(Originally an IP Movies Review)
Being a horror fan and film critic for Inside Pulse – Movies, I watch a lot of low budget, independent horror films. With this comes the realization that the majority of horror films released today are garbage. What bugs me the most, though, is when the first two acts of one of these horror films are decent-good, then the final act of the film implodes on itself, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Such is the case with the After Dark Original film Husk.
In Husk, five friends set out on a vacation to their favorite watering hole in the middle of nowhere. On the way there they have some car trouble in the form of crows flying into their window. The crows force the driver, Chris, to lose control, and the SUV crashes into a ditch next to a cornfield. Needless to say, no one in the group can get any cell phone reception, so they head to an old farmhouse they spot through the cornfield. Unfortunately for them, this is no ordinary scary, old, abandoned house in the middle of a cornfield, and the scarecrows have some inner demons they’re trying to work out.
Husk’s originality is stuffed between so many horror movie clichés that it gets lost, and the “generic” label haunts almost every aspect of the film. Where this random cornfield and creepy house are located is, by all counts, Anywhere, USA. The characters themselves are clichés: the track star and his hot-but-otherwise nondescript girlfriend, the chess club nerd, and the jerk. To be fair, there are moments when these characters break banality, but not nearly enough to make them memorable or realistic. On top of this, the exposition for the possessed scarecrows is told through random visions that one character has; why this particular character has these visions, or what sparks them is a question that writer/director Brett Simmons never approaches, which does nothing but add to the generic tone of the film.
In keeping with the theme of the movie, the acting is nothing to write home about. There is one standout that overcomes a mediocre script, and that is the chess club nerd, Devon Graye. Graye, who played the teenage Dexter on the television show of the same title, is an obviously talented actor who fits into the horror genre nicely. His looks can have him playing the charming, fatally attractive serial killer role (as in Dexter) or, when you toss a pair of dark rimmed glasses on him, the nerd role (as in Husk). Fortunately his acting ability is strong enough to play either role effortlessly. Hopefully Graye appears in bigger and better films in the future so that we can really see his talents on display. Among the rest of the cast, Wes Chatham is decent as the track star, but unlike Graye, falls victim to the character written for him by Simmons.
What’s most disappointing about Husk is not the generic characters and (mostly) forgettable acting, but rather the fact that the film managed to capture my attention for the first 30 minutes or so, but then fell apart towards the end. The special effects look great, as with most After Dark pictures, and the scarecrows are innately scary enough to keep most folks interested. It is what Husk did, or more accurately, didn’t do, after it had my attention that upset me.
Husk started as a short, 25-minute film, and it works better in that format. Save yourself the extra 60-minutes by watching this instead. With only 25-minutes to tell a story, there is little time for exposition, which is actually a strength of the short when compared to the feature length film. The acting is terrible in the short film, but, aside from Devon Graye, it isn’t great in the feature length either. The short film debuted at Sundance in 2005, and Brett Simmons shows that an engaging short horror film can be made on a small budget. Unfortunately this doesn’t translate over to the feature film.
It’s important to support independent filmmakers, but when there are guys out there like (Dark Fields creator) Douglas Schulze, its okay to be picky about which ones you give you hard earned cash. Brett Simmons has some talent as a director, but Husk doesn’t showcase this nearly as well as its short film inspiration; it misses the mark, and becomes one of the countless other generic horror films with little to say.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.