Ryan Schifrin's first film is a pleasant surprise, an old-fashioned monster movie that relies more on genuine suspense than bare breasts and blood (the cheapest special effects in the low-budget moviemaker's threadbare bag of tricks). Well-to-do Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy) is returning to his handsome home in the small mountain town of Flatwood for the first...read more
Ryan Schifrin's first film is a pleasant surprise, an old-fashioned monster movie that relies more on genuine suspense than bare breasts and blood (the cheapest special effects in the low-budget moviemaker's threadbare bag of tricks). Well-to-do Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy) is returning to his handsome home in the small mountain town of Flatwood for the first time since he and his wife had an awful accident while climbing a local peak ominously called "Suicide Rock." Preston's wife died and he's paralyzed from the waist down and consumed with guilt that he survived; local rumor has it that he's no longer right in the head. The truth is that Preston's mind is fine — it's his minder, a vulgar, hostile bully named Otis Wilhelm (Christien Tinsley, who also created the film's creature effects) who's the problem. The house next to Preston's has been rented by a gaggle of vacationing college girls, and while Otis is out buying groceries, Preston sees one of them hauled off into the woods by a giant, hairy thing. His efforts to alert the other girls just make them think he's a pervert, while Otis tauntingly dismisses his story as a hallucination. Preston knows the creature is still out there, growling and prowling, and as ill luck would have it Otis just misses seeing the creature kidnap another girl. Preston must resort to desperate measures if he hopes to save himself and any of the coeds with the sense to stop bickering, taking showers and dancing to loud music long enough to realize their lives are in danger. Audaciously described by the filmmaker himself as "Bigfoot meets REAR WINDOW," Schifrin's modest thriller delivers some gross-out gore in the last third, but spends most of its running time building up a tidy atmosphere of mounting dread. And if star McCoy, with his white-bread good looks and radio-personality voice, is less than charismatic, he's head-and-shoulders more believable a hero than the average gel-haired teen stud. A slick score by the filmmaker's dad, legendary movie composer Lalo Schifrin, and genre-friendly cameo appearances by Lance Henriksen, Dee Wallace Stone and Jeffrey Combs don't hurt, but this is a promising piece of work on all fronts. Special kudos to Tinsley, whose sasquatch suit straddles the line between cartoon and nightmare — and what a pleasure it is to see a man in a monster suit (a good monster suit) rather than a CGI creature.
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