M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on February 24, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here from Terror Films! Also streaming on Tubi!

SAVAGELAND (2013)

Directed by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
Written by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
Starring Noe Montes, George Savage, Len Wein, J.C. Carlos, Lawrence Ross, Jason Stewart, Ed L.Green, Cathy Aron, Dan Trabulus
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

While I covered SAVAGELAND a few years ago, it is much more relevant now than ever with the Mexican border dispute going on at the moment. Filmmakers Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, & David Whelan seemed to be ahead of their time in this modern horror film utilizing all forms of media to tell an intricate and fascinating tale of terror. It really is a fantastic little shockumentary and I highly recommend it. Here’s a clip from this compelling and horrifying film.

My favorite relative of the found footage film is the mockumentary. Films like LAKE MUNGO, TROLLHUNTER, and HAROLD’S GONE STIFF are a few of the more successful ones and the list just got larger by one with SAVAGELAND, a new film from writers/directors Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, and David Whelan which does everything it can to make everything going on in this film feel as real as possible and by doing so, making it scary as all get out.

I don’t know why, but when presented in this type of 60 MINUTES style format, these films end up being all the more effective. Interspersed with interviews, reenactments, animated maps, “actual footage” from the court room and from the police videos, and from evidence compiled, SAVAGELAND recreates what looks to be the mass murder of an entire town by one single man. At least, that’s what the cops and politicians are trying to convince us of. But this mock-doc expands the canvas a bit more to interview those who have their doubts that a mild mannered illegal immigrant from Mexico would be capable of wiping out and entire town. Evidence uncovered late in the game tells a different story as photos the accused took at the night of the killings show that something “not human” was actually unleashed upon the town.

SAVAGELAND unfolds patiently and frighteningly, revealing dark truths about the society that habituates around the borders of America and the prejudices and hardships that are ever present. As much as this is a horror film, it’s also a social commentary about the US/Mexican border debate, showing both sides of the coin, but mainly showing the bigoted attitudes that seem to be percolating in these south eastern US towns. With the accused being an illegal Mexican immigrant as well, the rushed assumption that he is guilty is also put into question. At the same time, those speaking out about the mistreatment of immigrants (illegal or otherwise) seem to be blinded by their beliefs as well here as while they are pointing the fingers at the white man, the real horror seems to be something not of this world.

SAVAGELAND is as much a social commentary as it is a horror film. With the discovery of the 33 blurry and hurried pictures documenting what went on the night the town was murdered, all fingers seem to point to a supernatural cause, but it feels like none of the sides involved here want to consider or take them into account since it seems to contradict their own pre-formed opinions. Thus is the case with politics and I think this film details that with a shrewd, accurate, and intelligent eye.

Aside from all of the politics, SAVAGELAND is a harrowing film as we walk through the role of photographs one by one, describing the terrifying night in detail, how fast it occurred, and how gruesome it really was. The information is doled out patiently and with a conservative hand, building the suspense up as we go through each horrific photo. While the images are blurred, there is still a suggestion of absolute horror and it makes you fill the gaps in with things scarier than any film could play out conventionally.

By the end of the film, it feels like the filmmakers have told such a broad and intricate story all at once that it almost feels completely real, though it does teeter a bit off the rails towards the end when camera footage shows up. While the ending serves its purpose in cementing that the threat seen in the photos is very real, it is a shift in tone and format and doesn’t work with the rest of the film. Still, SAVAGELAND works on many, many levels, convincing the audience that what you are seeing is real and delving into a complex subject in a metaphorical and intelligent way. This one comes highly recommended for those who like a little political debate along with their horrors.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!


#11 – SAVAGELAND
#12 – IT COMES AT NIGHT
#13 – THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER
#14 – THE SIMILARS
#15 – HOWL
#16 – SEOUL STATION
#17 – THE TRANSFIGURATION
#18 – THE GREASY STRANGLER
#19 – I AM THE PRETTY THING IN THE HOUSE
#20 – ANNABELLE 2: CREATION
#21 – SPLIT
#22— TRASH FIRE
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN
#24 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#25 – THE SUBLET
#26 – PATCHWORK
#27 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#28 – GERALD’S GAME
#29 – LAKE BODOM
#30 – NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE
#31 – THE EVIL WITHIN


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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