Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Savage Harvest (1994)

When it comes to horror movies, I feel that it’s the thought that counts. I enjoy content more than style, production value, and overall quality. All that and one other thing: GORE!!
Such is the case with this creative little shot-on-video horror film, Savage Harvest. I can best describe this film as a cross between Demons (1985), Night of the Demons (1988) and Evil Dead (1980). This blog site is aimed at people who have already seen the big time horror films, so I have no qualms about reviewing films like this one, which relentlessly reference the classics.
Deep in the Missouri farmlands lies a stretch of woods cursed by Native American spirits. A group of teenagers arrive for a camping trip and one by one they are possessed by ancients demons, each one representing a different animal. There is a spider demon, a scorpion, vulture, bobcat, wolf, boar, snake, and the most evil one of all, the demon of man.
The possessed people take on traits of the animal. Obviously the budget did not allow the filmmakers to get too elaborate in their special effects, so the demons still walk upright like humans. The spider demon-man hangs his victims in a tree with a web-like substance and periodically returns to suck their blood. The boar demon-man develops a pig snout on his face (reminiscent of what happens to the fat boy in Night of the Demons), and the girl possessed by the vulture demon simply cowers around the dead bodies and eats their flesh when nobody is around. There’s more, but I don’t want to give too much away, and like I said, this movie has quite an imagination.
The gore is pretty gruesome and includes some comical decapitations, explicit head-bashings, heart-steakings, stabbing, slashings, shotgunnings, and screwdriver-through-the-skull-ings. It’s all pretty graphic and slimy without being over the top in a cheesy way.
There is some creative camera work and good woodland locations are used. The opening scene had a surreal feel to it that reminded me of another bizarre Native American curse themed movie, Scalps (1983). A lot of the action scenes have a heavy metal guitar soundtrack, a good move in my opinion and another cinematic reference to other demon themed films.
Director Eric Stanze is a talented man. This was his first film and he was only 21 years old when he made it. He went on to direct another noteworthy SOV film, Ice From The Sun (1999), which I have not been able to see yet, and his latest film, Deadwood Park (2007) is about a child killer. I really loved this film and I watched it several times. I learned about it from the super awesome web site Critical Condition (www.critcononline.com), probably the single greatest online resource for information about low-budget horror on home video. The section titled “Films on the Fringe” is a primer on SOV gore films.
Savage Harvest is available in two different DVD editions. The one from Sub Rosa Studios includes a detailed making of documentary and better cover art but is currently out of print, while the new Image Entertainment DVD has three different commentary tracks.

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