Saturday, October 10, 2015

#1,881. Eaters (2015)

Directed By: Johnny Tabor

Starring: Marcelle Bowman, Robert Dean, Tristan Parrish Moore

Tag line: "Prepare to meet a new breed of killers"

Trivia: The working title for this film was Folklore

It had been nearly a year since I last checked out the video section at my local Wal-Mart, and longer still since I actually purchased anything there. Along with the newest releases (which are always cheaper on-line), it usually offered a slew of titles I already owned, and others I couldn’t care less about (they were always heavy on rom-coms). Then, about 2 months ago, while I was in the store picking something else up, I swung by the DVD section. To my surprise, I noticed a single rack dedicated to the newest indie releases, a number of which were horror movies. What’s even better is that the titles I’ve bought thus far have been good horror movies, including Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Containment. I now check back regularly to see what other hidden gems they might be offering, and my most recent trip introduced me to 2015’s Eaters.

June, 1974. Five friends: Nolan (Tristan Parrish Moore) and Jill (Hannah Risinger); the newly-engaged Dillon (Jonathan Haltiwanger) and Alice (Marcelle Bowman); and Jude (Robert Dean), who just returned home from a tour of Duty in Vietnam, are traveling cross-country. Their adventure hits a snag, however, when, during a brief layover at a New Mexico rest stop, Jill goes missing. At first, Nolan and the others think she may have been kidnapped by a gang of bikers led by a guy named Mickey (Algernon D'Ammassa), who pulled away moments before they realized Jill was gone. Anxious to get her back, the group catches up to the bikers, resulting in a dangerous showdown on a remote desert road. But, to their surprise, Jill isn’t with them, and to make matters worse, when they pull into a seemingly-deserted town looking for gas, the friends find themselves smack dab in the middle of a nightmare from which they cannot escape.

Written and directed by Johnny Tabor, Eaters owes more than a little to another indie film, 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Aside from its story taking place in 1974 (the year Chainsaw was released), its tale of five twentysomethings piled into a car is reminiscent of the opening moments of Tobe Hooper’s horror classic (there are other similarities as well, but seeing as they’re minor spoilers, I won’t go into them). Like the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eaters is also a bit rough around the edges, but while Chainsaw benefitted from the grittiness of its film stock and Hooper’s guerrilla-style approach to the material, Eaters feels a little sloppy (there’s at least one noticeably jarring cut, and the pacing suffers in several scenes). Adding to Eaters’ problems are the sub-par performances, some of which are so bad that they’re a distraction.

That said, Eaters isn’t a total loss. At times, it’s genuinely stylish, and the movie’s central mysteries (which, before long, amount to much more than just Jill’s disappearance) are interesting enough to keep you watching. I also liked how the director tied several different subplots together (the bikers do make their way back into the story, leading to some of the film’s best sequences), and while there isn’t a lot of blood, the few scenes of gore that are featured are pretty darn shocking.

I can’t say I was blown away by Eaters; along with the above problems, the film’s climax (or lack thereof) left me scratching my head (though the stinger at the end of the credits did make me smile). But based on this movie, it's clear that Johnny Tabor has some skills as a filmmaker, and at the very least, Eaters has me interested in seeing what he comes up with next.

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