AUGUST 3, 2011
Just two weeks after Mega Python vs Gatoroid, along comes 2005's The Beast Of Bray Road, another surprisingly fun movie from the same Asylum folk that gave us such wretched disasters like Anneliese. And it's from director Leigh Scott, who seems to be their golden boy as he also helmed the "not bad for Asylum" flick The Hitchhiker (which shares a few cast members with this) but struck out when he broke away and made (the lousy by any measure) Flu Bird Horror without them. Come back, Leigh! They need you!
Anyway, what makes this one work is a cast full of likable people, for once. Jeff Denton (title star of Hitchhiker) actually makes for a decent everyman hero here; his Zach Braff-ian looks and dry sense of humor is a nice fit for the more colorful folks around him, such as Thomas Downey (another Asylum regular) as the Quint-type cryptozoological hunter who's actually kind of awkward and creepy when he talks to women. But who can blame him when he's trying to hit on Sarah Lieving, just as appealing here (if not more so) than she was in Hitchhiker. According to her IMDb, she's the star of a musical about Sunset Junction, and even though I despise that event like no other, I will actually consider watching it to see how well she belts out a tune.
And she's the werewolf, which is a nice surprise, mainly because it's a giant plot hole as we know her character's whereabouts during a few of the kill scenes. But hey, I didn't see it coming! I had my money on the hipster reporter girl, who has some good advice at one point and is shot down by another character who says, "I know you're all smart with your glasses..." Hah! But plot holes aside, it's actually a pretty fun twist, and even better, Denton (her love interest) doesn't really go into "No don't hurt her! She's Kelly inside!" mode like most heroes do when faced with the fact that their beloved is really the monster. No, he loads up on silver bullets and blows her away. Awesome.
I also liked that it felt like a real movie, unlike many other productions (even not bad ones like When A Killer Calls). There are a lot of locations, a sense of pacing, and shockingly little in the way of "Let's cash in on whatever is hot right now" (which, in 2005, would be either Asian-style ghosts or torture). It's a pretty straightforward monster movie; someone dies in the opening scene, some others die a bit later, cop starts putting it together, more deaths, big hunt... usual stuff, without any extraneous bullshit (like Killer Calls' out of nowhere torture scenes). There are some low budget snafus, of course, such as canned "bar fight" audio that somehow kicks in before the fight actual starts, or a kid playing a video game with what seems to be an Atari controller (maybe he's the world's youngest ironic hipster?), but for the most part I got the sense that everyone was trying to make a good, fun movie, and not just turning the camera on and letting the actors improvise like in Gacy House.
And the monster is practical! There's an awesome kill where he's (she's?) standing on top of a car and a dumb blond girl wanders nearby, so he reaches down and tears her head off, and it's all real prosthetics and latex, not CGI nonsense. And it's not even a bad looking monster, sort of blending a werewolf with a Bigfoot style beast. Apparently this is a real legend from Wisconsin (the film is dedicated to Wisconsin - did the state die?), and it seems like they based the monster on a composite of all the different sighting descriptions, which is cool. I actually wouldn't even have minded if they didn't go down the usual werewolf route and just let the monster get away at the end, rather than lock it down to an explanation that is obviously incorrect. In fact, the movie doesn't even suggest that the monster is actually a human who shapeshifted (I only knew from a spoiler on IMDb, though not its identity), which makes me wonder if the decision was made late in the game, which would explain both the lack of any real setup as well as the plot hole concerning its identity.
Also, my pal (and Automaton Transfusion director) Steven C Miller popped up, so that was funny. He gets one of the movie's more ridiculous scenes, filming his girlfriend's striptease with his awesome 2004 model camera phone, only to spot the Beast outside, go investigate, and then die. Sadly he doesn't die on-screen; his mangled corpse just gets tossed back onto the car's hood. But it's good to know I have an "in" at The Asylum, because as tough as I am on their movies I am actually kind of fascinated by their approach. If I had the time (and extra paycheck to cover my losses) I would totally try to get a job as a PA on one of their productions just to see how it all goes down. Until then, I'll just keep HMADing them under the assumption that they really don't care much, and the ones like this that actually turn out kind of fun are merely flukes.
What say you?