Back in the ’80s, the midnight movie was an alternative for kids who wanted to stay out late, but weren’t old enough to drink beer. They could head by the cinema after hours. They under 21 youth could load up on non-alcoholic refreshments and have fun in the back of the theater watching a film that didn’t play during normal screening hours. Nowadays the arthouse theater that runs midnight flicks has beer and wine at the concession stand so that the older viewers don’t have to choose between a late night at the bar or a movie. They get both. What do they get to watch on the screen while enjoying popcorn? IFC Midnight distributes the better films that spook audiences on festival circuit. They’re the people who gave us the glory of The Human Centipede. Now four of their more recent titles are coming to home video thanks to a deal with Scream Factory. Dark Summer, The Harvest, Back Country and Ejecta show a range of frights from spooks, creepy neighbors, bears and aliens.
Dark Summer starts out as just another film about a kid stuck under house arrest. Daniel (Kier Gilchrist) gets stuck at home with an electronic leash after cyberstalking Mona (Grace Phipps). This means he’s stuck at home without the internet. Isn’t this considered cruel and unusual punishment in the 21st century? He’s got Peter Stormare (Fargo) as his case officer trying to keep him reforming. But the kid can’t stop his desires. He gets his friends to hook him back up to the information super highway because he must make contact with Mona. This turns out to be a very bad thing. Mona can’t handle him back in her life and takes extreme action. This leads of a supernatural horror unleashed on Daniel and his friends.
The scares are all there as the action is restrained to the area of the house arrest bracelet. The claustrophobic element makes sure the film has to keep pumping up the intensity in established spaces. The familiar must become strange as Mona’s fate leads to a shift from merely a cyber stalking flick to a spiritual attacking movie. The short running time also keeps things from getting to dull. Director Paul Solet and his crew bring in the small creative elements that are innovative and jolting with the 5.1 mix making up for a limited budget. Stormare once more proves he can look like a man in charge without a woodchipper nearby. Dark Summer is a perfect reason to just leave people alone on the internet. Or stick to writing snail mail.
The Harvest is the After School Special you’d expect from the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Maryann (Natasha Calis) is a teenager coping with the death of her parents. She must live in the country with her grandparents (including Easy Rider‘s Peter Fonda). This isolation leads her to meeting a wheelchair bound boy in the area. Andy (Charlie Tahan) seems sweet enough even though he spends most of his time with his parents. Katherine (Sweet Lowdown‘s Samantha Morton) and Richard (Man of Steel‘s Michael Shannon) are extremely protective of their son. They get really upset that a girl is hanging out with their son. While she gets warned off from visiting Andy, the message doesn’t stick. She wants to bring joy into the home stuck kid’s life. She sneaks over and nearly gets caught. When she hides in the basement to avoid the parents, she uncovers a really dark secret about her new friend and his family.
It’s been a while since John McNaughton had a theatrical release. This is a shame since he was the director of the spicy Wild Things. He weaves an amazing little film. Strange to see Peter Fonda as the responsible adult. Michael Shannon gets to emotionally flex as a character as opposed to his normal brooding screen persona. Samantha Morton is a mother that must have watched Mommy Dearest while reading What to Expect While You’re Expecting. Both child actors give the feeling that they were in an inspirational after school special more that the true genre. The only misstep in the film is the title. Spoiler alert, forget the title and just hit play.
Backcountry is the perfect film for when your partner or child hears the call of the wild and wants to go camping in the woods. Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym) are the perfect couple who seek to get away from it all on a big nature trip at a park in Canada. He’s so ready to pull the plug on society, he leaves her cellphone back in the car without letting her know of the decision. He doesn’t even ask for a map of the park from the ranger. What’s the point since he’s been camping there for years. He knows ever rock, stream and tree for miles. Trouble is that he doesn’t know all the bears. The trouble appears it will come from the fellow hiker Brad (Six Feet Under‘s Eric Balfour). Alex gets a little jealous when Brad shares his fish with them. Is this going to turn into a tales of a threesome gone really bad in the wilderness? Will this be Deliverance with a dental plan? Hard to tell. Although as Stephen Colbert will point out, does it matter when the woods are full of four legged killing machines wearing rugs called bears?
The filmmakers do the awesome job of showing the breathtaking beauty of untouched nature mixed with the life taking beauty of nature that can’t be touched without heavy firepower. This is based on a true story from 2005 so there’s no need to hear “That never happens” from your partner. Instead they will immediately go online and book a hotel with a view and security guards. Backcountry is the movie that will make you see a trip to REI as the start of a suicide note.
Ejecta is about alien abduction, although it’s really about small part actor getting beamed up to a starring role. Julian Richings’ unique look has allowed him over the years to have appearance in dozens of major Hollywood films including X-Men: The Last Stand, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Eloise at the Plaza. He’s even been Death on Supernatural. But rarely does he get the lead. Now he’s the man at the center of Ejecta. William Cassidy (Richings) claims he’s been abducted by aliens and they’ve done things to him. A reporter arrives thinking Cassidy has an exclusive for him. Trouble is Cassidy swears he didn’t invite the guy over. He does have a warning about what an upcoming solar flare is going to do to Earth. This news triggers a landslide of events that has Cassidy being interrogated by humans using alien technology. This movie flips between the harsh interrogation with the reporter’s questioning.
Richings captivates in the role. He’s remarkable when finally given more than a minute or so worth of screen time. Although his physicality makes him look more alien than the folks that arrive on the UFO. The film plays out better than most of the SyFy channel original movies that tackle alien abduction.
Dark Summer: The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfers brings out the freak out moments when the spirit terrorizes the kids. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. When things go wild, the sound really takes it up a notch. There’s also a 2.0 mix. The movie is subtitled.
Director Paul Solet (2:15) gets a brief time to talk about the movie.
A Conversation with Peter Stormare (15:52) is a fine time with the legendary wild card thespian.
The Kids (2:04) interviews the young cast.
Atmosphere and Style (1:57) give time to the crew.
The Art of Dark Summer (13:38) covers who made what.
The Music of Dark Summer (8:37) recognized the composer.
Theatrical Trailer (1:58) gets you in the mood for a haunting.
Audio Commentary with Director Paul Solet covers how he made this limited space fright fest.
Scream Factory presents Dark Summer. Directed by: Paul Solet. Screenplay by: Mike Le. Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Stella Maeve, Maestro Harrell. Rated: R. Running Time: 82 minutes. Released: July 7, 2015.
The Harvest: The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. Things looks so sweet until the bears show up. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 pokes you at the right time. There’s also a 2.0 mix. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with Director John McNaughton and Producer Steven A. Jones goes over the creation of the movie.
The Harvest Trailer (2:10) makes Shannon look less frightening.
Scream Factory presents The Harvest. Directed by: John McNaughton. Screenplay by: Stephen Lancellotti. Starring: Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon, Natasha Calis & Peter Fonda. Rated: R. Running Time: 104 minutes. Released: September 1, 2015.
Backcountry: The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. Things looks so sweet until the bears show up. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 wraps that bear around your living room. The movie is subtitled.
Behind the Scenes (17:25) has them talk about the joy of going deep in the woods.
Bear Shots (2:01) will scare fans of Colbert.
Still Gallery (5:17) is a montage.
Trailer (2:03) will keep you from hiking.
Audio Commentary with Director Adam MacDonald, Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym recounts their nature trip.
Scream Factory presents Backcountry. Directed by: Adam MacDonald. Screenplay by: Adam MacDonald. Starring: Missy Peregrym, Eric Balfour & Nicholas Campbell. Rated: R. Running Time: 92 minutes. Released: September 1, 2015.
Ejecta: The video is 2.00:1 anamorphic. The film has a mix of gritty and smooth footage depending on the location. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that allows you to get the full effect of the brutal interrogation and the aliens. There’s also a 2.0 mix. The movie is subtitled.
DVD has all the stuff from the Blu-ray in a lower resolution.
Theatrical Trailer (1:54) reminds you that you’ll be seeing more of Julian Richings.
Scream Factory presents Ejecta. Directed by: Chad Archibald & Matt Wiele. Screenplay by: Tony Burgess. Starring: Julian Richings, Lisa Houle, Adam Seybold. Rated: R. Running Time: 87 minutes. Released: August 18, 2015.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.