Friday, March 10, 2017

Savageland Tears Through a Whole Town: A Film Review

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*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by Terror Films. This reviewer has worked on publicity for this film.

Tagline: "Fear has no Borders."

Director/writer: Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert and David Whelan.

Cast: Monica Davis, Edward L. Green, Patrick Pedraza and VaLynn Rain.

As the classic idiom states: "a photograph is worth a thousand words." In the case of Savageland, there are at least thirty-six photographs and a whole lot of victims. Very professionally shot, the film covers a fictional massacre, at Sangre de Cristo. The film is told in a pseudo-documentary style and Savageland comes across as a mystery, that you might find on the A & E Network. Much of the film is told through photographs, taken by the sole survivor Francisco Salazar (Noe Montes). They piece together a night of horror! The film comes across as believable, outside of a few lines and Salazar's conviction. Fans of horror, looking for something different, should take a look at this entertaining feature.

The film's main story lives and dies with its protagonist, Salazar. He has survived a night, which has left fifty-seven people murdered. Salazar is found alone in the desert and he has a strange tale to tell. He states that Sangre de Cristo was under attack and his photos show something similar. However, no one believes him, in or out of court. But, how could one man kill a whole town, with a pick-axe and a few other tools? And, how could he bury or hide a number of the bodies? No one in his court case was interested in these questions and others. Salazar's outcome is equally tragic, while Savageland sets up a potential sequel.

Savageland is more of a pseudo-documentary, than a found footage feature. Found footage films, like Eduardo Sanchez's quintessential The Blair Witch Project (1999), involve videos taken by deceased victims. These films piece together the final moments of the central characters. In this feature, the story is told in various ways: through newspaper clippings, court artwork, photographs, interviewees and a several more ways. Savageland comes across as more of an investigation, rather than a straight-forward ghost story. This viewer enjoyed this diverse narrative.

One of the main ways the film is told involves photographs. While Sangre de Cristo was under attack, Salazar was able to take several photographs, with an old camera. The photographs, in black and white, show strange creatures, in the night. Looking like a pack of rabid creatures, these monsters terrorize many of the townsfolk, with sharp teeth and big eyes; they look barely human. The photographs also piece together how Salazar entered the town and wound his way through the city centre. Terror followed him at every step. With the photographs showing so little, the viewer's imagination will fill in the blanks.

The film's pseudo-documentary style creates a realm, which is mostly believable. Though, there is a line or two, within, that made this watcher laugh. All of the newspaper clippings and interviews are well done. The interviewees, of which there are over a dozen, each bring a piece to the larger story. They fill in gaps as they talk about their missing loved ones. Other interviewees talk about Salazar's photographs or his trial. The acting is never overdone, nor underdelivered. However, there was the occasional line, like: "he [Salazar] used to find corpses at night!" What? Why was he not brought in for questioning? Another Sheriff states something along the lines of "psychologists called him [Salazar] a voyeur. My take - pervert!" These lines added a comedic element for this viewer and the film comes across as quirky in spots; this is a good thing.

Savageland was just released, via Video-on-demand, in late February. The film is a believable look at a fictional massacre, for which one man is charged. The diverse narrative style keeps the film entertaining. Meanwhile, Savageland moves across at a quick clip. The film is unique, in that it chooses to tell its tale via a pseudo-documentary style. The evidence is shadowy and thus creates mystery and tension. Savageland will draw in most viewers. And, viewers in the United States (where it has been released) are encouraged to take a look at this dark and ferocious tale.

Overall: 7.25 out of 10.

More details on the film: Savageland at Terror Films

The film's homepage: Savageland's Official Homepage

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