Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October (Jay's Review Edition): Staunton Hill

The movie's a bit of a trifle but it seems I had a lot to say in this review I wrote for


It's the fall of 1969, and winds of change are blowing across America. but on a remote family farm in the hills of Virginia, a storm of evil has been brewing for years. Now for a group of young people hitchhiking to a rally in Washington DC, a detour to the nightmare homestead of the Staunton's will rip apart their young lives forever. A grisly secret is waiting. The raw terror is growing. And the clan's brutal harvest is about to begin. Kathy Lamkin (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Kiko Ellsworth (Dexter), Cooper Huckabee (The Funhouse), Cristen Coppen and David Rountree star in this extreme shocker from Pittsburgh filmmaker Cameron Romero - son of legendary Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero - that unleashes a new generation of graphic horror.

Cameron Romero presents a well-made slasher movie in the vein of (perhaps aping is more exact) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Staunton Hill. Another entry in the "Crazy Backwoods Killer Family" genre, here a group of optimistic hippie teens meet a horrible fate at the hands of a rural clan who turn out to have an agenda. Namely, one that involves mutilation and some weird recurring bits with feet. (Just like in TTCM, someone shockingly loses half a leg when you least expect it.)

Honestly. My backwoods relatives fight and act up, but there's nary an organ farmer among them.

Also, what is it with baby dolls in these movies? Lately, these films have to be filled with broken, dirty children's toys laying around cluttered, neglected homes. Be it the remakes of TTCM, Friday the 13th, or the recent The Hills Run Red, sepia-toned junk-room neglect and filth seems to be the name of the game. Along with that we get some very odd cinematography, credits from the "Seven school of movie titles", and effective gore. Though it starts slow, a speedy killing and skinning a smidge over half-way through the movie matter-of-factly shifts the tone and kicks things off. Before long, limbs and scalps are flying and the body-count mounts.

You've seen the story and aesthetics before, but when things get grisly, they get grisly. (A quick bit with a body and a pig pen is downright upsetting.) Romero name check's his daddy's Night of the Living Dead, though seems to have learned the family trade. The black comedy is here as is the skill to coax pretty good performances from unknown actors, the standout being Kathy Lamkin. With a resume of bit parts, a featured role in TTCM and a heart-breakingly memorable appearance on "Nip/Tuck," she's paid her dues and has the chops. She's refreshingly real. The rest of the cast seems inexperienced, but they're game.

Staunton Hill is one of those "a little of column A, little from column B" kind of movies. If you don't see the plot twists coming from the beginning, you need to watch more horror films. This doesn't mean it's not worth a watch. Romero has a promising future and Staunton Hill is a production that proves it.

Pretty much nil. English subtitles are available along with chapter selections and a trailer for Edges of Darkness. Audio is English Dolby 5.1 Surround and the film is in a 1.78:1 Widescreen Presentation.

Unrated and only 89 minutes long, this "Texas Foot-Fetishist's Massacre" shows that Cameron Romero can make a decent horror movie that shocks, appalls, and moves at a fair clip. You've seen this stuff before, but this is a nice watch for enthusiasts and the curious. Those newer to this kind of genre film will find even more to enjoy.

Mostly, you'll be campaigning for Romero to helm a remake of Motel Hell with Kathy Lamkin as the one saying "Meat's meat, and man's gotta eat."


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