Tag Archives: David Slade

Corn Stalkings

Dark Harvest

by George Wolf

Director David Slade came out of the gate strong with his first two features, Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night. Then came the downturn of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse in 2010, and Slade has been mainly a TV director ever since.

Dark Harvest finds Slade back on the big screen, and back among teens and monsters, for a gorgeous and often brutal creature feature with a winning throwback vibe.

Adapting the 2006 Bram Stoker Award-winning novel with author Norman Partridge and screenwriter Michael Gilio, Slade blends the period pastiche of The Vast of Night with narrative nods to The Lottery, The Hunger Games, and a few choice slices of Pumpkinhead.

It’s the early 1960s in the small midwestern town of Bradbury, and smoldering teen Richie Shepard (Casey Likes) is not having a happy Halloween season. It’s 5 days until Bradbury’s annual October run, and since Richie’s older brother Jim (Britain Dalton) won last year, Richie has to sit this one out.

And that means no chance at the $25,000, the new Corvette, or the one- way ticket out of his one-monster town.

The monster is Sawtooth Jack (Dustin Ceithamer) who returns the same time every year, rising from the corn stalks. Three days before each run, the young men in town are sequestered and starved, until they’re finally let loose to fanatically hunt down Sawtooth Jack before he can reach the town church.

But Richie is eager to prove himself and claim his destiny, teaming with restless theater clerk Kelly Haines (Emyri Crutchfield) on a quest to break the rules, win the run and earn a new life together.

There are secrets hiding in this local tradition, to be sure, but even though we’re not sure exactly why the prisoners of Bradbury are prisoners, the metaphors here are effectively drawn without heavy hands. Slade leans on cinematographer Larry Smith (Only God Forgives) and the production design team to give the film a wonderful vintage look, with terrific use of backlighting that sets an imposing mood – especially deep in the corn stalks.

And once ol’ Sawtooth comes calling, the effects department earns that R rating, with some vicious bloodletting that proves Jack can be a very naughty boy.

The tale wraps some familiar Young Adult themes around equally familiar creature feature lore. And though Slade flirts with over indulgence on both sides, he’s ultimately able to walk a line that allows Dark Harvest to reap some tasty Halloween treats.

Ticket for One

Nightmare Cinema

by Hope Madden

Horror short compilations can be tricky business. Mick Garris, far better known for being a horror fan than a horror filmmaker, collects a handful of new shorts for Nightmare Cinema.

As he did with Masters of Horror, a sometimes wonderful and generally competent cable program he produced in 2007, his latest effort pulls in the talents of a few of his pals.

The through-line “The Projectionist” ties the disparate group of shorts together as, one after another, individuals see their names on the lonely marquee of a single screen theater and wander in to sit alone in the dark and watch as their nightmare unspools, controlled by the man in the booth (Mickey Rourke—shirtless, natch).

Those nightmares boast the direction of Joe Dante (The Howling), Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), David Slade (Hard Candy), Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and Garris himself.

Things open briskly with Brugués’s “The Thing in the Woods,” a slasher/SciFi mishmash with a bit of novelty hiding behind the mask of The Welder, the seemingly unkillable marauder stalking a group of good looking college kids in the woods.

What the short lacks in originality it mainly makes up for with humor, blood and an entirely unexplained basement full of corpses.

Important tangent: If you have not seen Brugues’s glorious 2011 caper Juan of the Dead, you should feel compelled to do so right now. Right now.

Dante’s “Mirare” plays like a particularly corporeal Twilight Zone, with a predictable outcome but a fairly wild journey.

Kitamura’s “Mashit” offers the most compelling visuals and nothing else. It’s just one more tired, lazy entry into the tedious “Catholicism is so bad” subgenre.

Slade’s “This Way to Egress” impresses. Feeling like a genuine nightmare with that same kind of illogical logic and terrifying vaguery that frustrates the dreamer, the short follows Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) through a moment of madness set in a doctor’s office that’s increasingly marred with filth and populated by disfigured janitors grunting through their endless cleanup.

A mysterious plot, Reaser’s wonderfully committed performance and some unsettling imagery combine to make this one the most intriguing of the shorts.

Garris’s own “Dead” completes the lineup with a bland “I see dead people” drama that collides with the framing “The Projectionist” to remind viewers that Garris is better at enjoying horror than he is at creating it.