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Featured DVD Review: After Dark Originals: Double-Shot: Fertile Ground and Seconds Apart

May 20th, 2011

After Dark Originals: Double-Shot: Fertile Ground - Buy from Amazon and Seconds Apart - Buy from Amazon

After Dark started out buying low-budget horror films and distributing them as part of their Horrorfest limited run festivals. And while their hit to miss ratio was better than average for the low-budget horror genre, they still had too many misses to be a complete success. Now they've moved on to include original films that they are producing, not just distributing and the first two, Husk and Prowl, were better than expected. Can they keep their streak going with Fertile Ground and Seconds Apart?

Fertile Ground

Emily (Leisha Hailey) and Nate Weaver (Gale Harold) are expecting their first child and they just found out it is going to be a girl. But their joy turns to sorrow when Emily has a miscarriage, one that results in medical complications that destroys Emily's chances of getting pregnant in the future. In order to recover, emotionally, they move from the city to a house in the country that was owned by Nate's ancestors 100 years ago. At first they are very happy, despite the isolation. Nate even has a separate building on the property for his art studio and an intercom to talk to Emily while she's back in the house.

But they start to notice weird things not long after they move in. For instance, there's a hand print on one of the windows that reappears shortly after Emily cleans it. And when Emily finds a chest in the basement, it's filled with items from the previous owners, and Nate's great-great-great, etc. uncle and his wife, William and Mary Weaver. They learn that they share the same wedding anniversary and Emily even comments that Nate kind of looks like his great uncle. Later when they are making love, she sees Nate with the same mutton chops his great uncle had, but just for a brief second.

There are more problems ahead when the sewage system backs up. But these are just the normal problems of an older house, right? Not quite. When the plumbers come by to check the septic tank, they find a human skull. When she goes to the town historian to see if there might be a missing person report on record to figure out who it was, she finds out the house has a dark past. In fact, William killed himself while Mary disappeared. And those are just two of potentially dozens of deaths associated with the house. These revelations cause a lot of stress and help bring about nightmares and possible bouts of sleepwalking. Her stress levels increase as Nate prepares for a big art show and starts working late, while the sheriff calls to report that the skull is roughly the same age as Mary was when she disappeared. Then the doctor calls. ... Emily's pregnant.

And that's when things really start to go downhill.

This movie is a slow-burn kind of horror. It takes a long time for the scares to come, but this is not a bad thing, as long as you go in knowing what to expect. The mood is set quite early with the initial strange occurrences, and tensions are increased steadily, for the most part. There are a few jump scares here and there, while on the downside, there are also some slow parts. The pacing issues are probably the biggest concern, while the film is a little predictable. With movies like this, most members of the audience will know the basic setup and the only question is whether or not Emily is succumbing to stress, or if there is a real supernatural presence. Fortunately, the acting is strong and the film is very well made, so this is not enough of a problem to ruin the experience.

The Extras

The only real extra is an audio commentary track with Adam Gierasch, the writer / director; Jace Anderson, the co-writer; and Leisha Hailey, who plays Emily. It has a good balance between energy and information and it's worth listening to. There is also a storyboard gallery.

The Verdict

Fertile Ground is not a film that will satisfy gorehounds, but those looking for a horror film that works through mood and tension should be happy here. There are not a lot of extras on the DVD, but I think it's worth picking up for fans of the genre.

Seconds Apart

A high school party is going full force and four boys are playing quarters when twin brothers Seth and Jonah show up with a camera. The group's conversation stays the same, but now instead of playing quarters, they are playing Russian Roulette, with the expected deadly results for the four of them. Later, the twins are looking over the footage, they are working on some sort of project, but are not happy with the results.

Detective Lampkin is tasked with trying to figure out what went down, which won't be easy. The most obvious explanation is a game of Russian Roulette that got a little out of hand. The headmaster at the Catholic School the victims, and the twins, went to said there were rumors flying around ranging from from drugs to satanic rituals. Detective Lampkin thinks its more likely that it was a simple murder disguised as a suicide.

The next day, Eve arrives at school and of all the people she could choose, she asks Jonah for directions to class. He's not very social about it, but he relents. Seth thinks they should make her their next project, but Jonah rejects the idea, quickly rejects the idea. He says they need to stick to the plan and lay low. It's a good idea, especially after Katie Dunn, a fellow student and one of their victims, points Detective Lampkin in their direction. They do manage to avoid incriminating themselves, but laying low is not an option and they have to figure out who knows what and tie-up and loose ends before Detective Lampkin learns any more.

However, when the budding romance between Jonah and Eve starts to put a strain Jonah and Seth's relationship, it could be a bigger problem than anything Detective Lampkin could turn up. Not that Detective Lampkin isn't determined to turn up something.

Twins have been a staple of horror movies for decades, maybe longer. Sometimes they are just used as window dressing, like in Dead Ringers, to more active participants in the plot, like in Dead Ringers. In Seconds Apart, this history is used as a shorthand quite effectively. Twins that look alike, dress alike, act alike, and even sleep in the same bed are going to make everyone's weirdmeter go crazy. Seth and Jonah are certainly the active participants, and also like Dead Ringers, it's a woman that breaks the previously unbreakable bond between the siblings. Granted, so far, there's not a lot here to set the film apart, not even the psychic powers. (More on that in a second.) However, there are some good twists, and it is incredibly well executed. Both Gary Entin and Edmond Entin are very good in their roles, as is Orlando Jones, who is mostly known for his comedic work.

The film's police procedural aspects rely on a few too many leaps of faith taken by Detective Lampkin, while his back-story isn't integrated into main plot very well.

On a side note, the DVD box says the twins have telekinesis. However, this is not true. Telekinesis is the ability to move objects with their minds, but what Seth and Jonah can do is put illusions into the minds of others. It's not a problem with the movie itself, it just bugs me that they got this part wrong. It's like they figured telekinesis referred to any psychic power.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is an audio commentary track with the director, Antonio Negret, and the two leads, Gary Entin and Edmond Entin. It's worth listening two, but I would have liked more.

The Verdict

After Dark goes two for two this week as Seconds Apart is another solid low-budget horror film. The DVD doesn't have a huge amount of extras, but I think the replay value is high enough that it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Fertile Ground, Seconds Apart