Occult Shockers

Unlike the prior batch of Films to Die For in Maple/Lionsgate’s horror fest series, this year’s crop (available separately or in a boxed set) has been selected with better care, and seems to offer some refreshing and appropriately disturbing takes on worn genres.

In the realm of the occult, Zev Berman’s Borderland (2007) takes the core scenario of two college goofballs trying to save their missing buddy from a gang of drug smugglers bent on a blood sacrifice to ensure their marijuana ‘invisibly’ passes through the Mexican-U.S. border. Inspired by the gruesome Matamoros cult killings unearthed in 1989, it’s an old-school production shot on film, in 2.35:1, with gross practical effects from KNB Effects Group and apparently not one drop of CGI blood.

If one can separate its two pivotal bouts of torture porn (which is hard to do, since they’re integral to the plot), Borderland is very effective in conveying an awful sense of doom, and is worth a peek if you can get through the opening sequence.

Flip back 35 years, and we get another occult film that’s perhaps best-remembered by fans who either caught The Possession of Joel Delaney during its original 1972 theatrical release, or on TV late at night, and never forgot the weird docu-drama tone applied to the story of a good little brother possessed by the raging spirit of a serial killer.

The violence is very minimal but unsettling for its grotesqueness, and Shirley MacLaine gives a strong performance as Joel's domineering sister who eventually realizes the brother she loves is being smothered by a bloodthirsty fiend.

If you can survive the film’s truly noxious production style (bad hair, ugly décor, and wardrobe leftover from some aborted pimp musical), it’s a nifty late night chiller that spends time building worthwhile character bits before poor Perry King loses his mind and assaults his family.

Delaney is part of several rare Paramount-distributed titles now premiering on DVD via Legend Films, and fans will be delighted to know the film is a clean anamorphic widescreen transfer.

Coming next: the cinema of Olivier Smolders, Belgium’s poetic David Lynch.

And imminent: The Outsider, a new documentary on maverick writer/director James Toback, and Running with Arnold, Dan Cox’ doc on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ascension to Governor of California.


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