Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blood Creek

Blood Creek sounds like a can't-miss horror movie.  It features up-and-coming actors Michael Fassbender and the next Superman, Henry Cavill.  Young, hot actors are usually a good sign, right?  The story manages to fit in Nazis, the occult, zombie horses, and rural West Virginia (state motto: "The Inspiration for Deliverance").  Even if it's not genuinely has zombie horses!  How can this movie go wrong?

When we first meet Evan (Henry Cavill), his life sucks.  He has a stressful job (paramedic) and no social life, because he spends his free time taking care of his father, who hates him.  Why?  It seems that Evan went fishing in the West Virginia wilderness with his war hero brother, Victor (Dominic Purcell), and managed to lose him.  Victor hasn't been seen in the few years since, and Evan blames himself.  So does his dad and maybe Victor's wife and child do, too.  One night, Victor returns.  Hooray!  Time to tell the family, right?  Not so fast.  Victor makes Evan promise not to ask any questions and --- after a quick shower, shave, and haircut --- the two grab some guns and head back to the wilderness.
Sometimes, brotherly love is distributed one barrel at a time
It seems that Victor has spent the last couple of years as prisoner on a farm; he shows off some nasty scars on his back, but he doesn't explain anything more to Evan.  Torturing and killing a family, including a mother and daughter, doesn't sit well with Evan, but he shouldn't worry.  You see, the family in question was featured in a short prologue, set back in the 1930s; the family members were visited by a Nazi scientist, Herr Wirth (Michael Fassbender), and they don't appear to have aged a day since.  Why did Victor come back?  Who is he looking for?  Here's a hint: if the family hasn't aged, I wonder what Wirth is up to...?
Answer: not exfoliating

You might have noticed a complete lack of the occult and zombies in that brief synopsis.  It turns out that the Nazi, Wirth, that visited the farm in the 30s was studying ancient Nordic runes.  By studying them, he had gained the power to raise the dead.  Fast forward seventy or eighty years, and the family apparently keeps Wirth locked in their cellar, which he doesn't like, and I suppose is a reasonable reaction.  He's fairly super-powered (and ugly) at this point, so you would think he could just tear the family apart, right?  Well, the farmhouse is covered in rune markings that protect the family from Wirth.  That is, until some brothers intrude, leave a few dead bodies in their wake and let Wirth free.  Now, Wirth is on the loose, with the dead bodies of people, a dog, and some horses to play with.  Oh, and tonight just happens to be a very important night for occult blood rituals.  Hey, Victor, maybe you should have just gone home to your wife and kid, eh?

I don't necessarily expect the greatest acting in films that feature zombies, but I was let down by Blood Creek.  The acting wasn't wretched, but I wanted more than I was given.  Michael Fassbender spends most of his time on the film shrouded in shadow, with the majority of his dialogue being guttural whispers.  In other words, he wasn't used very well.  Dominic Purcell is as monosyllabic as ever and the interactions between him and Cavill are generally just shouting matches.  I did find his I've-been-gone-for-a-few-years long hair and hobo beard to be pretty funny and obviously fake; I'm still baffled by his choice to shave his head and trim his beard down to stubble, but not actually shaving his face.  Who does that?  Henry Cavill doesn't impress here, either, although his character is pretty nonsensical, so that might just be the weakness of the writing showing through.  Emma Booth was mediocre as the character that explains everything to Cavill, Purcell, and the audience, but it was a thankless role.
His X-ray vision looks deep into your soul

My biggest problem with Blood Creek has to be the direction of Joel Schumacher.  I suppose I still hold a grudge against the man for ruining Batman for the better part of a decade, but he has made a few good horror movies in his time, so I was expecting this to be better than it was.  The premise is cool enough, but Schumacher makes some odd choices throughout.  My main gripe is that we don't get a clear glimpse of Herr Wirth for about an hour.  We see his shadowy figure, wearing a surprisingly nice leather duster, sprinting across the farm in the darkness, and we get a few quick looks at his face, covered in black bandages, but there are so many questions left unanswered.  Why does he need bandages if he's an undead occult Nazi?  For that matter, why does he need a groovy jacket?  Exactly why have Wirth's looks been so drastically affected by his magic, but the family, who benefit from his spells, look normal?  How did Wirth get those rune symbols legibly carved into the back of his skull?  Sure, he looks cool, but that appearance is wasted in the darkness. 
The only time you see Fassbender's actual face
There are a lot of dumb moments in the film that should have been caught by the director, but were not.  Why does the undying farm family have only one picture on display in their house, and it happens to have a date written on it?  That's ridiculously stupid.  It's even stupider than the weaknesses in the script, like the concept of Evan promising to not ask questions, and yet that's all he does.  Or the fact that Wirth's zombies can enter the farmhouse, but are not under instructions to break the runes that keep him outside.  Ugh.  So much stupid.

There are some good things going on in Blood Creek.  I really liked the basic idea of Nazi occult beliefs.
As other movies (the first and third Indiana Jones series, for starters) have shown, having Nazis and occult themes in the same picture can make for great films, and it is an idea that is terribly underused.  I also liked that the zombies created by Wirth weren't the flesh-eating variety, but the voodoo type, raised by a master and doing his bidding.  The special effects were pretty good and the gore was solid in both quality and quantity.  I'm still divided on whether or not the zombie horse was hilariously awesome or just plain bad, but I'll put it in the "win" column for now. 

For being a more-or-less direct-to-DVD release, Blood Creek is pretty good.  I don't grade on a curve, though.  There are some solid ideas here, but too many stupid moments and poor choices for me to recommend this.  There was some promise in the premise, but promises are made to be broken.

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