Two of the first out of the gate, “Husk” and “Prowl,” show real promise for this endeavor.
First, “Husk,” which you may have seen already on Syfy: It proves my long-held belief that finding references to Scripture in a cornfield is never a good thing. The movie has the first two of the four things that I find unsettling in horror films:
• clockwork automatons
• whatever Betsy Russell did to her face
Five good-looking, young white people find themselves stranded on a rural road next to a massive, aforementioned cornfield, after a murder (!) of crows splats all over their vehicle’s windshield. When one guy goes off to find help and doesn’t return in a timely fashion, two more make their way through the ma(i)ze of stalks in search of locals. After locating its spooky-looking scarecrow, they come across a farmhouse in the middle of it all, and find their pal inside ... just not in the condition they had hoped.
The one thing that “Husk” does right is — slight spoiler, but not really — dispatching with much of its cast in the first act. Of course, this also leaves the remainders to engage of games of circular gadabout until the running time is up, screaming duh-type dialogue like “The fucking corn! It's everywhere!" That last hour or so may feature some cool scarecrow reanimation, but also some not-so-cool supernatural flashbacks that makes one think some padding was involved. Sure enough, as I found out 24 hours later, “Husk” is expanded from writer/director Brett Simmons’ short.
All in all, I liked “Husk” more often than I didn’t, even if it never is scary. (For true scarecrow scares that hold up even three decades later, do yourself a favor and watch — if not outright purchase — 1981’s “Dark Night of the Scarecrow.”)
“Prowl,” however, is pretty solid, right up until its “twist.” That’s when the movie rather abruptly switches gears from something suspenseful and intriguing to something entirely different. I won’t reveal it, but geez, why do so many DVD back covers ruin late-in-the-proceedings story elements? Anything in a movie’s first third is fair game; beyond that, rude.
To escape a humdrum existence in the dreary Famfield, Amber (Courtney Hope) aims to move to Chicago. All she needs in an apartment. But in order to get one, she needs to scout some. Through a ridiculous scenario too inane to explain and/or accept, she and all the friends she has in the world cram in a borrowed car for a trip to the Windy City.
Car problems — yes, again — befell the group, but it looks as if help has arrived when kindly a truck driver named Bernard (an unrecognizable Bruce Payne) stops to assist. The result proves my long-held belief that accepting rides from That Guy from “Warlock III,” “Highland: Endgame” and “Dungeons & Dragons” is never a good thing. And thus, “Prowl” earns some genuine interest in wanting to see what will happen, and shows that what you can’t see is almost always more effective than what you can. It’s shortly after that when Patrik Syversen’s picture derails into a ditch of the substandard.
Unlike “Husk,” whose characters I just wanted to punch from frame one, “Prowl” gets by largely because of Hope’s presence. As Amber, she convincingly plays the sweet girl next door who has no idea how hot she is, thereby making her that much sweeter. She’s a find. —Rod Lott