Friday, February 06, 2009

Review: Twisted Tales from Maine

Those of you who have read my blog for the last few years must be familiar with the name of Emptyhouse Film by now. From zombies to monsters, Olin Smith and Andy Davis have done it all, and produced a stack of feature films in the process, setting them apart from all of us wannabe media mavens. What drives them? The love of what they do plays a huge part in the process.

Their hard work has paid off finally with the limited release of Twisted Tales from Maine, a DVD 4-pack that collects their heaviest hitters thus far, and delivers a promise of things to come.

The films are well-packaged, and production levels are high. The casting is consistently excellent, and in films like Monster in the Woods and MUD it reaches a high point which a lot of Hollywood productions only wish they could attain.

The cinematography is likewise of a very high caliber – the selective eye of the camerawork is without fail interesting, arresting, and frequently quite beautiful. The Maine locations are all carefully chosen and utilized. It makes you wonder why Hollywood movies set in Maine are so rarely filmed here.

Here is a rundown of the 4 movies included in the 4-pack:
2 – This Maine zombie film has received more press and response than any other Emptyhouse film yet. From mass zombie casting calls, to marching undead descending on Portland’s Monument Square, this movie and its fans made themselves known all over the world, from Fangoria to the Riofan Film Festival in Brazil.
It’s hard for me to view this film as a spectator. I worked on it doing makeup support, and I spent a lot of time on the sets and with the people who made it happen. I know all the hard work that went into its making. I listened to the eerie but ear-catching soundtrack as it was being written in my house. The talent and enthusiasm in it are evident to me. So are the bleak streets of a winter-blasted Biddeford and its stark storm-cleared skyline. But even for someone who has seen the footage from all angles, there are genuinely terrifying moments, horribly saddening moments, and wicked gross-outs at the end.

I’m Sorry — I finally got a chance to see this film with the 4-pack DVD release. The trailer hadn’t excited me much, but in watching the movie, I found myself drawn in. Its atmosphere draws heavily from supernatural classics such as 1963’s The Haunting. While the hysterics that appear throughout the middle of the film aren’t really my style, they are offset by the tremendous restraint shown in some truly disturbing, quiet moments, and by the time the main character reaches full-fledged freakout towards the end, it has become real for the viewer.

Monster in the Woods — As serious as I’m Sorry was, Monster in the Woods is off the cuff. Out in the woods, wigged out by wild things, the main characters try to navigate through increasing suspense and human drama, while the mockumentary elements threaded through the film remind us that truth is stranger than fiction. Hello Maine, hello Monster, hello MADNESS! Bring it on. Rumors of a sequel in the works have fans ready for more.

Mud – Before there was a Monster in the Woods, there was the Zamphini Monster. Of all the Emptyhouse productions, this film is the most delicate, even made as it is of harsh elements. Filmed mostly in Porter, Maine, this film captures those tenuous moments when youth meets reality, leaving childhood behind. Will the boys find the remains of magic in the muck of the Ossipee River? Or will the sordid facts of life in a small town take them down? What lurks in the shadows of the woods, and is it worse that what lurks in man?

The clich̩ of the process of adolescent discovery takes a beating in this film, and manages to turn into something strong and real. Easily my favorite Рhow this escaped the notice of film festivals and distributors everywhere is beyond me.
If your interest is piqued, you can pick up one of the 250 numbered copies online at:

The price tag of $49.95 may sound steep, but it’s all going straight to local filmmakers, and you get 4 feature-length DVDs out of it, plus an autographed 16-page booklet! Think of it as an investment for yourself in Maine horror entertainment.

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