Monday, 16 March 2015


What I love most about indie horror is its unerring ability to surprise when you least expect it.
Take Drifter for example. The promotional materials lead me to expect a Hobo With A Shotgun-style barebones Grindhouse slasher in which a homeless man would cut a bloody and violent swathe through numerous scantily clad ladies for little motivation other than to come up with a new and exciting way to sever a body part.

At this point, I feel I should stress that I’m not saying this would be a bad thing.

However, that isn’t what I was served when the kind folks at Skullface Astronaut sent me a screener of the movie for review purposes. Well, ok it kind of is, but there’s more to it than that.
Hmmm, perhaps we should just get to the review...

DRIFTER (2014)

Dir: Joe Sherlock
Starring: Bob Olin, Richard Johnson, Sonya Davis, Stephanie Lunceford, Bryn Kristi, Rob Merickel, Michael Hegg

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here but read on at your own risk.

Estate agent/realtor Don (Johnson) is struggling to sell a property, the ominously named Blud House. With a list of horror stories attached including witchcraft, sacrifice and grisly murder, selling the house seems impossible — especially when several people are found dead inside as a result of a grisly murder/suicide.
Yet when he is challenged by coworker Angus (Hegg) he makes a bet worth a cool $1000 that he WILL sell the house. So begins an obsession to sell the house that starts to grate on his relationship with his wife Mary Ellen (Lunceford).
However, unbeknownst to Don a mysterious and clearly disturbed Drifter (Olin) has wandered into town and set up home in the abandoned house. As a number of people step into the house, either to fix it up (such as hapless Susan, played by Kristi) or looking to buy it.
As the Drifter deals with each one we build towards a truly shocking climax. Will Don sell the house? Will anybody keep their clothes on? And what exactly does the Drifter want?

THE BEST BITS (minor spoiler warning): Arguably the finest thing in Drifter is the batshit out of left-field twist that pops up with little warning. It lifts the entire thing to a far higher level. Not since Dusk Till Dawn has a movie jetted off on such an insane tangent... and it totally works! The film would be a pretty good low-fi slasher without the twist, but with it the movie reaches a whole new level. Excellent work, Mr Sherlock.
Sherlock's film is one that I imagine will reward repeated viewings (even beyond the almost constant bombardment of nudity). It is well-written with some crisp, sparkling dialogue from a well-rounded cast of loveable oddball characters. There is some real wit and humour in the film which just makes the characterisation that little bit stronger. The humour is one of the strongest points in the script. There are a coupe lot uproariously hilarious scenes with mortician Reggie (Merickel), the son of the former owner of the Blud House. He shows some wonderful comic timing and the lines show that Sherlock definitely has a knack for comedy as well as the more ghoulish side of things.
There are some well-realised characters that have been suitably fleshed out enough for the audience to care about. Obviously one of the best ways to bring a character to life is to ensure that the actors playing them are up to the job.
This group really are.
What I loved most about the cast (aside from the fact that they are a pretty talented bunch) is that they are all a little older than the usual genre cast. It adds to the realism of the story, making the characters seem somehow more believable than a group of cookie cutter pretty teen tv drama stars.
Don't get me wrong, they aren't an ugly group by any stretch, but they seem more like people you could meet everyday and as such the film carries more weight. Furthermore, seeing this menace cut his way through a group of adults (albeit pretty goofy ones) instead of moronic horny drunk teens makes him seem all the more dangerous.
The cast has some real standout performers too. Olin as the titular Drifter is brilliant, he seems legitimately damaged and his attacks are almost feral in their ferocity. This is a role without dialogue yet he brings so much to the character with his emotive expressions and full body language. He is terrifyingly violent, yet he also exudes a tragic sadness. Considering the events of the latter stages of the film, this is an excellent performance.
While Olin doesn’t get much to say, Johnson’s Don is given far more dialogue to run with and he nails it. As the world-weary, ambitious and doggedly determined realtor, his growing obsession with the house is the driving force behind the plot as he leads wave after wave of unsuspecting victim to their grisly fate in the Blud House. His is a confident, natural performance and Johnson is very much the glue that holds the whole thing together. I look forward to seeing more of him.
Equally impressive were the lovely Kristi and Lunceford. Kristi has the more typical horror character to portray, the likeable yet hapless victim and totally gets the job done. She brings some real personality to the role and the scenes with her in are some of the finest in the movie. Lunceford is arguably the best in the film, her understated role is entirely convincing and she manages to balance humour with some more emotional weight as her character's concerns over Don’s obsession grows. I thought she was incredible, kudos Ms Lunceford.
I also got a real kick out of the fantastically creepy work of Davis. I don't want to spoil the film so I won't go into this too much, but Davis' work stayed with me long after the end credits rolled. She was genuinely frightening, so that’s another hit as far as I’m concerned.
Finally I loved that the film wasn’t afraid to show the sex and gore that a studio flick might not have had the balls to go with. With some great effects work and splatter scenes, this is a horror film that remembered to bring the horror. Well done guys!

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): So, I praised the sex and violence — and I stand by the fact that they added to the film‘s grindhouse feel. However, the sheer amount of flesh on display actually hindered the movie’s effectiveness. Torn between telling a freaky, nightmare dream story and titillating with sleazy tits and blood, the balance seemed thrown off. It felt as if the more serious horror aspects lost some of their punch interspersed with plentiful shots of large breasts and bare behinds. These have their place in a down 'n' dirty horror flick but this one has aspirations of a more cerebral and fantastical effort.
Sherlock has cited the influence of Don Coscarelli's seminal Phantasm (one of the very finest psychedelic horror flicks of all time) and its influence is all too clear. Characters and locations are named after the cast and crew of that incredible film — Don, Reggie and Angus just for starters. Sherlock does a damn fine job of emulating that film, so it sometimes seems a little weird when that mood is shattered with a gratuitous arse shot. Oh well.
I did feel that the pacing was a little off. I could have done with a little more time devoted to the plot after the twist was revealed as, unfortunately, the middle section of the film became a little repetitive. It was very much a case of Don sends somebody to the Blud House, where they are ambushed by the Drifter who offs them in a brutal and grisly manner, then Don sends somebody else to the Blud House, where they are ambushed by the Drifter who offs them in a brutal and grisly manner, then Don sends somebody else to the Blud House… I'm sure you can guess who the Drifter greets them. Luckily these gory grisly attacks are all pretty great, so while they become a little predictable they never come boring.
Obviously Drifter is a lower-budget flick. It does have some limitations and it's not the most polished of movies. If you are used to the production values of big studio movies, this may feel a little low-fi in contrast. 
Finally, most of the actors in the film are obviously good buddies with Sherlock and are giving their all to their roles. However, a couple of them aren't quite up to the lofty standards of the top performers. It certainly isn't anything to do with a lack of commitment or effort, everybody is clearly working their butt off and you can practically feel the fun on set beaming out of the screen. Unfortunately, it's more an issue with experience. Still, fairplay to everybody involved for doing the very best they can. Luckily, this doesn't hinder any of the key scenes in the film so it's no big deal.

VERDICT: You know what? I had an absolute blast with Drifter. Some great performances, some wonderful horror and a fantastic nightmarish twist make this a brilliant low-budget indie horror flick with a tonne of imagination and black heart. I definitely recommend it, the guys over at Skullface Astronaut have produced a brilliantly dark and twisted effort that I could see becoming a cult classic in the years ahead. Check it out.

While you're at it, check out the film's official Facebook page and be sure to give it a Like. Sherlock and the Skullface Astronaut guys deserve your support!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and Like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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