect a few years from now we will know more about one Erik Soulliard.
There are some good moments in The Creek. I liked the ghost techniques, and the movie does a good job of addressing evil. While one may think the evil comes from the dead, often the real evil exists among the living. We can become so preoccupied with the dead that we refuse to see the evil that is around us. We see this played out really well in The Creek. We also see this often times in the real world, especially among certain religious groups who presuppose that The Devil is responsible for all evil, all the while ignoring that some of us bring about our own evil.
While The Creek isn’t a top-of-the line horror movie, it is a pretty good independent film. It is a film that those involved should be proud of as it doesn’t depend on gross gore, or superficial special effects, to tell the story. It depends on story to tell the story, and for many horror purists, this is something we appreciate. It doesn’t take itself so seriously that we aren’t allowed to have fun.
I have to admit, I watched the film twice; the first time I was tired, actually at 3:00 AM, and was barely able to stay awake. I watched it again a few nights later and really enjoyed the story and character development. While the acting was not Oscar noteworthy, there were good performances and Soulliard showed some promise in directorial skills as he was able to do a good job with casting to get what he wanted out of the characters. Soulliard knows this is an Independent film and a passion of love.
Both of these films are doing well on the Independent Film Circuit. They are both deservedly getting good reviews from horror publications, both print and other media. I think they deserve an audience, and one of the things they have done is make it easy to access their film, whether purchasing or renting. From NetFlix to Blockbuster and Best Buy, these filmmakers have taken their love for film, and made it available to those of us who love this style of film; whether based on gore, or based on story, there is something for all of us.
Unfortunately, and to some extent understandably so, there will be many who never see an independent film, or either of these movies. I understand for those having issues with gore, Trailer Park of Terror is certainly a tough go. On the other hand, The Creek could have easily had a PG or PG-13 rating.
Leaving my typical review-numbering system behind I am going to give some love to both films; here goes.
If you love gore, comedy, and good music, check out Trailer Park of Terror! While the sinners have their way for most of the movie, it is amazing what God can do for good through the most unlikely of people. A Terrific, Terrible Bloody Good Time!
If story is your forte, you will appreciate The Creek. One of the best ghost stories to come about in a long time; thankfully, real evil is addressed in a real way. We don’t always have to be afraid of the things that go bump in the night; sometimes it is the things that go bump in the day. The Creek is well worth seeing, and well worth discussing.