JANUARY 23, 2013
I should start tagging the movies where the production history is far more interesting than what is on-screen. I've certainly seen worse movies than After Dusk They Come, but nothing in it was as intriguing as its FAQ on the IMDb page (where it goes under the title The Forgotten Ones), which explains that the movie was shot in 2006 (!), and apparently considered for release in the After Dark Horrorfest (remember those?), only to be shelved because the producers thought it was bad.
But it gets funnier. Not wanting such an amazing story go to waste, the producers reworked the script a bit and tried again with a new cast and crew a couple years later. That movie, which has the exact same plot (a group of 20somethings crash their boat and end up on an island of cannibal mutants), was released as The Lost Tribe about 2-3 years ago, and I've been asked to review it a few times by HMAD reader August Benassi, who I hope will just count this one since I only have 70 movies left and it'd be silly to watch the same damn movie. How this one got a new name for DVD is left to our imaginations, but since they put Twilight star Kellan Lutz on the cover instead of actual star Jewel Staite, I assume they wanted some sort of tie since "dusk" and "twilight" are similar concepts in terms of "time of the day" (the back of the DVD makes this connection more obvious, going all out with "As TWILIGHT sets, an epic battle begins!". Good work, guy!
Shockingly, none of this is mentioned on the DVD's sole bonus feature, a brief making of that's mostly about the rainy conditions and how cool the guys playing the creatures are. But these sort of things tend to have barebones DVDs, so I'm actually kind of surprised it had that much. The movie itself is basically a combined ripoff of The Descent and Predator, with Staite in the Sarah (or Arnold) role. Indeed, Lionsgate even put trailers for both Descent films at the top of the disc, despite being several years old at this point, because if you somehow missed them and liked this movie, you'd definitely want to check them out. As in Neil Marshall's classic, a group of friends are off on an adventure when they become trapped, and then their scary situation turns worse when a bunch of humanoid creatures start picking them off one by one. Except, here's the thing - Marshall's film was scary even before the monsters showed up, whereas this one is merely serviceable. Our characters aren't the most likable lot in the world, and their various romantic issues (one won't commit! one is jealous of another couple! etc) aren't nearly as interesting as the Sarah/Juno/dead husband triangle. So it's not terrible, but you'll be looking at your watch waiting for the monsters to show up.
And then they do, and things seem like they're going to get pretty awesome, but (SPOILER) writer/director Jorg Ihle inexplicably kills off the entire cast save Staite over a period of about 7 minutes, leaving just Staite alone to battle the monsters. So not only do we not get the personal through-line that Descent had (where Sarah gets revenge on Juno AND her escape plan in one swoop of a pickaxe), but we don't have much of ANYTHING, either. Staite's not going to die, and she doesn't find a human inhabitant or anything, so the final 25 minutes or so are just her running around, trying to avoid being eaten. This is where the Predator stuff comes in (in addition to the jungle setting, though big chunks are set in a dark cave a la Descent), since that one similarly left it down to Arnold and the Predator for a reel or so. But watching Arnold kick ass is not the same as seeing Kaylee run around trying to avoid doing that. And when she DOES fight back, it's too little too late. It's kind of interesting that the final half hour of the movie doesn't have a single line of dialogue (save for some radio chatter in the final minute), but it doesn't exactly serve the movie in any meaningful way, and it certainly doesn't do it any favors to not keep Lutz or her boyfriend around longer to give us SOME sense of suspense. Predator's an action flick, so it can get away with it as long as the fights are coming - not so much with a horror movie, especially one that's cribbing so heavily from a classic like The Descent.
But had Ihle given us a kill or two sooner, and saved another for the final 10 minutes, he'd have a pretty good movie here. Staite is a very likable performer who I don't see often enough, and playing a character much different than her Firefly one. And it's fun seeing Lutz play the thankless "male lead's pal" role (he's also not as bulked up as he is now, being two years before he came a Cullen), and for a while it seemed like he'd earn his placement on the box art since he was doing most of the action hero stuff (Staite's boyfriend doesn't do shit). And the design on the creatures is pretty good, and both their actions and their kills are delivered with a minimum of CGI, so that's a relief. And the delay even helped a bit - had this come out I'd just hate on it for being a cheap Descent knockoff, but after 6 years of torture/found footage/slasher remakes, I actually just wondered: why HASN'T Descent been ripped off more often? It was a critically acclaimed horror film that actually made decent money (even more impressive since it was an import), grossing 26 million in the middle of summer with no stars and an R rating. So shouldn't I have seen a dozen of these sort of things by now?
But nope, "Descent ripoffs" is not a big sub-genre, and this one went through so much trouble to get to store shelves that I doubt it'll make much of an impact. Indeed, it's so old that it was actually shot on film! At first I thought I was seeing things when I saw a few specks on an establishing shot, but sure enough, this was made by folks who actually gave a shit about delivering a quality image with life to it, before so many people who DIDN'T care led all the film companies to basically quit making the stuff. Such a nice trip down memory lane...
What say you?