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Featured DVD Review: Husk

March 24th, 2011

Husk - Buy from Amazon

Husk is the first of two After Dark releases coming out this week. However, that's not exactly a selling point. This line of low-budget horror films has produced a few good movies, but there have also been quite a few duds as well. Granted, their hit to miss ratio is better than average for low-budget horror films, while Husk is part of a new wave of films they've produced themselves (as opposed to merely purchasing the distribution rights). Going in expectations are in check, but I'm open to the possibility that this will be an undiscovered gem. I'll be happy if its just above average.

The Movie

We are introduced to five teens as they are driving along a country road on their way to the lake for a break. Chris (C.J. Thomason) drives and Johnny (Ben Easter) vows to do the lake jump, just like he vows every year. In the back seat Scott encourages him while Brian and his new girlfriend, Natalie (Tammin Sursok), are asleep. The possibility of strip poker comes up, and is quickly dismissed thanks to the presences of Natalie, but before they can mourn that too much, the SUV drives through a murder of crows and the carnage causes them crash and all five are momentarily knocked out. When they come to, Johnny's missing.

After waiting a while for him to return, they spot what looks like a farmhouse in a cornfield and decide to head over there to see if that's where Johnny went. They also decide to split up with Brian and Scott marching through the cornfield to the farm, while Chris and Natalie will wait by the car, just in case. Brian and Scott don't find Johnny, at least not right away, but they do find an old car surrounded by dead crows, as well as a creepy scarecrow. Back at the car, Natalie first sees a young boy watching them from the corn, but he runs away before Chris can see him. She then spots another scarecrow, and this one has a little surprise for her. It's too much to take, so she heads to the farmhouse to find out what's taking so long, and Chris follows.

When they finally find Johnny, he's... he's not doing so well. And after one of the rest gets snatched by something while there're in the cornfield, it's clear they are all in danger.

That's about as far as I'm willing to go as far as plot details are concerned, although quite frankly, there's not much of the plot you probably couldn't already guess. Yes, this is not a very original movie; however, it's predictable in the same way a romantic comedy is predictable. If you are a fan of the genre, you tend to be more forgiving when a film follows the usual story arc and you are more interested in the execution of familiar ideas. And here I've got some good news.

First of all, the acting is better than expected and this in turn helped the characters feel real and not like annoying stereotypes. Too often in these films, we would be better off if the characters were named Victim #1, Victim #2, etc. and if you manage to tell them apart, you actively cheer their deaths. Here they managed to create characters you want to see survive. Secondly, the production values were also better than expected. I watch far too many low-budget horror movies that are hampered a general lack of resources that include, but are not limited to, bad lighting, cheap special effects, low end cameras, etc. None of that was evident here. Finally, the film had a good balance between jump scares (like the opening scene with the crows) and genuinely creepy moments where the horror comes from something deeper (the scenes in the sewing room).

In short, Husk doesn't bring much new to the genre, but does work very well within the conventions of the genre adding just enough to stand out.

The Extras

Extras include an audio commentary track with the writer / director Brett Simmons and the three leads. It's a good mix of information and entertainment with the four of them talking about the filmmaking process, while the director discusses inspirations, etc. There is also a 12-minute making of / behind-the-scenes featurette. And finally, there are a couple image galleries.

The Verdict

My expectations for Husk were rather low, as most teenage slashers are quite bad to begin with. Plus, there have been a surprising number of "Killer Scarecrow" movies made over the years. That said, the end result was surprisingly good. Add in a DVD with enough extras and the end result is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

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