In dystopian futures, it’s not uncommon to see an elimination of choice in man’s new and “improved” society. The driving belief behind such extreme ideology is born from the irony that too many options become oppressive, weighing us down with the need to make too many mundane decisions in everyday life. With so many films on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, it’s easy to endlessly scroll through digital libraries while you try to pick something new to see. Often times you still end up settling on the same old movie you’ve seen countless times, merely because you’ve exhausted your options and just want to get to watching something, anything.
With HORROR PACK, there’s no more sitting around wishing you could make up your mind as you browse your night away to no avail. Leave it to the good people over at HP headquarters to do the legwork when it comes to providing a variety of horror films for your viewing pleasure. Just sign up, sit back and relax as this subscription service mails out 4 films to your doorstep every month. What makes this mailer really interesting is the element of surprise—it’s a new mystery box each time. You never know which titles are inside, and it’s a monthly thrill to receive your box and find out what interesting movies await you!
I opened my well-packaged and protected box to find RISE OF THE ZOMBIES, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, THE WOMAN IN BLACK and an extra bonus surprise of a two in one set of HOSTEL & HOSTEL II. Pretty cool to actually have 5 movies instead of 4, especially because, unlike those other DVD delivery providers, ***the movies from HORROR PACK are yours to keep!!***
I actually hadn’t seen any of the films before, and initially didn’t know what to think of my selection, but found myself being a little disappointed. With prestigious previous titles offered such as ALIEN, THE SHINING, EVIL DEAD and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, I’d hoped to score one of my already all time favorites, or at least a movie I’d yet to see but had been eagerly wanting to. I wouldn’t say any of the films I got immediately fit the bill, but I was willing to go ahead and give them a fair chance, to not judge a book by its cover, and to hopefully walk away pleasantly surprised. I’d also like to predicate this by saying I aspire to approach all films with a Scorsese-like philosophy; to try to find the positive in every film, and that essentially every movie deserves some base level of respect for merely being made and distributed in the first place.
RISE OF THE ZOMBIES
Dir. Nick Lyon
A widespread, water-borne zombie virus leaves a group of survivors locked inside Alcatraz along with several doctors who are researching a cure. After their camp is invaded by the undead, the remaining people seek refuge on the San Francisco mainland while one of the doctors stays on the island to study some of the fresh zombies that have come about. The mainland survivors seek out another doctor who they believe may have key information concerning finding a cure.
This made for TV movie (SyFy) unfortunately falls victim to a lack of originality and absence of vision. It would be easy to blame the low budget (assuming it had one), but practically all the best films of the zombie genre have had extremely low budgets. Money helps a film, but doesn’t buy it artistry, depth, or richness of meaning. Not to say RISE OF THE ZOMBIES is completely lacking in anything note-worthy. The key players are well-known actors with a combined respectable repertoire, and they commit themselves to their roles honorably. The dialogue tends to be clunky, and some of the supporting cast is downright stale and emotionless in their delivery, but the experienced cast does what it can with the material. There’s definitely enough gore to satisfy blood lusting viewers. The special effects are alright, but make you feel like sometimes less would be more to avoid looking cheap. I found myself easily distracted and by the end I was multi-tasking on my iPhone, which is never a good sign. I will say that there was one shot in particular that was noticeably artfully executed, and when I think of RISE OF THE ZOMBIES, I keep coming back to that moment when I’m tempted to focus on its shortcomings. I think this film would actually appeal to a lot of zombie fans, but as someone who hails films like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBU 2, THE BEYOND, LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, 28 DAYS LATER, SHAUN OF THE DEAD and [REC] (not to forget the originals like WHITE ZOMBIE & I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE) as the gold standards of the genre, a film like RISE OF THE ZOMBIES almost can’t help but fall short in comparison. By the way, if you love zombies and haven’t seen all those films, you need to get on that ASAP.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS
Dir. Adam Gierasch
A New Orleans mansion with a gruesome history becomes the hot new location for a Halloween party when a local girl throws a huge bash for the town. Curious guests venture inside for a wild night of debauchery, but after the cops bust up the event a handful of partygoers are locked inside the compound until the next morning. When the sullen group finds six skeletons in the basement, they realize that thehouse’s urban legend of possession, mysterious murders, and suicide are all actually true. Throughout the long night, demons rise up to take hold of the terrified house guests and bring forth the apocalypse.
A remake of the 1988 movie by the same name, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a B movie through and through. There are a couple of interesting shots, with a few special effects sequences that vaguely recall Italian horror or the films of David Cronenberg, but it’s just not up to par with the kind of horror film I would watch, let alone buy. The acting is rough, and it’s obvious some actors were cast off sexy appeal alone, so I wasn’t too invested in their well-being as characters. A couple of good special effects scenes redeem the film from being a complete dud and the third act is the strongest section of the film, but the ending is laughable with an utterly corny one-liner, which detracts from the otherwise grim circumstances of the deceased characters. The soundtrack also has some good stuff, which adds to the entertainment factor, so I do believe there are people who would like this movie; just not me. One cool note is that the film includes a role for ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley, who was not only in the original 1988 film, but also plays the pink-haired, naked dancer punk in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Personally, I’m now more excited to see the original, which, just based off some quick research, looks to be a promising endeavor as it was better received critically than this 2009 version.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Dir. James Watkins
In Victorian London, widowed lawyer and father Arthur Kipps is sent to visit a marsh-locked mansion to orchestrate its sale. The villagers of the remote town harbor a dangerous secret, and Kipps discovers the spirit of the deceased owner, Alice Drablow, whose wrath for losing someone dear to her extends out to torment the entire village, haunts the house. Kipps befriends one of the locals, but the rest of the townspeople fear his interference with the house, and know tampering with the property will lead to death, specifically targeted towards the town’s children.
Produced by Hammer Horror films, THE WOMAN IN BLACK reflects the same dark gothic themes and aesthetics found in their older classic works, yet this is adapted for a modern appeal. The plot feels a bit muddled at times and the pacing isn’t quite right, but there’s undoubtedly a level of suspense that is enough to get the heart pounding, even if it’s too reliant on typical “boo” moments. The special effects don’t always hold up, and one wonders if the film could have taken a cue from its predecessors of the Hammer lineage and downplayed the CGI in order to highlight the ghostly mystery layered in the story. At times the setting, characters and themes all marry to create a cohesive supernatural spooky atmosphere, but it sometimes squanders itself in the telling of its story and loses its impact. Despite its flaws, THE WOMAN IN BLACK feels like a preserved memento of a by gone era and the horror genre could certainly use more if its old-fashioned charm. One thing is for certain, even when the scares are predictable, this film made me keep the lights on that night.
Dir. Eli Roth
A pair of American best friends backpack through Europe alongside a companion they meet en route. It’s a conquest of fun and pleasure as they bond while trying to score some hot and heavy Euro babes. After they get a tip-off about a secret hostel tucked away in a remote village just a couple train rides away, the young men think they’ve scored it big. It’s not until they get cozy with the overtly welcoming local residents that they discover the deadly routine carried out behind closed doors.
From a brief synopsis, it would seem this film would be as predictable as ever, yet it still delivers unexpected gut punches in a way that feels fresh to the genre, even while being aware of its ‘torture porn’label. HOSTEL offers more than it may seem at first glance based off plot alone. It easily became the diamond in the rough for this horror pack shipment, and to that I am ever grateful. This decade old xenophobic tale of caution was easy to initially write off, pegging it for just another outlandish cry for maximum gore with minimal effort, and clichés carrying out a half-baked plot thrown in to justify some kind of simple story. Never having any true interest in seeing this film upon first release, I convinced myself that HOSTEL was merely an empty exploitation of pain- violence for violence’s sake and that’s it. Having finally watched it now after all these years, I wonder if I would have the same appreciation for it if I had in fact seen it back in 2006.
Presented by Tarantino, whose style is prevalent in the energetic and deliberate editing, HOSTEL embraces elements of Euro horror with a sense of nightmarish surrealism in a potential real world scenario that makes the film all the more unnerving. The open credits roll with an eerie whistle that recalls “Elle’s theme” from KILL BILL, whose inspiration probably hails further back from the predatory call of Robert Mitchum in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Both Roth & Tarantino share an admiration for genre cinema, and embrace the homages and influences into their own style, especially honoring Japanese ultra-violent cult films. There’s a lot more going on here than people are willing to give credit for, including surprise plot twists and switching of protagonists, authentic characters, effective musical choices, timely themes and a well-balanced blend between horror and comedy inside an otherwise disgusting topic.
HOSTEL has been accused of a lack of depth and reflection into the unapologetic violence it offers up, but on the contrary, Roth is making a handful of statements regarding gender, power, money, empathy, the darkness of mankind and foreign prejudices all with a dash of wit and self-awareness. The practical effects from makeup maestros Greg Nicotero & Howard Berger make all the difference, which pushes the film to be a stand out greatly from lesser films that would later follow it. Avoiding CGI greatly amplifies the squirm factor, as everything looks all the more intensely realistic while. Jay Hernandez (almost unrecognizable as El Diablo in SUICIDE SQUAD) gives a natural style of acting in his vulnerable performance, and it’s emotionally amazing to feel yourself initially being grossed out by his character to then rooting for him on the edge of your seat. Roth masterfully introduces a group of brutes that represent all the loathsome values that make Americans look bad to the rest of the world, serving only to promote a greater cultural divide. It’s a purposeful critique on post 9/11 international relations that foment an acceptable agreement that these young, foolish but ultimately forgivable men are deserving victims. Roth is taking torture disgust and turning it on its head to make the viewer realize that if they are feeling any sort of satisfaction from these guys supposedly getting their “come upance,” then that itself speaks volumes on the true horror of this story. Ultimately no matter how disliked a person may be, no one deserves to be tortured and why are we otherwise okay with it in this presented circumstance?
They say money can’t buy happiness, but in HOSTEL as well as in life, it literally buys you everything else. Roth cultivates a most uncomfortable cinema that poses the idea of the ultimate human exploitation where people can be literally bought to slaughter. Claiming the story idea came from discovering a website where you can pay $10,000 to go to Thailand and shoot a stranger for sport, Roth says that the site noted that the sacrificial people were voluntarily signing up to be murdered, as part of the money supposedly went to their deathly destitute families that had no other recourse of income for survival. HOSTEL takes this explicitly nihilistic aspect of the human condition and turns it into a classic American horror movie.
Dir. Eli Roth
Three unsuspecting young women tour Europe while taking art classes, and an impromptu trip for some much-needed R&R leads them back to the same Slovakian torture town where the first film takes place. The setting may be the same, but the perspectives are switched, as this time the killers are the one’s who lead the story.
Eli Roth returns to flip the script in this devilishly delightful sequel to the torture tale HOSTEL. Although HOSTEL II doesn’t quite live up to the energy and directorial footprint that is so apparent in the first film, it is no less gory, suspenseful or sympathetic to its characters. Picking up where the ending of HOSTEL leaves off, the story continues with the sinister antics of the Elite Hunting members, who are now bidding on a trio of women instead of the men in the previous film. While the plot sounds like merely the same rehashed circumstances, it offers quite a varied perspective all around as it tells the other side of the story.
Experiencing this hellish journey from the opposite sex’s point of view already gives the audience a different lens, but the real stand aspect of HOSTEL II is being given a window into the world of these murderous tycoon businessmen. In the first film, this twisted operation is but a total mystery to be slowly unveiled as the protagonists get deeper into the thick of danger. In HOSTEL II however, this highly secretive society spearheads the story and the dark psyches of these unseemly killers are further explored. As with the first film, there are some truly unforeseen moments that propel the plot forward, and the tonal shifts between partying and unnerving suspense are just as effective. Even before the massacre begins, there is a constant sense of tension that’s maintained up until the very end, and sometimes it’s the scraping of a scythe against skin that haunts you more than the final death blows themselves. Some ballsy child violence is notably praiseworthy and the film still achieves a level of self-aware fun while embracing such taboo topics.
Whereas HOSTEL manages to cultivate immense sympathy for leads who would otherwise seem like dishonorable fellows, HOSTEL II captures a mostly low-key group of travelers falling prey to a familiar threat portrayed in a more integrated, revealing way that immediately evokes pity for these ladies. Dodging damsel in distress clichés avoids typical genre sexism, and there are plenty of unearthed details that keep the story from seeming stale. Just like HOSTEL, there’s an air of uncertainty that surrounds a potentially predictable plot, which makes both films all the more engaging from beginning to end. As Stephen King put it, “I understand ‘torture porn,’ it’s a good phrase. But I would argue with you, there’s a fine line there… There’s something going on in Hostel: Part II that isn’t torture porn, there’s really something going on there that’s interesting on an artistic basis. Sure, it makes you uncomfortable, but good art should make you uncomfortable.”
VERDICT: HORROR PACK: LOVE IT or LEAVE IT?
Ultimately, I was pleased with only ¼ of the films (Hostel I & II count as 1 out of the 4 titles). THE WOMAN IN BLACK was alright, but I most likely wouldn’t watch it again, and RISE OF THE ZOMBIES and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS were definitely some hours I wish I had spent on something else, though it is worth noting that I at least got my interest peaked regarding looking up the original NIGHT OF THE DEMONS film, so that’s certainly a positive take away. The true gem of the pack was finally putting myself in a position to watch HOSTEL & HOSTEL II and being so pleasantly surprised by both how much I enjoyed them and how much the films stuck with me. Had it not been for HORROR PACK, I probably would have continued to scoff at the thought of bothering to see any films of the HOSTEL series ever, and would still be ignorant to its frankly undermined greatness. For this change of heart, I am forever grateful to HORROR PACK.
Is this worth your money? It comes down to how much money you are willing to spend on both entertainment, and most importantly, the risk of a mystery box. I’ve never been one prone to gambling, and when it comes to play money; I tend to lean more on the side of caution with reserved selectivity on what extras are worth my hard-earned dime. Some people live for a monthly thrill and the excitement alone is worth the cost, just to see what new surprise awaits them when they get home. This is the kind of audience that HORROR PACK caters to best, and it’s the horror newbie that will most likely benefit from this kind of service the most. Horror film fanatics will generally know what they already like and probably own it too, but someone who is more fresh to the scene won’t necessarily have a preferred palate or know where to start when building a library of films or expanding upon their viewing horizons. However, those horror junkies who have the extra cash to burn, may be in for quite the treat when they take a chance and are sent something unexpected that they may have written off too easily in the past or perhaps have never heard of before.
HORROR PACK offers a lot with their easy to use subscription service. They never recycle titles, they serve up both Blu-ray & DVD (cheaper) plans, ship worldwide and best of all, the films are yours to keep!
Monthly Plan Options (all reoccurring, renews automatically. Includes 4 titles)
Blu-Ray 1 Month: $24.99
Blu-Ray 3 Month: $24.24 = total $72.74 (save $2.23)
Blu-Ray 6 Month: $23.49= total $140.94 (save $9.00)
Blu-Ray 12 Month: $22.14= total $272.88 (save $27)
DVD 1 Month: $19.99
DVD 3 Month: $19.24 = total $57.72 ($2.23)
DVD 6 Month: $18.49= total $110.94 (save $9.00)
DVD 12 Month: $17.14= total $212.88 (save $27)
HP has a panel comprised of both filmmakers & fans that decide what four films go out each month, but they do try to listen to subscriber favs on their Facebook group. They source titles from both independent filmmakers as well as major distributors, and ****they pick titles that are not currently streaming or in discount bins****
HORROR PACK tries to send special editions when possible, while they also aim to provide an indie horror title with each pack too, and all films are brand new copies, nothing used. What’s extra cool is that each DVD & Blu-Ray pack of 4 include all different options, so if you wanted to get both packs, you’d receive 8 NEW TITLES a month!
HORROR PACK will also offer incentives for newcomers, with discount codes, free collector’s items and giveaways. They will keep you updated when they are running low on the current month’s packs, because once they sell out, you’ll just have to wait to sign up next month if you want to join in on the fun. There’s also a newsletter with helpful info, and their Instagram offers a slew of hints as to what films you may find in their offerings.
The saying goes, life is full of surprises, and the best things happen unexpectedly (except if you’re a character in any of these horror movies!), and HORROR PACK is no different. It’s a homespun operation that has since grown into its success, now providing spooky selections all across the globe for all horror fans alike. Is it perfect? No, but it’s clear this business is run by a group of dedicated enthusiasts who work hard to serve up a variety of horrortastic movies that cover the genre’s spectrum. Forrest Gump may have been referring to HORROR PACK when he said, “life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re going to get.” One thing that you can rest assured of, if you aren’t satisfied with the films in your pack, there’s always the option of selling them off to a second-hand store to make back the cost of the subscription, maybe even turning a profit. With that fall back option, there’s really not that much to lose in this curious game of “WHAT’S IN THE BOX???!!!!”