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Little Dead Rotting Hood

Little Dead Rotting Hood (2016) / D: Jared Cohn / 88m

Cast: Eric Balfour, Bianca A. Santos, Romeo Miller, Patrick Muldoon, Heather Tom, Brendan Wayne, Marina Sirtis, Amy Argyle, Tony Ketcham

In the small town of Stillwater in the state of Backwoods USA, there’s a bit of a problem with wolves. It seems the hairy devils are attacking and killing the townsfolk, which according to State Officer Victoria (Tom) shouldn’t be happening… unless of course these wolves are some kind of genetic mutation (which would explain why they don’t hunt in a pack). But the problem is a much more serious one: these aren’t just any old wolves, even genetically mutated ones. No, they’re werewolves, and they have a den mother who wants to kill all the townspeople on the night of the autumn equinox (basically, in a few days’ time). Can town Sheriff Adam (Balfour), Deputy Henry (Muldoon) and the usual handful of eager locals/dialogue-free extras, including town weirdo Benson (Ketcham), bring these supernatural entities to heel and save the day?

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Not by themselves, no. As it turns out they need help from the Keeper of the Forest. And who’s that you ask. That’s Samantha (Santos), the granddaughter of the town’s other weirdo, Mrs Winfield (Sirtis) aka the Wolf Lady. You see, Samantha has inherited her grandmother’s supernatural abilities, albeit in very unfortunate circumstances: following a werewolf attack, Samantha died, but her grandmother used her powers to resurrect her. Now Samantha is able to kick werewolf butt and aid the Sheriff in his attempts to hunt down the werewolves that are running amok, and also track down their den mother.

Viewers expecting a fun time with Little Dead Rotting Hood would be advised to lower their expectations – and they probably will when they see “The Asylum Presents” show up during the movie’s opening credits. Small town werewolf movies have become reasonably popular in recent years, what with the likes of Late Phases (2014) and WolfCop (2014), but Little Dead Rotting Hood isn’t likely to join them in the public’s affection anytime soon. It’s clear that the title came first and screenwriter Gabriel Campisi was left to come up with a story to match it to, but as he hasn’t written a script since Alien Agenda: Endangered Species (1998), it soon becomes obvious the task was beyond him. When he can’t even decide if the werewolves can be killed by ordinary gunfire or not you know the movie’s in trouble (before we learn that they’re werewolves they can, afterwards they can’t).

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Things aren’t helped by the hiring of Jared Cohn in the director’s chair. Cohn gave us the incredibly stupid Buddy Hutchins (2015), and he’s on equal form here, stifling what little tension Campisi has managed to create by virtue of poor staging, failing to address the absurdities of the script (difficult as there are so many), and failing to encourage even one halfway decent performance from anyone. Balfour looks as if his agent said yes without consulting him in the first place, Santos looks baffled in the way that someone does when they’re not sure if they’re in the right place, and Sirtis gets off lightly by only appearing in a cameo role. Even the special effects reflect the bargain basement budget and lack of creativity, with Santos’ Little Dead Rotting Hood look reminiscent of the kind of “scary” make up worn by kids at Halloween.

Rating: 3/10 – one to avoid, Little Dead Rotting Hood pays lip service to the zombie aspect of its title, and squanders any attempt at being hokey fun by running away from the possibility whenever it seems likely to happen; basically a random selection of scenes that barely relate to each other, the movie is neither entertaining or rewarding, and seems only to have been made on some kind of dare.


The Inhabitants

The Inhabitants (2015) / D: The Rasmussen Brothers / 90m

Cast: Elise Couture Stone, Michael Reed, Judith Chaffee, Rebecca Whitehurst, India Pearl

Jessica (Stone) and Dan (Reed) decide to buy a New England bed and breakfast, the isolated, three hundred and fifty year old Carriage House. Previously run by an elderly couple, the wife has become too infirm to run things by herself since the death of her husband, and her family are looking for a quick sale that includes all the fixtures and fittings. Jessica and Dan have plans to continue running the place as a bed and breakfast, and once they’ve moved in they set about fixing what needs fixing and upgrading what needs upgrading. But it isn’t long before they each begin to hear things – strange noises – and Ben discovers that one of the fuses relates to somewhere in the main house that he can’t track down.

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An encounter with some of the locals leads to Jessica finding out that the Carriage House was built in the 1600’s and was home to a midwife, Lydia Marsh (Pearl), who was charged with witchcraft when several children she nursed grew sick. After her death, a number of children went missing and were never seen again. Dan leaves on a business trip, and while he’s away Jessica has a supernatural encounter that leaves her distant and uncommunicative. Her newly-odd behaviour leads to Dan discovering which part of the house the mystery fuse relates to: an attic space that contains a bank of video screens and recorders. But his discovery that the previous owner was spying on his guests also reveals a greater secret, one that the house has been hiding for over three centuries.

When a movie poster boasts that the movie it’s supporting is “From the writers of John Carpenter’s The Ward” it’s likely to provoke one of two responses: first, “John Carpenter made a movie called The Ward?”, and second, “Is that really the best recommendation anyone could come up with? Have they seen The Ward?” Either response would be appropriate for this slow-moving, less than atmospheric chiller that ticks off the clichés as it navigates its way from its inauspicious beginning to its predictable resolution. With nothing new to keep the viewer interested, The Inhabitants is a dreary, tension-free affair that signposts its few scares and offers one of the most tired horror set ups there is: the house with a bad history (cue disappointment and yawning).

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In the hands of the Rasmussen Brothers, Michael and Shawn, the movie doesn’t even attempt to get us to like its central characters. Jessica and Dan lack a back story, and thanks to the vagaries of the script in its first third, we never get to know them as a couple. Once the house begins to exert its influence on Jessica, any potential development is abandoned in favour of Dan’s discovery of the surveillance system, and having her wander around the house in a trance. The movie also favours the type of dark, hollow-eyed make up (that we’ve now seen done to death) to make its spectres look chilling, a creative decision that doesn’t work thanks to that particular look being so prevalent in horror movies right now. By the end you won’t care what happens to either Jessica or Dan; instead you’ll be glad you can leave the Carriage House behind and never have to go back.

Rating: 4/10 – lacking in many departments, but let down most of all by its derivative nature, The Inhabitants is a so-so horror movie that barely feels as if it’s “alive”; and when a movie has to include the deaths of some minor characters in order to bring some energy to proceedings then you know it’s in trouble.