Xtina and I were walking through our local Hollywood Video, and the cover of this DVD caught her eye.
“Oh my Gawd,” she said, “Would you *Look* at this!”
“Ewww,” I said, and made the face I usually reserve for people who put vinegar on their French Fries.
It was pretty bad. Scratch that – it was Mega-Bad. In a bad way. The cover was something I would never have even picked up off the shelf, a screaming blue face with poorly CG-ed hooks pulling on the skin. Whatever picture you have in your head right now, this was worse.
Not wanting to judge a DVD only by its cover, I immediately read the back. Turning the DVD over revealed a much Much MUCH better graphic, Tanya Dempsey (whom we All remember from The Coven, right? Um, Right?) holding a wicked looking blade, in a total hero pose. I read the blurb on the back – a group of cultists unwittingly release a demon into LA, and two demon-hunters have to track it down.
The plot outline alone was worth the three dollar rental; call it ‘research’ if you like, but honestly I’m always on the hunt for quality indie horror. So J-man and Spoon stopped over and bravely volunteered to give Guardian of the Realm a right proper MST3K viewing with the obligatory 2-drink minimum.
I was more than just pleasantly surprised. The movie refused to accept indie-mediocrity, and strove for a standard movie formula. They refused to let their own shortcomings hold them back, as so many B-grade horror films do. (By adding in Laughably Bad Effects or dialog, preposterous plot jumps, breaking the fourth wall, etc…) This is the movie I think a lot of indie horror filmsters wish they could make, and I wish more of them would try. Not that all indie moviemakers should take themselves seriously, (there’s plenty of that already) but rather, the specific genre of B-Horror films could do better with their budgets and remember that fake blood and bad jokes are no substitute for good writing.
This isn’t to say that the movie wasn’t funny. I mean, come on; when the demon-slayer is yelled at by his boss for wearing too much black leather? When the slain demons dissolve into Styrofoam packing peanuts? Spoon had a good point, “why didn’t they use kitty litter?”
The acting varied, but the main characters were solid, likable and even more-or-less believable. I was able to hold the dialog in check with a small suspension of disbelief.
The plot was really good, and well thought out. Maybe a touch contrived, but then again, if the plot involves supernatural beings, you gotta contrive a bit.
The music throughout the movie was bad. Not Bad, but just plain, lower-case-b bad. The music over the end credits was phenomenal, and made me want to bust out all my Enigma and Delirium CDs… Sound as a whole was OK, a little quiet overall, and when the demons talked it sounded like someone used every single audio effect plug-in at once.
The makeup job for the demons is better than I expected. I have always preferred monster-type monsters (Aliens, The Thing, etc…) to humans wearing masks, but I realize how difficult this is to pull off without blowing the HokeyMeter off the charts, and I have come to accept the contacts/mask/fangs/makeup as a reasonable ‘monster’ facsimile in lower budget films. I am not as forgiving for bigger budgets (you heard me, Star Trek…)
The CG deserves special mention, because the movie has plenty of FX. Mostly the FX were OK, but the elevator scene was unnecessary and overdone, and the ending turns a little ‘ghostbuster-ish’ with the sky and all.
The fight scenes were top notch. Tasteful wire-work, and short, solid bursts of fighting, which accentuated the story without becoming the story.
…And what of the cover? The screaming blue face with the hooks through it? It had NOTHING to do with the movie whatsoever. (Although it looks the way I imagine Hollywood would look if I told it that Guardian of the Realm was a better movie than King Kong…) So the lesson is not to judge movies solely based on the cover art.