Director John Hancock, who once made the legendarily creepy LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971), later went the mainstream route with high-toned dramas like BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1973), WEEDS (1987) and the family-friendly PRANCER (1989). This independent shocker, an uneasy mix of B-movie scares and more high-minded concerns about family legacies of insanity and violence, based on an unpublished novel by his wife, Dorothy Tristan, marks a return to Hancock's twisted roots. Encouraged by his pregnant wife, Hilary (PRANCER's Rebecca Harrell, all grown up), Disney animator Tom Kempton (Alex McArthur) joins two pals for a snowmobiling vacation in the woods. He goes off on his own and has a minor accident that leaves his snowmobile out of commission, so he knocks on the door of a rustic cabin owned by the Boulette sisters in search of help. Plump, apparently motherly Ann's (Sage Allen) resemblance to MISERY'S Annie Wilkes should probably not have escaped him, and slender, twitchy Vanessa (Laura Esterman) is clearly nutty. Tom tries to make a graceful exit, but he's already drunk a mug of drugged tea and soon awakens to find he's been stripped, tied to a wheelchair and is about become the stuff of a cautionary campfire tale. Defying all genre expectations, he's actually rescued fairly quickly his buddies did come looking for him and the weird sisters are apparently killed, though by the time Vanessa's body is found, animals have done a number on it. Tom is grateful to be alive, but he's also a psychic wound picker, pawing through Boulette family memorabilia and even acquiring a portrait of Vanessa as a young woman and hanging it in his home. Under the guise of incorporating his traumatic experience into his art, Tom reaches out to the surviving Boulettes, and from the sisters' bone-nasty, jailbird brother (J.E. Freeman) gets a glimpse into the family's history of incest and psychological brutality; he also learns that Vanessa had a child she was forced to surrender for adoption. Tom tracks down Vanessa's grown daughter, single mother and aspiring actress Clara Hansen (Maria Cina) and without telling her who he is, insinuates himself into her life and that of her super-creepy 15-year-old son, Sandor (Fred Meyers). No good comes of this, and if the third-act denoument is predictable, the film has already delivered more twists than the average genre picture.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: Director John Hancock, who once made the legendarily creepy LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971), later went the mainstream route with high-toned dramas like BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1973), WEEDS (1987) and the family-friendly PRANCER (1989). This independent… (more)