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666: The Demon Child (2004)

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Dread Central

NOTE: Sci-Fi Channel original movies were not considered eligible for this countdown out of fairness to the competition)

Starring Jennifer Jackson, Jennie E. Epstein, Jose Rosete

Directed by Cary Howe


Do you enjoy monster movies where people stand around or sit around or walk around or drive around and talk about what is supposed to be going on for lengthy periods of time?

If you answer yes, then you will enjoy this movie.

Do you enjoy monster movies where the monster’s P.O.V. is constantly shown as it scurries about stalking its victims, not because the filmmakers are trying to build any sort of suspense, but because the monster itself is actually an inanimate prop?

If you answer yes, then you will enjoy this movie.

Do you enjoy movies in general where the audio was recorded so low that even after cranking the volume almost all the way up it is still hard to understand what is being said in many scenes?

If you answer yes, then you will enjoy this movie.

Do you enjoy movies in general that feature overly long establishing shots that seem to be have been done so in such a manner only to help pad out the run time of a movie already overloaded with filler material?

If you answer yes, then you will enjoy this movie.

That movie for you is 666: The Demon Child, which is pretty much nothing more than a bunch of seemingly bored people spewing forth really banal dialogue while being stalked by seemingly endless monster P.O.V. shots. Maybe there’s some noteworthy dialogue in this movie and I missed it. I can’t be sure if I missed anything relevant because half the time I couldn’t make out most of what was being said because the audio kept fluctuating from scene to scene. I thought it might be a problem with the DVD, but considering the sheer amount of ineptness displayed throughout this film I can’t help but to get the sneaking suspicion that this problem was caused by someone doing an extremely shoddy sound job when filming the movie. It probably didn’t make that much of a difference anyway when you consider how awful the scripting and acting was to begin with. The occasional audio problems probably spared me the full brunt of this film’s awfulness.

666: The Demon Child appears to have been inspired by the early Seventies made-for-television creature feature Gargoyles. Much like that film, the plot here centers on the discovery of evidence proving the existence of some sort of ancient race that once lived in the American Southwest. Once again, the local Native Americans know the truth. Once again, there are secret caves up in the mountains. Once again, there’s an anthropologist looking for the truth. Once again, there’s a local with physical evidence of the existence of these creatures on display in a dilapidated shack. Once again, everyone’s life is in danger and the possibility of the ultimate destruction of mankind proves to be at stake. But unlike that classic television creature feature, this movie really, really, really, sucks.

The movie opens with the Native American doppleganger of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine wandering through the desert to an ancient ceremonial ground where he chants some stuff while being spooked by a demonic skeletal buffalo. After some more chanting, it goes away and he crawls through an opening into a cave where he appears to unlock some sort of supernatural padlock. This whole prologue where very little happens takes 8 friggin’ minutes!

We’re then introduced to our main characters traveling down the darkened roads of the desert inside their RV. About 90% of the movie will be set either inside of or just outside of this RV. We meet an old anthropologist that looks like Ralph Nader if he were a cooky mad scientist. He has a crazy theory about an ancient race of 12-foot giants that once roamed the American Southwest. His only real evidence supporting this nutty theory is a sword he discovered in this area. He theorizes that only 12-foot giants could have wielded it because of the way it was constructed. The only problem with that theory is that later on in the movie that sword will be wielded without any noticeable trouble by a skinny, under 6’ woman. Joining him on his quest to unearth more evidence of this race of mystery giants are the Mighty Boring Archaeology Rangers, a small group of young and late 20-somethings, each with less personality than the next.

Faster than you can say, “let’s do another bad horror movie cliché,” that old blonde indian from the beginning of the movie, carrying two large eggs that look suspiciously like disguised volleyballs, walks out in front of the RV and gets killed. And of course, one of the students decides to take one of the eggs with them, not telling the others and not knowing it’s about to hatch unleashing a killer demonic baby monster that looks like the It’s Alive baby only with satanic ram horns.

From there, boredom ensues. Actually, that’s not true. Boredom had already kicked in, but from here all we get are the typical array of cliched horror movie scenes. You get the scene where they try to drive away to escape from the creature and after only driving a few short miles they decide to stop and take a break only to get attacked by the monster again. You get the scene where they discover the monster has used it’s vast knowledge of automotive mechanics to disable the RV and so now they’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and they have no way to notify anyone they need rescuing. You get the scene where someone tries to go hiking through the desert back to civilization to get help only to get killed by the monster. And then there’s my personal favorite, the scene where everyone decides to go stand outside the RV in the dark so that the really traumatized girl can be left all alone inside to take a relaxing shower. Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen to her?

It’s an hour into the movie before anyone finally picks up a weapon and decides to actually try and fight back. More importantly, it’s an hour into the movie before anyone in the group thinks that maybe that old wooden sword of the ancient giants might come in handy.

There isn’t an ounce of suspense in this film and that is a fatal flaw because it plays itself as a straightforward horror movie. Even as unintentionally funny schlock, it fails to entertain and for this film to fail to deliver on the cheese factor is almost hard to believe. The freaking demon baby is just a stationary prop that the actors are forced to hold up to whatever part of the body it’s supposedly biting or clawing at and then scream, squirm and, shake as much as possible to make it seem this inanimate object is mauling them. That’s amusing for about the first five seconds, but once you’ve seen five seconds of someone screaming their head off while clutching a bobble-headed demon baby doll close to themselves, the novelty wears off.

Just to put the exclamation mark on how utterly terrible this entire production is, let me describe the (allegedly) surprise ending to the movie, which they also managed to completely bungle.

The last remaining survivor of the group forces the last surviving Native American to take her to the super secret temple ruins of the ancient giants complete with two giant skeletons, all of which are sitting out in plain sight, yet have never been discovered by anyone prior. They crawl inside that mountain cave from the movie’s open and immediately the girl freaks out. Why? Because the cave is actually a giant egg chamber filled with countless demon baby eggs. As she screams hysterically, the Native tells her that all the nearby mountains are filled with these egg-filled chambers and they are just about ready to hatch meaning there will an infinite number of demon babies that will grow to be unstoppable 12-foot demon giants that will destroy mankind. This causes her to start having a mental breakdown as the film fades to black.

Unfortunately, there’s just one little problem with this twist ending. When it cuts to the matte painting of the egg-filled cave that is causing her to completely lose it, the matte painting they show us appears to be nothing more than a small, ordinary-looking cave without a single egg in it, at least none that I could see. We’re supposed to be horrified right alongside this poor woman as she’s just glimpsed that which will bring about the end of the world but there’s nothing there. Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! There’s absolutely nothing to see here and that goes doubly for the film as a whole!

The best tagline the distributors could come up with for the box art was “It’s not human.” They should have added, “It’s not much of a movie either.” In fact, 666: The Demon Child is the epitome of everything that is wrong with low budget monster movie making today, a complete waste of perfectly fine digital film.

Avoid at all costs.


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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual

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Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.

Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!

Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger

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Starring Nhung Kate, Jean-Michel Richaud, Kim Xuan

Written and directed by Derek Nguyen


Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.

Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.

Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.

Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.

Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.

The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.

Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.

The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.

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3.0

Summary

Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.

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Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse

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Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins

Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson

Directed by Peter Howitt


Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.

Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.

While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.

In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.

  • Scorched Earth
3.0

Summary

Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.

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