by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Here on the IndyBlog, not too long ago, I reviewed director Deon Taylor's abysmal Nite Tales: The Series, an anthology show hosted by Flavor Flav. I didn't expect to review another of Taylor's products so soon, but I'm kinda glad I did: While he's still not displaying too much original thought — Chain Letter is basically a mish-mash of Scream, Saw and just about every other one of those rip-offs — with a nice budget and talented enough cast at his disposal, he's delivered an entertaining straight-to-DVD B-horror shocker that has an fantastic opening sequence involving chains, two cars and a garage door. A handful of high school kids are sent a chain letter via e-mail and, if they don't send it to other people, they die. Simple enough. The killer is a lumbering, scarred brute with an affinity for chains, but there's an even bigger conspiracy afoot. With a cinematic surprise like this, Taylor is a director to keep an eye on.
With this 1979 release, director Richard (A Hard Day's Night) Lester seemed to commit utter cinematic blasphemy by daring to make a prequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But he does a fantastic job, bringing the same sense of comedic high-adventure that he did to Superman II. Tom Berenger and William Katt replace Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the title characters. The second feature, 1981's Death Hunt, is dripping with oily testosterone as gruff Charles Bronson rescues a dog from a bloody dogfight in the Yukon Territories, only to be surrounded and chased by a blood-thirsty posse led by Lee Marvin. This is one of the best Westerns I've ever seen: Bronson is at his bloody best, and proves there was never a more manly man to grace celluloid.
The ultra-low-budget backwoods horror flick Red River is subtitled “Deviant Cannibal Torture,” so that gives you a good idea of what you're in store for. We're introduced to a new great new slasher character, Roland Thatcher, a Bible-quoting hillbilly with a voice-box who captures nosy strangers and guts them for his hideously deformed son to munch on. He's been doing it for a while, but when a group of stupid college kids camping, drinking and fornicating cross his path, he might have finally met his match. Maybe. While this may sound like just about every other redneck horror movie, what makes Red River stand out is the authenticity of the Kentucky surroundings, casting real Southern-accented locals — big hairy guts and all — in all their Rebel Flag glory. Director Jacob Ennis also avoids the fatal flaw of these kinda movies: His script is tight and the movie's judiciously edited, so it never wears out its welcome.