Directed by David Harris
Distributed by MPI Media Group
In Savage County we meet a group of kids in rural Texas who decide to enjoy their last days as high school students partying it up before they head off to bigger and better things. One lazy day they head out to a secret swimming hole (aren’t they all?), and after both the beer and the need for conversation dries up, the group stumbles upon a dilapidated house where after a round of “ding dong ditch” goes terribly wrong, they end up at the end of a very hostile hillbilly’s shotgun and kill him out of self-defense. That singular moment sets off a tragic and gory chain of events that puts the teens on the run and has them fighting for their lives once their secret is discovered by the rest of the hillbilly clan at the house as well as local law enforcement (who of course is in on it).
I’d like to say there’s more than that to Savage County, but sadly, there isn’t. This flick is as basic as it comes. With a plot clearly borrowed from films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses and Wolf Creek, it’s obvious first-time director David Harris enjoys the horror genre because he clearly borrowed from it over and over again in Savage County.
I’d be willing to overlook the flimsy plot if there were some characters I could empathize with, but when you’re given a cast of vapid, one-dimensional characters to watch for 79 minutes, there’s just nothing that makes you give a damn about what happens to these kids. And true to the conventional horror formula, you get the usual suspects when it comes to the teens: the valedictorian, the super jock, the nerdy kid, the loner, the slut and the bad boy. I understand this is small town Texas, but there’s no way that all these kids would be hanging out together to begin with so that immediately throws out any sense of realism right there.
The maniacal Hardell Family isn’t even that interesting either – I’ve seen crazy hillbillies before (my family hails from West Virginia after all), and these guys, while they are intense, are just bad caricatures of the Firefly and Sawyer families. Even if you want to see what makes these guys tick, sadly, you never do. Perhaps that might give the audience a reason to care about this movie, but Harris never goes there as a storyteller.
Savage County fails in almost every way possible. There is no character development, no real tension and all the gore plays like a five-year-old in desperate need of attention from his parents. To be honest, I was kind of looking for more due to the amount of hype that has surrounded this project since its development from a web series into a feature film but never felt like I got rewarded with anything that was remotely hype-worthy.
Is Savage County the worst movie ever made? No. But with that amount of fandom surrounding the success of the web series, Harris should have used this opportunity and spent more time developing both his plot and the characters and given horror fans something more to chew on than what they end up with. I can’t even recommend the DVD for its special features as all that’s there is a trailer. On the other hand, not having to sit through anything else connected to this movie wins it a half-knife in that category.
There is an entertaining concept lurking deep somewhere in Savage County, but it’s like Harris just couldn’t quite nail down exactly what he wanted to do with the feature film so just borrowed from the best instead.
1 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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