Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Anniversary At Shallow Creek (2010)

A Killer With Range

You don't see many horror movie villains using guns as their primary weapon. I mean, Michael Myers once used a shotgun, but only to impale the sheriff's slutty daughter to the wall. There's something about guns that takes away from the fun of the kill, as most horror film deaths occur in close quarters by the killer's hands (or whatever item is being clutched by those hands). But then there's the sniper rifle; a true exception. While certainly a cowardly weapon choice, the sniper rifle still manages to evoke fear because it terrorizes its victims with the notion that their demise can come from anywhere and they wouldn't even know it. It also makes escapes very difficult, as the long ranged rifle can pick off its prey safely and easily from a shadowy distance. It also has that fucking creepy laser sighting that lets you know you're a split second from being a few pounds lighter. The Anniversary At Shallow Creek seems to be your average slasher flick at first glance, but with the introduction of its crack shot killer and a pretty solid third act, it ultimately rises above the standard b-movie fare.

Sam has planned a romantic getaway weekend for his girlfriend Paige at his uncle's country home. Unfortunately, Paige's brother (also Sam's roommate and best friend) Anthony assumes it's an open invitation and invites three other friends to tag along. Very little is known about Sam's uncle, except that he was once a sniper in Vietnam and that the war mentally scarred him for life. The evening the group is venturing out to the house is also the one year anniversary of the gruesome death of two teenagers, in which police had no suspects or arrests. The public feared it was a serial killer, but that theory was crushed by police who said there was no evidence to support it. On arrival, our protagonists begin the fun with beers and tequila. While the guys are out shooting a BB gun, they meet a young boy who's home alone with his older sister for the weekend. Proving to be a fun and witty kid, Anthony lets him hang out with them for the rest of the night while they make smores around a camp fire. Just when things are at their best, suppressed gunfire echoes and leaves one of the gang dead. Trapped inside of the house, the group realizes that they're being hunted by a masked killer who isn't going home until his twisted game is finished.

For a film that's under 90 minutes, The Anniversary at Shallow Creek manages to pile on a lot of story and action in a pretty impressive manner. With most of the action taking place inside of the house as our protagonists attempt to outsmart their tormentor, I assumed the movie was going to just end in normal horror fashion, with only one to two characters making it out alive. I was completely wrong, as there's an entire act that follows, bringing the story into fairly morbid territory and further expanding the plot. I definitely applaud the film for these twists and turns, because I wasn't expecting more than your average hack'n'slash (shoot'n'slash?) horror movie.

The acting in the film is pretty good for a low-budget piece, with well-rounded characters who manage to rise above the clichés of typical horror stereotypes. Watching the film, I felt that this was really a group of best friends relaxing with one another, and although some of the characters have a bit of a catch to them (the sexy girl who almost gets naked and the crude/horny male friend with a dry sense of humor), we see later that they have more layers than we originally assumed. This is definitely a film that instills the viewer with a sense of compassion for its victims, which is a general rarity in low-budget horror (hell, even mainstream horror).

There are some delightfully tasty kills in this movie, and while not every one of them comes from the sniper rifle, those are easily the most fun to watch. The fact that we can see the laser dot gives us the advantage of knowing what's to come, whereas out victims have no idea where the killer is hidden. This results in some pretty nasty headshots that makes me want to break out my copy of Call of Duty and camp on some noobz with my FAL (sorry, nerd moment outbreak). The violence also amps up in the film's aforementioned third act, particularly with a truly painful-looking stabbing that had my teeth grinding together in a "Eek...Glad I'm not that guy..." sort of way.

Altogether, The Anniversary at Shallow Creek is a genuinely fun experience for the indie horror fans out there. While it draws a lot of inspiration from films like The Strangers, it still manages to create a nice little niche for itself that many low-budget horror films have yet to tackle. With a crafty and vicious villain, good acting, and some nifty use of gore, this is definitely a film that you'll want to set your laser sights on.

 3/5 Stars

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