In the Hell of Dixie (Movie Review)

In the Hell of Dixie (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: Someone is knocking off the members of the Pig Ridge Hunting Club one-by-one, and this killing spree has something to do with a terrible accident that occurred many years ago.

REVIEW: When you put on a movie that has been labeled a slasher, you go into it with certain expectations. Those are expectations that writer/director Eric F. Adams' IN THE HELL OF DIXIE begins defying as soon as you realize that this movie has a running time of approximately 128 minutes. It also immediately defies expectations by not beginning with a kill sequence, or anything even remotely horror-related. Instead, the opening moments find small town police officer Ned Annison (Adams himself) stressing over whether or not the sheriff is going to promote him to sergeant.

This movie is in no hurry to get to the horror and slashing, either. It not only focuses heavily on Ned's interactions with his boss and competition, showing the entire process of his job interview for the sergeant position, but it also takes its time introducing us to a group of hunters who spend their downtime hanging out together at the Pig Ridge Hunting Club and doing a whole lot of bantering. Because of the down-home country locations, the southern accents most of the actors have, and the focus on how local law enforcement works, during the first quarter this movie comes off like it's going to be something along the lines of a WALKING TALL-esque hixploitation film. More than a half hour has gone by before we get to the first slasher killing. Another half hour will go by before the action really kicks in.

I greatly admire the dedication Adams displayed in making this film, as it is the definition of a labor of love. It was shot on weekends over the course of 14 months, with a budget of $28,000 that came out of Adams' pocket. The actors worked for free and there were only three people on the crew. Adams saw this as his throwback to '80s slashers, and unlike a lot of filmmakers today he didn't use filter effects in post-production to try to capture an old school look, he actually went old school and shot on film, 16mm.

With that said, his feature directorial debut does have its problems, starting with the obvious pacing issues. 128 minutes is a good 25 minutes or so longer than any slasher should ever be, and it's clear when watching the film that it could have benefited from being trimmed down, and really could have been re-structured. Get to the point quicker, give the people what they want. Don't ask the audience to invest in an hour of chit-chat before getting to the good stuff.

That isn't to say that the dialogue is useless, however. Some very important information is conveyed through some of these conversations - which brings up a couple other problems. One, IN THE HELL OF DIXIE suffers from some shoddy audio, the bane of low budget productions. Two, it commits the sin of telling instead of showing. The story of the film is really kicked off by a confrontation over the hunting club property that puts a person in the hospital, but we don't see that confrontation. We're told about it. The characters do a lot of talking about it, but we should have seen it instead.

As the film goes on, the dark history of the Pig Ridge Hunting Club property is slowly revealed. Everything eventually makes sense and it's clear that Adams had a vision for the unconventional way in which his story is told, I'm just left wishing it had been told in a quicker, more simple fashion. 

When some hunters take their one night stands out to the club's "Stabbin' Cabin", people do start getting stabbed with sharp implements, and from that point on, the second half of the film, the pace really picks up. As a strange woman in a white dress proceeds to turn the hunters into the hunted, the film becomes much more interesting and exciting, and Adams does well at delivering pay-offs to everything he set up in the first half.

The main issue lingering in the second half of the film is that there is no real hero or heroine here. No one is all that likable, even though most of them do come off as being very real. I'm a country boy myself, and have spent time around guys who were very much like the characters in this movie. Ned is given a moment that almost makes me think that we were meant to be rooting for this guy, but I was never on his side. He was always unpleasant and questionable, and this triumphant moment he's given just drives home the fact that he is not a good person.

IN THE HELL OF DIXIE is riddled with issues, and I'm left wondering what could have been if it had been structured as a more straightforward and typical slasher movie, because this really isn't like any '80s slasher you've ever seen. This is very much its own type of film, and there is some enjoyment to be derived from it, but it won't live up to most of your slasher expectations.

If you're a patient viewer with a soft spot for DIY horror, give IN THE HELL OF DIXIE a chance. If a micro-budgeted two hour slow burn doesn't sound like your idea of entertainment, this isn't likely to win you over.

Extra Tidbit: Alternative Cinema will be releasing IN THE HELL OF DIXIE on DVD January 26th; pre-order right HERE.



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