Written and Directed by Brett Simmons.
Starring Devon Graye, Wes Chatham, C.J. Thomason, Tammin Sursok and Ben Easter.
When a crow smashes into their car windscreen a group of young friends find themselves stranded near a desolate cornfield and take shelter in a crumbling farmhouse, which they soon discover to be the centre of a terrifying supernatural ritual.
Formed in 2006 by filmmaker Courtney Solomon to produce and distribute his second feature An American Haunting, independent studio After Dark Films have since been making steady inroads into the horror market. After four years of promoting After Dark: Horrorfest in the U.S., the company are looking to move on from acquiring and distributing titles by partnering up with Lionsgate and Syfy to produce a new series of low-budget horrors. Now if you’re already familiar with other Syfy original films – a catalogue of ‘movies’ that includes trash such as Lake Placid 3, Man-Thing, Mega Piranha and the fantastically-titled Firestarter 2: Rekindled – it’s likely that alarm bells will be ringing. However, the first batch of films are now arriving and if writer-director Brett Simmons’ Husk is anything to go by, the series could be a welcome new addition for horror fans.
Husk starts out as anything but ‘original’, with five young friends drive along in the middle of nowhere. We’ve got the usual set-up – the jock, the geek, the chick, the chickenshit and the expendable one who we don’t really need to know anything about – and after a brief bit of conversation to further confirm the stereotypes on offer, the car ends up careering off the road leaving the expendable one missing. Surrounded by fields and fields of corn as far as the eye can see, the friends set off to look for their missing buddy and soon stumble upon a derelict-looking farmhouse, which just so happens to have a light on upstairs…
By the time the plot of Husk is set up, we’re sure we’ve seen this a million times before. We have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen, who’s going to die and how things are likely to plan out. Only we don’t, because having set up our expectations Simmons then turns everything upside down and produces a solid, throwback horror that comes across as a mash-up of Children of the Corn and Dark Night of the Scarecrow. To reveal more of the plot would do the film a disservice, but rest assured that Husk delivers plenty of wince-inducing scenes and eerie moments of suspense to raise it head-and-shoulders above the majority of its straight-to-video compatriots. And of course it’s full of creepy-ass scarecrows, which is always a good thing.
For a low-budget effort Simmons really has got his money’s worth with Husk; the film is visually impressive and avoids the use of cheap-looking CGI, instead relying on top-notch ‘old-school’ practical effects and atmospheric lighting to deliver its scares. It’s also well-written, giving us just enough back-story to make the supernatural elements believable, and needless to say it manages to avoid falling into the cliché trap that its opening had suggested. Simmons has certainly demonstrated his potential, while the same can also be said for Devon Graye (Dexter), who gives a stand-out performance in a cast that is surprisingly above average.
As you can probably tell from the beginning of this review, I wasn’t expecting much from Husk. Save for the occasional gem, the horror genre seems to be in a permanent state of stagnation, with the majority of low-budget titles delivering the “when will it end?” kind of nightmares. As it happens, I was completely surprised by the film and if this is the level of quality we can come to expect from After Dark Originals, I’ll certainly be seeking out more.
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