OCTOBER 11, 2008
If horror movies ever got any sort of respect from the Oscars, JT Petty's The Burrowers would probably be up for a cinematography award. When there are no monsters or dismembered limbs onscreen, it could easily be mistaken for The Assassination of Jesse James or a Terry Malick film. The lush New Mexico landscapes look beautiful, and DP Phil Parmet deserves kudos as well.
Unfortunately, like those aforementioned films, it's pretty damn slow. There are shockingly few monster scenes, and most of them are confined to the film's finale. Not that a slow film is a bad thing, but the concept is pretty awesome (underground monsters that paralyze and bury humans alive, returning to eat them once the body has reached a certain stage of decomposition), so I wanted to see it realized to its full potential. I have no doubts that Burrowers 2 will be an action packed romp, but since Lionsgate is dumping this one (there's a phrase I'm sick of typing out), a sequel isn't looking too likely.
Luckily the cast picks up some of the slack. Burrowers features not one, not two, but THREE Lost vets: William "Ethan" Mapother, Clancy "Inman" Brown, Doug "guy in the Ben episode about Dharma" Hutchison. All three are actors who I enjoy watching on screen (particularly Brown, seen here in a rare good guy role), and while only Mapother has a big role, it's still good to see them all together (their Lost characters have never met... YET). Also on hand is Laura Leighton, an actress I spent many an hour ogling on Melrose Place (the episode where she begins screwing around with her sister's ex husband? HOT), still looking quite good.
I also liked the humor, which was as dry as the landscapes. Mapother in particular gets in a few good lines, which was surprising as he is always playing Stoneface McGees who never even crack a smile, let alone a joke. And even though it's hardly played for laughs, the cynical asshole in me almost cheered at the ending, which is like a big "fuck you" in the tradition of the original Night of the Living Dead. It's a downer, which is possibly part of why LG has no faith in the film, but kudos for going that route.
The monsters also look pretty cool, when we see them. Up until the big ending, you never quite see them in their entirety; you get an eye or a limb or something. They seem to be animatronic for the most part (there's a CGI "circling around the hero" shot but otherwise, if it's CG its the good kind). And like Feast, I like that they don't bother explaining where they came from or anything (nor is there a "let's see what makes these things tick" autopsy scene!).
It's a shame that the cinematography will be seen on a small TV (or worse, a computer screen) by a lot of the eventual audience, but at the same time, I can almost see LG's point on this one. I enjoyed it, but guys like me are not providing the primary income in movie theaters nowadays. If no one showed up for Grindhouse or Doomsday, who would show up for a slow burn of a film with no big stars (in a western setting at that)? At least by going straight to DVD they can eliminate the middleman and get it into the hands of the fans who will enjoy it. I just hope a lot of those fans have big HDTVs with upscaling DVD players.
What say you?