Three Horror Films from Warner
Blood Trails (October 5/09)
Though it boasts the kind of premise that would seem to lend itself naturally to a kick-ass horror flick, Blood Trails remains oddly uninvolving throughout the duration of its bloated running time - with the aggressively spare storyline resulting in a repetitive and downright tedious moviegoing experience. After engaging in a one night stand with a mysterious stranger (Ben Price's Chris), Anne (Rebecca Palmer) embarks upon a weekend of cycling in the woods with her oblivious boyfriend (Tom Frederic's Michael). Problems ensue as Chris follows the couple on their jaunt and quickly makes his murderous intentions known, with the bulk of the proceedings subsequently detailing the deadly game of cat and mouse that inevitably commences between Anne and Chris. Director Robert Krause - along with cinematographer Ralf Noack - has infused Blood Trails with an almost unreasonably ostentatious sense of style that effectively holds the viewer at arm's length right from the get-go, with the overuse of various visual tricks ultimately exacerbating the less-than-eventful nature of the screenplay. Krause's efforts at evoking an atmosphere of creepiness generally fall flat, while the progressively surreal atmosphere will undoubtedly test the patience of even the sturdiest horror-movie veteran (ie how did Anne not notice that crucified body inches above her head?) Blood Trails' increasingly interminable midsection, devoted almost entirely to long, dialogue-free stretches, ensures that the viewer has lost interest long before the admittedly intriguing finale rolls around, which effectively cements the film's place as an entirely misguided endeavor that could only have worked as a five-minute short (maybe).
Dr. Giggles (March 5/10)
Dopey, absurd fun, Dr. Giggles follows Larry Drake's title character as he embarks on a vicious killing spree after escaping from a mental hospital - with the film primarily detailing the cat-and-mouse game that ensues between Giggles and a sickly teenager (Holly Marie Combs' Jennifer Campbell). There's never a point at which this goofy riff on Halloween becomes quite as compelling as one might've hoped, admittedly, yet filmmaker Manny Coto does a nice job of holding the viewer's interest by placing an ongoing emphasis on gleefully over-the-top kill sequences and appropriately ridiculous one-liners (ie after dispatching a hapless victim, Giggles remarks, "if you think that's bad, wait until you get my bill.") It's just as clear that the movie benefits substantially from Drakes' go-for-broke performance, as the frequent lulls within the narrative are easy to stomach thanks primarily to the actor's unabashedly scene-chewing turn as the eponymous psychopath (and there's consequently little doubt that had the film been a bigger success, Dr. Giggles would've surely entered the pantheon of all-time great horror villains). As it is, however, Dr. Giggles has certainly earned its place as a minor cult classic - with the film undoubtedly improved by a viewing among as large (and rowdy) a crowd as possible.
Eyes of a Stranger (March 9/20)
Featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh's first big-screen appearance, Eyes of a Stranger follows intrepid reporter Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes) as she becomes increasingly convinced that a neighbor (John DiSanti's Stanley Herbert) is responsible for a series of brutal killings - with her suspicions inevitably putting both her and her deaf and blind sister (Leigh's Tracy) in jeopardy. Eyes of a Stranger opens with a surprisingly effective sequence in which Herbert stalks (and murders) an attractive waitress, and although it does take some time to wholeheartedly warm up to the central character's ongoing investigation, filmmaker Ken Wiederhorn effectively holds the viewer's interest by punctuating the proceedings with a number of suspenseful stand-alone sequences and flashbacks - with the latter represented especially well by a disturbing glimpse into the grisly manner by which Tracy lost her ability to see and hear. It's subsequently easy enough to overlook the film's less-than-impressive elements (ie some of the supporting performances border on the amateurish), as Wiederhorn - along with cinematographer Mini Rojas - generally does a nice job of sustaining an atmosphere of mounting dread by emphasizing visuals of a decidedly foreboding and almost De Palma-esque nature. By the time the tense finale rolls around, Eyes of a Stranger has certainly established itself as an above-average slasher that seems to have been unfairly relegated to cheapie bins at big-box home-entertainment stores.