Ah yes, the never-ending subgenre of horror that is the beloved slasher movie.
It’s done to the death (ahem), but I’ve found that there are still miles to be found here…if you find the right sources.
Combine the tried-and-true inside jokes of low-budget filmmaking, a game cast, and some snappy one-liners (as well as some legit suspense) and you just might be able to pull this off.
Such is the case with writer/director Michael Kallio’s recent film (see my positive review of his previous feature, Mutant Swingers from Mars ), The Explorer . The film had its world premiere at the recent 21 st Annual Screamfest in Hollywood.
Here’s the low point…
A micro-budget horror/sci-fi movie called “Terrestrial Evil” is in the works. It is in pre-production and auditions are being held. Director/writer Jeffrey Meadows (Kenneth Guertin) and his partner/producer Denise (Marla Lizbeth Perez) audition to find the best cast (and people who can not only act, but also serve on the crew – this is indie filmmaking , yo!), before you find the right group. Once the cast is chosen, the extra preparation continues, which is finding a cheap or free location where they can shoot their movie. When a promising location lead mysteriously fails, one of the cast-mates throws another option on the table… but this location is in the middle of nowhere, and it’s kind of spooky. Oh,
Look, there’s just nothing better than “bad auditions” caught on film. And it takes someone who’s been there (on either side of the camera) to really make them shine and live up to them. Scenes from Waiting for Guffman , The Fabulous Baker Boys or the little-known gem of the 80s, Singing – all shown scenes of people trying to achieve their dreams, thus treating the audience to some horrible “auditions”.
That’s where we get a lot from the scout . You could say there was too much. I mean, it was all fun, but there comes a point where you say, “Let’s move on,” story-wise.
And once the movie moved on, these little trifles were left behind.
I like a good ensemble cast, and I really enjoyed this one. There isn’t much character development here, but honestly, would you expect deep family histories and intense anecdotes about growing up? No of course not. And Kallio knows this isn’t the kind of story he’s telling here.
It’s the disparate cast of characters: the perky, obnoxious lead (Anastasia Elfman as “Patty Jane”), the hot, doofus-y lead, Sam (Derrick Zonca), the bitchy, “Not sure why I’m here” supporting woman , Jessica (Jessica Moore), the shy, “don’t put me on camera” photographer Damon (Eric Marq), as well as the aforementioned director/writer and producer. So of course there will be clashing personalities, and the scout is full of that wonderful “on set” drama.
While everyone has their moments, come the standout appearances of Moore (as social media influencer Jessica) and Perez as producer Denise. Despite the overall wackiness of the film, I found these two performances to be the most organic. Sure, Moore is a social media influencer, so she slipped into those shoes easily. She has an “it” quality that makes the character (despite her cattyness and sloppiness) a joy to watch.
As for Perez, she perfectly captures the maligned producer, especially when her director flirts with the potential female cast members. Watch out for those rolled eyes, sideways glances at the BTS camera. delicious. Oh, poor Denise!
What makes a movie like this is when the actors understand the tone of the story. And everyone who’s here gets it. No one takes it too seriously, and so no one stands out as “coloring outside the lines”. So while the cast gets credit for that, it’s also necessary to shout out Kallio to get everyone on the same page.
But there’s a potential problem, which I’ve discussed before… this is a “found footage” movie, but don’t let that put you off. The entire pre-production process and location scouting is documented by BTS filmmaker Damon. So this all feels pretty justified. And whether it was intended or not, I found it hysterical that when characters asked Damon (after things started to get violent) why he was still filming, there was absolutely no response, no justification – which works perfectly in the specific tone of this film. So well done in that regard. You brought it up for discussion, only to throw it on the floor. Brilliant.
Then again, when the film’s latest revelations come to light, maybe there was a reason the cameras kept rolling. hmm….
And another one of my constant complaints, had to be cast aside here as well, as it caused no problem. When characters in movies ad get sick of horror movies or movies in general, it always comes across as a showpiece to the writers/filmmakers with their vast cinematic knowledge. But in this case, with these specific characters, I bought it. And the discussion of evil/satanic movies while the cast/crew is in the van really serves the plot and characters. So it’s all justified and fun.
And speaking of the van, there’s a particularly exciting sequence on the way to the secondary location – where Denise and Jeffrey leave the van to investigate something on that lonely country road. So it’s not all laughter, horror clichés and power struggles.
Look, it all comes down to it. Did I have fun? Absolute. So despite entering a familiar “stalk-n-slash” territory, the scout is a fun, well-acted and enjoyable entry into the slasher sweepstakes.
No broader release information is available yet, but keep your eyes peeled for any updates.