Thursday, December 16, 2010

DVD REVIEW: Dismal (2010)

DISMAL (2009)

LABEL: Cinema Epoch 
GENRE: Backwoods Horror
CAST: Lydia Chandler, Tim Morris, Jack Harrison, Bill Oberst, Jr., Laura Kimsey, Will Triplett, Capel Kane
RELEASE DATE: December 21st 2010
TAGLINE: Eat Or Be Eaten

PLOT: Dana is failing Biology. To pass she must attend an extra credit assignment with several classmates that will lead them into a remote region of the Great Dismal Swamp, a place teeming with life... and death. While the group keeps one eye out for hungry bear, deadly snakes and lurking gators, they are unaware of the real danger. For the top of the food chain lives in a dingy cabin not too far from their campsite, and he has an appetite for human flesh.

FILM: I do enjoy a good ole backwoods horror film, them rural folk sure is scary. From TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1973) onwards through to the under-valued WRONG TURN films there is some goodness to be had with this sub-genre of horror. How does DISMAL fare? What we have here is a pretty standard group of college-type characters that include survival-girl Dana (Lydia Chandler), good gal Kimmy (Laura Kimsey), good guy Gary (Will Triplett), token black dude Jamal (Jade Arnold) and his sex-crazed gal-pal Shelly (Capel Kane) who head out to the Great Dismal Swamp to earn extra credit in their college biology class. Leading the trip is teaching-assistant Curt (Tim Morris).

Once settled in the group pitch their tents and separate into small groups and head out into the wilderness to take notes, samples and observe nature in action or something. Gary and Kimmy spend time together and develop crushes on each other, it's innocently sweet. Jamal and Shelly find a nice quite spot in the swamp and get their freak on. These two are a couple of horn dogs and Shelly provides a more than adequate amount of nudity to the film. That's a plus. Meanwhile back at camp Dana and Curt get to know each other a little better, it's pretty obvious that Curt sees Dana as more than a student but she's definitely not interested. Curt's a strange one, better keep an eye on him. As night settles in over the swamp the group start getting picked-off one by one by a hulking 7ft. freak called Idiot (Jack Harrison) that's fond of bashing people upside the head with a spiked club and occasionally snagging them with a grappling hook. The gore in the film is pretty good with the exception of some laughable CGI that wounds some otherwise well executed gore scenes. My favorites is a nasty little scene as one of the gals runs through the swamp and it tripped up by a bear-trap that takes her leg resulting in her falling face first into another bear trap, good stuff. Turns out the 7ft. freak is not alone and there's actually a trio of human flesh craving cannibals prowling the Great Dismal Swamp. Bill Oberst, Jr. as Dale (the patriarch of the cannibal clan) is a foreboding and demented son-of-a-bitch and he's got screen presence to spare - the definite stand-out performance of the film.

The story well paced but not original by any means. Your typical group of stereotypes out of their element hunted by cannibalistic backwoods folks, it's been done a zillion times (and better) but this one is decent if not very memorable. The swamp setting is a great set-piece and the shots are well-composed but the film is pretty standard backwoods horror that hits all the beats you'd expect and little else.

DVD:  DISMAL is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with 2.o stereo surround. It's a good looking film and the presentation looks great. Not much in the way of special features aside from previews of other Cinema Epoch titles.

VERDICT: This is director Gary King's first foray into the horror genre and I must say it's a decent effort but it's derivative and familiar material that we've seen time and time again. That combined with some lacklustre special effects work knocks the grade down a bit on this one. It's strives to be a WRONG TURN (2003) or HATCHET (2006) but falls short of the mark. Not quite a recommend but perhaps a rental. DISMAL (2009) comes to DVD December 21st 2010 from Cinema Epoch
 **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)