Originally a zombie story by producer/ersatz screenwriter Boaz Davidson, with Tobe Hooper slated to direct, the script later made its way to genre director J.S. Cardone, who reworked the zombie aspect into a weirdly uneven echo of Village of the Damned and Children of the Corn with writer Ben Nedivi, and while the film delivers an exceptional level of mood through some brilliantly gloomy cinematography and superb isolated locations - particularly a haunting forest and a disintegrating rustic mansion - the script's lingering flaw is a thin set of characters trapped in a pretty inane reality.
Ben Cross appears as Hanks, an aging, cottage-bound missing link who tells mom Karen Tunny (Lori Heuring) of the town's mystical batch of carnivorous zombie brats who must keep eating animal and human flesh until the lone descendent of their woes enters their purvue and digestive tracts. What's ludicrous from the beginning is widow Tunny's decision to insist that her family of four live in a filthy, mold-encrusted house once owned by their father, and without a visible signs of income or job prospects.
Fresh blood on the front door is shrugged off as local oddity, and Tunny's teenage daughter is easily permitted to stay out with local kids without mom's face-on approval. There's a flippancy to the screenwriter's penmanship, and that alone permits director Cardone to have characters wander endlessly through the massive backyard forest, thereby padding the film with lengthy pseudo-Bavian montages that form preludes to the inevitable zombie encounters.
The gore is effective and quite novel in showing children munching and yanking flesh off fresh cadavers (scenes most likely snipped from the theatrical print and re-integrated in this director's cut), but even Hanks' pig-raising – largely done to keep the zombie moppets sated and away from his cabin - doesn't really spice up a fairly tepid horror yarn. The final wrap-up is also a bit contrived, as a box of photos repeatedly handled by Tunny eventually strike the eureka chord, and enable her to figure out the rather muddy revenge legend that's been reducing the mountain population to a mere handful.
The DVD's commentary track is a fairly straightforward narrative of location filming in Eastern Europe, plus views on the horror genre, and there's a minor point of intrigue when Cardone discusses with Heuring the MPAA's shift in becoming less tolerant of violence enacted by youths in a post-Columbine era.
This title is part of an 8-film After Dark Horrorfest series from Lions Gate/Maple, which includes Unrest, Wicked Little Things, Penny Dreadful, The Hamiltons, The Gravedancers, Dark Ride, Reincarnation, and The Abandoned (2006).
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan