Husk (2011)

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I've had mostly positive experiences with After Dark Films of late - although with at least one notable exception (*cough* The Task *cough*) so I had some hope for Husk (2011). After Dark may not be exactly re-inventing the wheel, but they generally have enough about them to turn out a decent horror yarn and a firm sense of what it is they're doing. And, actually, Husk works just fine.

We start as we so often start - with a carful of twentysomethings on a road trip. That can only mean that bad things are going to happen to the aforementioned twentysomethings, so accepting this fact, the only real questions are 1) will the filmmakers make us care about these people? 2) How effectively is it all going to play out? Brett Simmons, the writer/director of Husk, wastes no time spoon-feeding us every detail about who these people are and where exactly they're going, nor does he need to, as we're given just enough dialogue to get a positive feel for the group of friends before the plot kicks in. As they travel through farmland with its dense rows of corn, a brief encounter with some kamikaze crows is enough to write off their vehicle and leave them stranded at the side of the road.

One member of the party, Johnny (Ben Easter) immediately heads off towards a nearby farmhouse for assistance. Some of the guys decide to follow him, leaving Natalie (Tammin Sursok) and Chris (CJ Thomason) waiting with the car. Of course, it isn't long before oddness ensues. By the time Scott (Devon Graye, who also plays the teenaged Dexter in the hit series of the same name) and Brian (Wes Chatham) find Johnny, he's a dead man walking - or in this case, sewing, as when they find him, he's making a hood very much like the one they've just seen on a nearby scarecrow... meanwhile, back at the car, Natalie swears she's just seen someone looking out at her from the corn. Chris decides to go and hurry the others along so they can get the hell out of there, but their problems, as you might guess, are just starting.

What follows is an entertaining horror story which probably isn't going to become anyone's all-time favourite movie, but thanks to good direction Husk maintains pace, offers up decent acting and light-touch, but sufficient characterisation. Aside from scenes around the 40 minute mark where the pace dips a little for the purposes of plot explication, this is a steadily-moving tale which comfortably blends the bloody with material which is supernatural in tone; this means we get the eerie as well as the nasty, and it all hangs together well. Aesthetically some good work has gone in here too, again, the Husk farmhouse may not be up there with the Amityville house but it's visually-effective, well-lit and shot.

My only major gripe is in the final tangle of plot. I'm not going to complain about realism in a film about murderous scarecrows, but the big "reveal" of what the hell is going on was a tad confusing. This isn't enough to scupper the film by any means though.

If you're utterly sick of horrors which follow familiar patterns, then you will probably feel frustrated by Husk in that a lot of what it does will resonate with motifs from earlier films (especially twentysomethings making bad decisions!) For example, you can expect the obligatory glimpsed figures, the mysterious footsteps, the unstoppable threat... however, if you can quite happily sit in front of a nicely-realised story - though derivative in some of its elements - then this is a fun watch. It reminded me very much of Prowl (2010), another After Dark film which knew its limitations but had a similar knack of recombining horror staples in an engaging way.

Overall, this is a well-made film which strikes the right note and knows its genre; there's plenty of fun to be had here, and Simmons deserves credit for that.
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Categories: Slasher Movies
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