(First) Horror Efforts

Although Robbie Bryan had written and starred in The Stand-In (1999), iMurders marks his feature directorial debut, as well as his first effort in the horror – a genre that many filmmakers use to make a commercial mark as well as learn the ropes of feature filmmaking before moving on to more personal or riskier projects.

Horror has and will probably continue to be a popular genre for first-timer directors because it’s hugely commercial in spite of being cluttered with many second-rate efforts, or works where the director shows singular strengths (Robert Hall’s Laid to Rest, Stephen Norrington’s Death Machine) rather than a knack for genuine storytelling (which, in and of itself, includes the ability to shock, as well satisfy audiences).

iMurders is a mixed bag because it’s perhaps too ambitious: the bookend scenes that start and end the film with a hook and twist finale work, but everything in the middle is very wobbly. Either the script was undercooked, or when everything was assembled, certain glaring weaknesses had to be pruned for pacing and evened out the multiple story threads, which in turn weakened certain characters as well as performances.

The issue of a weak centre is what also affected the first Saw film back in 2004 – great premise, an excellent twist, memorable score theme – but there was that truly horrible acting, messy plotting, and some wretched dialogue that made one wonder whether actor Cary Elwes was ever competent in the first place.

In spite of the surprisingly strong cast (not to mention underused genre composer Harry Manfredini), iMurders doesn’t quite hit the mark, but it has some strong points, some of which are addressed in the review of Anchor Bay’s DVD.

Always stay AWAY from the puree setting.

Also from the label comes Cameron Romero’s Staunton Hill, which is being billed in some areas as the director’s first film, as well as his first horror film. Romero, son of icon George Romero (Night of the Living Dead), has already directed a gory slasher called The Screening (see above picture sniplet), but that project has reportedly been shelved in spite of being completed back in 2007.

Whether Romero prefers to let the film rest for future tinkering or later sneak it out as a quiet DVD release after more recent projects have demonstrated his confidence as a filmmaker, The Screening is a film some genre fans are very curious to see, though whether it’s worth the wait won’t be known until it’s finally in theatres or home video.

In its place comes Romero's formal commercial debut, Staunton Hill, which borrows from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre template and gives certain aspects some variations that ultimately affect the story’s coherence. The sporadic gore is fairly strong, but it’s obvious Romero wanted to balance blood-letting with atmosphere and capture profane behaviour within the beautiful surroundings of a quiet farm during the blazing fall season.

Like iMurders, aspects of the film’s budget affected some technical components, and the film’s success on home video will likely depend on the keen interest, and kindness by less finicky fans.



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