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HorrorVision   C+

Full Moon Pictures / Tempe Entertainment

Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Danny Draven
Writer: Scott Philips
Cast: Jake Leonard, Maggie Rose Fleck, Josh Covitt, James Black, Brinke Stevens.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

When the credits started to roll at the end of the cyber-thriller HorrorVision, I didn't believe it. That's it? Wait a sec, maybe I accidentally hit the scene jump button on my DVD remote. Yeah, that's gotta be it. I pressed reverse button to skip back a minute or so. Nope. That was the end all right. But it didn't feel right.

And it's sad because HorrorVision gets off to a promising start. Dez (Jake Leonard) is a technology freak and aspiring screenwriter who moonlights as porn site webmaster. Brinke Stevens puts in a killed-before-the-opening-credits cameo as Dez's photographer who logs onto HorrorVision.com and gets digitized into oblivion (after being attacked by rubber hoses that jump out of the wall). Not too long after that, Dez accidentally logs onto the sinister website and his girlfriend Dazzy (the adorable Maggie Rose Fleck) gets zapped into oblivion. Dez doesn't know what's going on, but the black-cloaked stranger (James Black) that seems to be stalking him just might.

The cast here is great. As Dez, Jake Leonard projects a cool, likably slacker vibe -- he's a guy you'd like to hang out and have a few beers with. He looks like Bruce Campbell, as associate producer Ariauna Albright concurs on the DVD commentary. Maggie Rose Fleck, as Dez's girlfriend, has a delightful screen presence, but her role is limited. The most memorable cast member is James Black as the terminally cool Bradbury. It's not that James Black is an amazing actor -- though he's certainly a good one -- but when he's on-screen, it's impossible to take your eyes away. In HorrorVision, he's the epitome of cool, even if his outfit looks like it was stolen out of a wardrobe closet on the set of The Matrix (hey, it still looks great on him). When Dez and Bradbury hit the road, to try to put a stop to the evil Manifesto behind HorrorVision.com, it's fun to watch these two guys together -- even if the script doesn't give them much to do.

Directed by 22-year-old Danny Draven, HorrorVision has enough energy and visual pizzazz to ensure that it's never boring -- though it's never quite engaging, either. It was shot on digital video then filmlooked and the results are pretty amazing. If I didn't know better, I'd figure it was shot on 35mm film. Draven has a good eye for visuals, but I guess it doesn't hurt that his director of photography was Mac Ahlberg (Innocent Blood, Re-Animator). The creatures and special effects and are pretty creative, too. For what it's worth, the film looks great.

Though HorrorVision has a lot going for it, it lacks in the writing department. The movie is about technology's destruction of mankind -- I got that much out of it -- but it feels like a bunch of half-developed ideas strung together. Throw in a bit of Videodrone, a dash of The Matrix, even add a helping of J.R. Bookwalter's Ozone, then gloss over with a modern-day film noir vibe and that's HorrorVision in a nutshell. Not a terribly bad recipe, but it still doesn't taste as good as it could have with a more developed screenplay. And even at a running time of around 70 minutes, HorrorVision is padded with music video montages whenever the characters jump behind the wheel and start driving somewhere. These probably take up 10 minutes of screen time -- but I won't gripe anymore about that.

Instead, I'll gripe about the ending. The climax -- a final showdown with Manifesto -- was over way too quick. It didn't even really feel like a climax. I thought it was just another minor roadbump for Dez and Bradbury on their quest to... wait, what is their quest? Oh, right, even Dez is not sure about that. And when the credits started to roll, I didn't buy it. It felt like the movie had a good 20 minutes left to go, then they just ran out of videotape and decided to do a nice fade to black and end it there.

Although HorrorVision is a minor disappointment, the Lunar Edition DVD from Full Moon Pictures and Tempe Entertainment is definitely not. Just like the previous goodie-packed Lunar Edition DVD release of Witchouse 2: Blood Coven, this one has lots of entertaining extras. The audio commentary track with director Danny Draven, producer J.R. Bookwalter, and Ariauna Albright, among others, is fairly amusing -- and Bookwalter even agrees with me that the montages were overdone. There's a cool 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, three art galleries, and a few trailers from other Full Moon flicks. If you've got a DVD-ROM drive, you can even check out the screenplay.

Director Danny Draven was courageous enough to put his early shorts and student films on this DVD. But the extras I enjoyed the most were the cast auditions. We get to see Jake Leonard, Maggie Rose Fleck, and Josh Covitt trying out for the movie. To Full Moon and Tempe, keep these Lunar Edition DVDs coming. All DVDs should be this cool.

Review published 02.16.2001.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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