Southern Gothic

Southern Gothic

***

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Imagine The Apostle crossed with Near Dark and you begin to get a grasp on Southern Gothic and why it can only be regarded as an honourable failure.

At the centre of the film are three characters, Hazel Fortune, Starla Motes and The Reverend Enoch Pitt.

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Hazel is the bouncer at the local strip club, a drunk with nothing to live for since he accidentally killed his daughter whilst driving under the influence.

Starla is the new girl at the club, a single mother determined to improve her and daughter Hope's lives.

The Reverend is a fire and brimstone preacher with that all-too-familiar attraction/repulsion towards the strip club and its inhabitants. More specifically on seeing Starla, he decides that he must take her away from all this, prompting a confrontation with Hazel.

The Reverend backs down and retreats to the church to seek a sign from above. Instead he gets it from below, as one of a pair of wandering vampires attacks him. The Reverend pulls his gun and shoots the vampire repeatedly in the chest, driving him off. The vampire then sends his partner to kill The Reverend before he turns into one of their kind. She fails in this mission.

As Hazel performs baby sitting duties for Starla, whose daughter reminds him of his own, The Reverend transforms his flock into his undead minions and goes in search of her mother...

The difficulty one has with the film is that the horror/vampire elements fundamentally feel like something of an afterthought, as if writer/director/editor Mark Young did not really want to make a genre film at all, but was not unsure if what he actually wanted to make, in terms of small town, small scale drama, would have sufficient box-office appeal; it is perhaps telling in this regard that though we have a fair bit of gore, this must be about the only film in recent memory to feature a strip club but little or nothing in the way of T&A.

Accordingly, despite the fine, committed performances – Yul Vazques as Hazel and Nicole DuPort as Starla are low-key and contrast with William Forsythe's more over-the-top theatrical approach as Reverend Pitt, perhaps again suggesting the basic division at the heart of the film – and effective, if somewhat by-the-numbers mise en scene – moody lighting here, Dutch angles there, etc - the whole never really comes together to add up to more than the sum of its parts.

It also doesn't help that the film's best moment, in which a serial killer type stabs a woman to death only for her to then rise up and rip his jugular open, comes right at the start, establishing expectations that the remainder cannot fulfill.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2007
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Southern Gothic packshot
Vampires in church.

Festivals:

Dead By Dawn 2007

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If you like this, try:

30 Days Of Night
The Apostle