Staunton Hill
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Staunton Hill

Horror flick have become the go to genre for many budding young auteurs, particularly in the world of independent movies. In the case of one of the newest entries to this ever growing list is ĎStanton Hillí. The filmmaker behind this effort has a better that usual rational for his choice of this genre; in his case he is just continuing the family business. Cameron Romero is the son of one of the best established masters of horror; George Romero. While he is every inch is fatherís son Cameron is following in Dadís footsteps but in doing so is making every effort to establish his own unique style. Comparisons are only natural and I might even fall into a few here but this new director deserves to be considered on the basis of his own merits. I can only imagine but I am sure there is a reasonably good chance that Cameron visited his fatherís sets and was influenced by those experiences but one thing that was a lot of fun was to see how he has built upon what he learned at his fatherís knee and made his only stylistic direction in this genre. There are a couple of salient factors to keep in mind while considering Romero; The Next Generation. When poppa was just getting started it was the golden age of classic horror. He helped define what audiences would expect from the genre. At this time the genre has degenerated into torture oriented flicks containing an over abundance of mindless mayhem and gratuitous nudity. Romero 2.0 has to discover a way to keep the fans happy and preserve some of the elements that made horror fresh and exciting. Thatís for comparisons. From this point on any and all references to Romero will pertain to Cameron. Like many films of its ilk this one was shot quickly on a very limited budget but much of the stylistic decisions appear to have been made in post production, most notably the editing done with Melissa Burns and Jonathan Lacocque. The straight to DVD release was through Anchor Bay, a distributor that is dedicated to film makers just getting started and is usually a good place to go if you are in the mood for something different.

David Rountree has a previous script for a thriller and a dramatic short, ĎA Life for a Lifeí which earned praise and an award in the Indy festival circuit. This screenplay is his first time in horror. Romero had a couple of warm up horror flicks before but he is still very much on the directorial learning curve. Right from the start Romero uses strange juxtapositions to establish the movieís tone. The initial shot are of a pretty blond young woman being worked upon on an embalming table. The film is disjointed with nausea inducing erratic images of the bloody table and well used apparatus in the dank room. This gives way to a rolling view of the picturesque Nebraska country side complete with very calming musical queues. Romero deftly gets the viewers accustomed to letting him decide how we view the world; beautiful or terrifying. This highly visceral use of visual style helps divert your attention from the fact that this is another story about a small ground of young friends trapped in the middle of nowhere by their absolute worst nightmare. The story is set in 1969 which allows the objective for the group of friends to be the more honorable attendance in a protest rally instead of the hackney go into the dark, lonely woods to get high and have sex. At least this is an honest attempt to infuse something new into the mix which is more than can be said about the majority of modern horror flicks. The time period also nicely gets around one problem in modern horror; isolating the potential set of victims in an age of cell phones, GPS and On-Star.

The requisite group of kids; Cole (David Rountree), Trish (Paula Rhodes), Jordan (Cristen Coppen), Boone (Kiko Ellsworth) and his long time girlfriend Rainia (Christine Carlo) are hitchhiking their way to Washington when they meet up with an affable chain smoking stranger Quintin (Charlie Bodin),at a broken down gas stop. The proprietor, Burgh (Cooper Huckabee) suggests a short cut which, of course they take. Like most kids in flicks like this they live in a universe completely devoid of horror flicks so they have absolutely no clue to how stupid and dangerous it is to take the advice of a guy in the middle of nowhere wearing overalls. It doesnítí take long before Quintinís truck dies on the road and the group have to take refuge in an old barn, it turns out the farm is owned by the seriously inbreed family Louise Staunton (Kathy Lamkin), her mentally and emotionally challenged brother Buddy (B.J. Hendricks) and wheelchair bound Momma (Sherry Weston). Initially Louise is amiable offering the group breakfast after Buddy hits Cole in the face with a shovel but you know that something really bad is just around the corner. Throughout the film there are quick cuts to the young woman who is not on an embalming table but is on an operating table and it looks like her foot was just amputated which setup an ending that is well hinted at but not explicitly given away?

There is a lot of potential in Romero that is still untapped but this film demonstrates that the genre is safe with the next generation. He places the focus on interesting little twists to a predictable set of circumstances. He also foregoes several opportunities for the usual nudity and overly graphic bloodshed. Rather than going down this overly trod path he takes the high road concentrating on telling a story instead of getting a cheap shock.

Posted 01/12/2010

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