HORROR DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEWS

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HEARTSTOPPER
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Reviewed by: Dave Murray

Directed by: Bob Keen

Starring:
Robert Englund
Meredith Henderson
Nathaniel Stephenson

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
When notorious mass murderer Chambers (James Binkley) is executed, Sheriff Berger (Englund) believes the nightmare is over. But in the bowels of a barely staffed rural hospital, the heart-ripping, demon possessed killer comes to back to life, hunting a troubled young girl who he wants as his next vessel of pure evil. Oh, and thereís a whole lot of killing and chest ripping, which is always good for a weekend gorehound treat.
Is it good movie?
I so very much wanted to like this movie, for many different reasons. First, itís independent, and itís a Canadian production (shot in Hamilton, Ontario), which are both things that I support wholeheartedly. Second, I am a fan of director Bob Keenís previous work in the effects field ( Alien, Return of the Jedi, Hellraiser 2 & 3, Boy Eats Girl). Plus itís an original story, which is rare enough in horror movies today that I eat that stuff up; it has an intriguing concept, and the DVD cover art had me hooked. So what went wrong?? Iíll get the negatives out of the way so I can tell you what was redeemable about this flick.

First off, James Binkley was simply terrible as the killer Chambers. His pseudo-religious sermonizing really grates on the nerves and gets tiresome really fast. He has a great amount of screen presence, as long as he doesnít open his mouth. Englund mentions in the interview that Binkley is a trained theatre actor, and it shows, but not in the usual positive ways. His character was never really pinned down; was he a prophet, a philosophy professor, an English major or a psychopathic killer? I just donít know. For me, his performance detracted from everything that should have been great about this homegrown flick. He actually became less and less menacing as the movie went on, which should have been the opposite, right? Secondly, the hospital used to be an asylumÖumm, okÖweíve heard that a thousand times, and itís a bit of backstory that is never really capitalized on. And finally, this has to be the worst hospital staff Iíve ever seen in a movie. They are a skeletal presence in the film, and the rampant stupidity displayed by Nurse Grafton (Laura De Carteret) makes for one of the most useless side characters in the history of the nursing profession on screen!

However, the movie was not a complete waste of timeÖin fact it was quite fun to watch in most places. I was grooving to the gore effects, which really showcased Keenís experience as an effects supervisor. I especially love the trauma room carnage and the gnarly chest ripping shot. Great work! Robert Englund gives a very understated and quiet performance, which is uncharacteristic for him, but there were some moments during his fight with the killer where I was waiting for the claws to come out! The two young leads (Henderson and Stephenson) were quite credible, and that character of Sara was a strong female presence. Actress Meredith Henderson shows promise; sheís got character, personality and good looks to boot!

While the movie was shot on digital, in most places the print has been cleaned up to create a dark, atmospheric tone, and some of the wide angle camera shots of the hospital hallways were nicely done. However, a hokey ďdeus ex machinaĒ ending (come on folks, a holy tornado, seriously!) and a weak attempt at a final scare before the credits rolled pulled the plug on what was a fun and slick climax. When Sara is straddling the corpse of the killer Chambers and stabbing him repeatedly with a scalpel, I was rockiní to this baby, but that feeling quickly went away. Too bad, I was having a little bit of a good time. This could have been so much more, but sadly in the end it didnít deliver the whole package that it had the potential too.
Video / Audio
Video: Anchor Bay treats us to a simple 1.78:1 Widescreen transfer, enhanced for 16:9 T.V.

Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and closed captioning. Simple and bare bones. Would have loved to hear an audio commentary or something!
The Extras
This is a pretty bare bones disc in terms of features, which is odd for an Anchor Bay release. All we get are Interviews with Robert Englund and Bob Keen (28:20) which are entertaining and allude to how cool this movie should have been, as well as the Trailer for this and the far superior Beowulf & Grendel.
Last Call
This should have been a fun, gruesome fright flick, but some poor casting choices and a weak ending make this movie what it ultimately is: a mildly entertaining, straight-to-DVD ho-hummer highlighted by excellent gore, nice atmosphere and some strong leads. If they had only made the killer a silent, stalking death machine (a la Jason?) and capped it all off with a more ambitious ending, the movie could have been so much more. It was an okay ride, but it does suffer from some serious heart defects. And the lame features treatment really hurts this release. It being a Canadian indie flick and all, it would have been sweet to see some behind the scenes stuff or hear a commentary or two. Seriously, original independent horror deserves better treatment than this.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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