Two Horror Films from Maple Pictures
Borderland (August 9/08)
Though one can't help but question the veracity of the film's "based on a true story" claim, Borderland is nevertheless an effective little horror effort that boasts strong central performances and several unexpectedly electrifying sequences. The story concerns three friends (Brian Presley's Ed, Jake Muxworthy's Henry, and Rider Strong's Phil) who head into Mexico for a weekend of drinking and debauchery, though their fun-loving exploits are cut short after Phil is abducted by the deranged members of a blood-thirsty human-sacrifice cult. It's hard to deny that director and co-writer Zev Berman has infused the central characters with decidedly stereotypical attributes - Phil's the innocent one, Henry's the cocky one, and Ed's the pragmatic one - yet this proves not to be entirely as problematic as one might've anticipated due to the actors' uniformly stellar work (Muxworthy, in particular, is quite good here). Berman generally does an effective job of peppering the proceedings with bursts of brutal violence, which proves essential in holding one's interest through the film's less-than-enthralling sections (ie the riddled-with-choppy-slow-motion segment set in a local amusement park). There's little doubt, however, that the movie's highlight comes with a surprisingly thrilling interlude in which Henry is chased through a dilapidated hotel by a gang of machete-wielding cult members; it's a compelling sequence that unfortunately ensures that everything that comes after it sort of pales in comparison, with the anti-climactic third act certainly not helping matters. Still, Borderland primarily lives up to its promise as the movie that the execrableTuristas should've been (and, of course, one can't help but admire any film that features a villain with a penchant for saying things like "I'll decorate my bedroom wall with your skin.")
The Deaths of Ian Stone (August 9/08)
It seems fairly obvious that one's ability to genuinely enjoy The Deaths of Ian Stone depends considerably on one's tolerance for David Lynchian headtrips, as the movie - initially, anyway - seems to be going out of its way to confound the viewer with a plot that feels purposefully incoherent. The film - which follows ordinary guy Ian Stone (Mike Vogel) as he's repeatedly murdered and forced into a new life by mysterious forces - admittedly improves as screenwriter Brendan Hood delves into the mystery behind the central character's oddball predicament, yet it does become increasingly difficult to overlook the script's inherently repetitive nature (ie there's a tediousness that sets in as Ian Stone is forced to start over again and again and again). Director Dario Piana's stylish visual choices generally prove effective in holding boredom at bay, while Vogel - along with co-stars Jaime Murray and Christina Cole - certainly tries his hardest to infuse the proceedings with something resembling an emotional center. In the end, however, The Deaths of Ian Stone simply seems as though it would've been far more effective within the confines of dramatically reduced running time (ie this could've worked as a brisk 30-minute short).