Reviewed by Serena Whitney
Starring Thom Webb, John Geddes, Jesse T. Cook, Steve Warren, Gary Fischer
Directed by Jesse T. Cook & John Geddes
Distributed by Anchor Bay Canada
Being a Canuck, I take great pride in promoting Canadian horror features, and Scarce is one that has been creating a lot of buzz in my neck of the woods. The premise is pretty straightforward and goes like this: After getting in a car accident in the middle of a blizzard, three unfortunate snowboarders (co-writers/directors John Geddes and Jesse T. Cook and actor Thom Webb) are held captive and tortured by cannibalistic hillbillies (Warren and Fischer) in a secluded cabin in the woods. Wanting to work up an appetite, the assailants give the men an opportunity to escape; they must run barefoot through the woods in the dead of winter in hopes of getting help before the cannibals find them first. Blood, guts, and frostbite ensue.
Though fans of the genre have been disappointed by many straight to DVD horror titles, Scarce is not one to overlook; it delivers the bloody goods like you wouldn’t expect from a freshman effort of the Canadian filmmaking duo. Sure, it’s a simple premise seen time and time again, but Scarce has an unconventional twist that many horror filmmakers haven’t even attempted -- setting a slasher in the dead of winter.
Scarce was filmed in one of Ontario’s coldest and harshest winters (believe me ... I lived through it and can vouch it was one of the worst), and when you see the actors running barefoot in piles of snow with only a t-shirt and boxers on, you can’t help but get a chill up your spine. The level of perseverance the actors endured with their roles and stunts is very apparent. However, the men who play the villains also deserve much praise. Steve Warren, an actor we usually see in the background of Tyler Perry’s rom coms, has the spotlight this time around. His portrayal of Ivan, the psychotic hunter, definitely makes him stand out from the crowd as he gives the strongest performance in the film. Gary Fischer, Warren’s right-hand man, also plays his menacing role well.
Gorehounds won’t be disappointed in this low budget indie. Makeup and special effects team The Gore Brothers give the film the blood-spattered and grue-filled oomph that it needs with decapitated heads, intestine spillage, stabbings, shootings, torn flesh, and a gag that will make most viewers curl their toes. Considering the budget, it’s fairly impressive to see this level of carnage in an independent feature.
Nonetheless, like a majority of low budget horror indies, Scarce does have its fair share of shortcomings. The film takes a little too much time getting started, and although I appreciated the writer/director duo putting in filler scenes for the audience to get to know the characters before they are put in peril, but it didn’t work for me on an emotional level. This is probably due to the fact that a lot of the scenes at the beginning looked like a Canadian feature falling into the trap of trying too hard to look like a clichéd American slasher. The somewhat cheesy dialogue was a little forced on the actors as well, and it wasn’t until the second half when they go through hell in intolerable weather conditions that they were able to really stand out and have some presence on screen. Lastly, the pseudo twist at the end was not very fulfilling considering the intense build-up leading up it.
Despite its flaws, Scarce proves that it’s far from just a regular sub-standard horror indie, which is especially evident on the DVD’s lengthy and interesting making-of featurette. Within it viewers learn how the filmmakers raised money in their hometown to make their debut feature and how the cast and crew had to stay in a dilapidated farmhouse full of bugs, sleeping on unsanitary cots for five weeks while filming. You’ll also see the horror the actors had to live through every day by filming scenes outside barefoot, just barely avoiding suffering from hypothermia, pneumonia, and frostbite.
The commentaries by both the filmmakers and the production and set designers go into further details about the experience of filming Scarce, and what’s discussed in both commentaries is attention-grabbing and quite humorous. The special features really show how passionate and hard-working the team was, and I think far more indies should have extensive behind the scene footage like this one; it would make people far less critical of low budget horror.
Like Sam Raimi’s early Super 8mm short film "Within the Woods", Scarce is far from being a groundbreaking film; yet, because of the passion, dedication, and enthusiasm put into it, it will most likely be the stepping stone for the filmmakers that will lead them to a project that will make them household names in the horror genre. If you enjoyed Wrong Turn 2, I highly recommend you check out this ambitious and gory film.
3 1/2 out 5
4 out of 5
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