While embarking through Kentucky on a camping road trip, four friends make a pit stop at a Kentuckian scream park called Talon Falls, suggested to them by squirrelly and unusual gas station attendant. As they work their way through a labyrinth of gore and torture, the realization that the local attraction harnesses realistic inflictions of pain hits them squarely in the jaw as they become unwilling participants instilled into the hyper-horrific entertainment that’s recorded onto a snuff tape. In order to not be strapped to a jerry-rigged electrocution chair or be the guinea pig for a sadistic mad doctor with a niche for painful exploratory surgery, they must fight the entire company of Talon Falls’ scream park in order to not be a piece of recorded snuff.
“Talon Falls” is the 2017 torture and survival horror named after and shot on location at the real life scream park located in Melber, Kentucky and written, directed, and co-produced by indie filmmaker Joshua Shreve. Shreve’s story tip-toes around being a familiar narrative that might not seem so different from other works ranging from Nimród Antal “Vacancy” to maybe even Rob Zombie’s murder-world fun-n-games “31,” but if you take a step back and take a long, hard look at “Talon Falls'” gore scenes that don’t just secretly record the assortment of death, but exhibits the ghastly torture for the entire public eye to see. If you’ve been to a Halloween Horror theme park, you know very well the adrenaline pumps, the hearts thump, and the fear tops into a knot in your throat and “Talon Falls” simply adds that what if factor. What if it’s not fake? What if these people being dismembered and vilely tortured are ultimately put to death right before our eyes, like some Captain Spaulding backwoods horror show with a side bucket of his famous fried chicken?
In any case, the four friends, made up of two couples, don’t have one ounce of star power behind their name, but each one of them spearhead the project with enough enthusiasm and gusto that there’s no short fall of trepidation even if the level of fear stalls slightly on overkill at times. Brad Bell, Jordyn Rudolph, Sean Rudolph, and Morgan Wiggins don’t necessary have the on-screen chemistry as friends or couples, even if Sean and Jordyn Rudolph are an offscreen husband and wife, but the palpitating consternation dynamic solidly sells when all hell breaks loose inside the walls of Talon Falls. Between Jordyn Rudolph and Morgan Wiggins, either actress could be a vocal stretching scream queen, especially Wiggins who reaches ranges that could pierce eardrums.
When the spectrum-filled makeup palettes and every single destructive deconstruction prop is laid out at your finger tips, the special effects comes as second nature and to introduce a high level of design detail to the already elaborate set, inside a really monstrous horror park, then “Talon Falls” without a doubt will walk, talk, and look like a top-notch horror film. However, not all aspects are perfect with the Shreve film, produced by Kent Hammond and Todd Ferren, as the story progression with the characters becomes minimized that result in haphazard camaraderie between the friends who are more turnstile acquaintances than lustful lovers or deep-rooted long time friends. Also, characters make hot-headed or stupid-minded questionable decisions when in hot pursuit of an axe-wielding, piggy-masked killer and the scribing of the irresponsible decisions when safely stowed away when being pursued, roots out Shreve’s inexperience in a time of a building block career.
MVDVisual and Lost Empire present “Talon Falls,” the Terror Films and Flashback Pictures production, onto DVD home entertainment in a widescreen 2.35:1 that atheistically gritty in the detail. Even the darker scenes, with well established and positioned shadowing, bring substantial substance to liven up and level up this independent feature from Kentucky. The 5.1 surround sound track has stable range through and through with a caustic toned score to convey terror and a clear and prominent dialogue track that doesn’t muddle through a surplus of ambient tracks. Bonus material include a behind-the-scenes featurette that runs through a randomizer of footage markers and some bloopers. A theatrical trailer is also included. Josh Shreve can only get better from his Sophomore film as a director whose hot off his solid genre entry in “Talon Falls” with the aid of the scream park’s unlimited horror resources and though popping with toe-nail pulling moments, the extremely short runtime of 75 minutes suggests a stiffened premise with undercooked character development that diminish that high production value and bloody effects.
Always does this seem to me is that all the root causes of demonic possession in films stem from the ye ole ages when the land was young and naive. Nearly in the same vein are The Evil Dead and Ginger Snaps in which these prequels explore ancient curses and demons to be the reason for all the present carnage and this is just to quickly name a couple of examples. Darrin Reed and F. Miguel Valenti’s The Eyes of the Woods follows a similar structure but separate’s itself by beginning in the past with a pilgrim village Knobb’s Creek being slaughtered by a vengeful father who lost his daughter and blames God for his loss. He leads Satan into his soul giving him ultimate strength, sustaining life, and a thirst for human flesh. Four hundred years later to the present day, five friends are hunted and tormented by the legendary creature of Knobb’s Creek whom has consumed numerous lives over the years feeding his body with souls.
What might be the most interesting piece about the Eyes of the Woods is Mark Villalobos whom’s hands are deep within the bloody special effects and also behind the creature played by Walter Phelan (Dr. Satan of House of a 1000 Corpses). The prosthetic applications on lanky Phelan are a nice touch making Phelan look like Baraka from Mortal Kombat 2, but naked. What a shame that the sound editing screws up the whole character; at best the foley sounds come off as loony-toony and the boom mike, or whatever was used, doesn’t produce quality sound – what can you expect with 2.0 Dolby?
However, the Creature has been overshadowed and not by the our young fresh-faced victims. The forest becomes more frightening than the actually villain much like, again, The Evil Dead. Entire lakes move, night is actually day, day is actually night are only a few examples of how our group of kids get turned around and completely “mind-fucked!” The Creature is completely overshadowed and becomes just a meager product of it’s environment – the forest. Unlike my comparison to The Evil Dead, the trees don’t reach out and rape women nor bust down doors to swallow souls. Instead, the trees act as an Electric Magnetic Pulse disabling phones and cars. How and why you say? Fuck if I know. Eyes of the Woods doesn’t explain much about the cause and one could guess that evil forces, especially demonic forces, are working to keep modern technology out of the bush!
Our young bunch deem very unlikable and audiences will have a hard time sympathizing with them. We want them to die just because there is nothing interesting about them, no showy love poise, no fight for something to live for and if anything, we can cheer for the character of “Winter” portrayed by Johnny Moreno, who in my opinion acts and looks just like James Duval from Cornered! Quirky and likable, had me rolling a couple of times, yet completely idiotic and still doesn’t become a character that you can root for to live. Even the female characters (who give us any gratuitous nudity and only gratuitous lake crossing in their bikinis) are just, well, blah. Now, there is gratuitous nudity with a chick walking out of the cave, covered in blood, and walking aimlessly through the woods and stumbles upon a backpacking couple who are not helpful. The backstory on this naked, covered in blood, chick doesn’t explain much of a background besides that her friend went in a cave and died. That’s about it – just walking tits.
Eyes of the Woods, not to be confused with The Hills Have Eyes or The Woods Have Eyes, homes into other horror flicks, but tries too hard to become a cult favorite. Instead, a mesh of mess chops off the film’s livelihood and throws it out the window because, basically, there is no use for the film’s manhood. Eyes of the Woods becomes another direct-to-video to take the direct-to-graveyard, do not pass go, do not collect $200 route. Even with a veteran villain, a special effects guru, and a decent, if a confusing, premise, this satanic creature feature won’t settle well with horror fans and will certainly leave a bad taste.