This third SOV production from indie horror director Eric Stanze shows plenty of the flair that has marked his latter productions, that include ICE FROM THE SUN and SCRAPBOOK, and in many ways sets a standard that aspiring low budget filmmakers would do well to emulate.
The plot is pretty standard fare, drawing from numerous real Cherokee myths, told to Stanze in the Jefferson County, Missouri region where the film was shot, and with more than a passing nod to THE EVIL DEAD. A group of teens head out to their uncle’s lakeside home in order to help him clean up the place, and renovate an outbuilding. Camping by the river’s edge Uncle Gary (Rick Fischer) explains that the area was once inhabited by a Cherokee tribe who practiced ancient magic, and tells them the legend of the 'Trail of Tears' involving a series of mysterious stones that he found washed ashore recently during a flood. The stones supposedly contained trapped demonic spirits that could be unleashed to possess the living if any blood descendent of the old Cherokee elder (Wes Robertson) should come into contact with them.
Pretty soon, strange beings are seen prowling the woods. Cue an assortment of gory set pieces that include chainsaw dismemberment, throat ripping, and flesh chewing, courtesy of Tony Bridges, whose monstrous creations, especially the main demon, Retlawkoob (Jerry Bates), are pretty impressive.
Despite the fact that filming spanned 29 days during Summer, Autumn, and Winter, and concerns events taking place in just twenty-four hours, continuity problems usually associated with low budget moviemaking involving make-up, styling, and set design appear to be non-existent. The acting is especially good, considering the cast comprised of unpaid acquaintances (many of whom are Stanze regulars), though characterisations could have been fleshed out a little to provide audience empathy, when the inevitable attacks take place.
The soundtrack is a little jarring in places, and I had difficulty ascertaining what characters were saying in several scenes, but that’s to be expected in a $4000 budget production. The lighting is particularly effective espcially where the action takes place in the darkness of the woods, and Stanze’s creeping camera makes the very best use of surrounding and incidental occurrence; most notably SAVAGE HARVEST's amazing opening sequence depicting the Midwest’s Great Flood of ’93, which was shot by Stanze and incorporated into the plot for maximum production value.
This new DVD from Sub Rosa includes a fascinating documentary detailing the problems of production, and makes this edition an essential purchase for fans of demonic splatter, even if you already have the previous VHS release.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Eric Stanze
USA / 1995 / 72 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
A Sub Rosa Studios DVD
All region. NTSC. Stereo.