After an intense stand off with a powerful and playful demon during a supernatural expedition gone wrong, the unfortunate death of a young girl has Jonas Littleton facing skeptics that hand the ghost hunter a five year sentence behind bars ruling. His release from an Arizona prison offers him a second chance to start over with his wife and young son and Jonas makes promises to no more paranormal pursuits in hopes for a normal life. Miraculously, Jonas is offered a good paying job despite his manslaughter record that affords him seven years of suburban comforts and family growth, but little does Littleton know that his good fortune is the handiwork of the very same demon who bested him so many years ago, tricking him into a underhanded deal that requires his son’s soul with his wife being a casualty of war. Another seven years later, an obsessed Jonas fields every call that comes across his paranormal investigator’s desk as he tirelessly searches for his son and with the help of an eager investigator, Ron Tippard, and a green horn assistant, Ellie French, Jonas will come face-to-face with his rival evil again for one last time.
Welcome back to part two of our unexpected two part review segment of films that were disowned, supposedly, by their filmmakers. Today, we take a look at the 2010 supernatural thriller, “Hunting Evil,” or more commonly known under the title as “Closets” or “The Closet.” Already, the evidence is clearly powerful against “Hunting Evil” that alternate titles bares the potential markings of a repudiated film, aimed to cloak and shield the ramifications that would be supplied to unsuspecting audiences renting or blind purchasing. Director Charles Peterson has been reported to have disowned the Bob Madia (“You Can’t Kill Stephen King”) penned film because of too many chefs in the kitchen, if you smell what I’m cooking. Peterson, who has directed other indie horror projects such as “The Eleventh Aggression” and most recently, “A Killer Awaits,” which will be released this month, has ties with the investment group Old World Investors Group Incorporated a.k.a. OWIGI Films. Now, OWIGI Films is ran by “Hunting Evil’s” producer and star Lenny Rethaber (“Blood Moon Rising”). So, the lingering questions is this: Did star-producer Lenny Rethaber force the whip and reigns from Charles Peterson? Well, all this reviewer can say is that Lenny Rethaber also produced “The Eleventh Aggression” and the upcoming release “A Killer Awaits,” so seems like any adversity between the two has long since settled or just comes and goes with the industry territory.
However, what’s inherently curious about the DVD release from World Wide Multi Media is the three names headlined on the DVD’s front cover to which none are the film’s star Lenny Rethaber as the embattled Jonas Littleton. Knowing the type of distribution company WWMM is, more than likely the case is the first three credits, which are also in alphabetical order, and slapped them onto the front cover, one of which is just an unnamed barkeep who has approx. 5 minutes of screen time and not one other single credit to his name. As Jonas Littleton, Rethaber is soda flat with no bite and fizz to his performance and though his entertaining enough, the producer-star is also on the wrong side of the tracks in that category. There’s even whispering talk that “Major League’s” Corbin Bernsen, who has dappled in directing horror with “Dead Air” starring Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”), had issues with the producer (Rethaber), yielding to yet another instance of production problems. Though I’ve had verbal disagreements with Bernsen with his previous work, I find his performance as an enigmatic father of a missing child refreshing and complex, but the fate of his character poofs into thin air as if the writers, directors, or, most likely, producer didn’t know how to finalize the character. The sole best role comes from Patrick Adams as the enthusiastic paranormal investigator Ron Tippard. Not to be confused with “Suits” actor Patrick J. Adams, the Arizona resident Adams sparked life into a relatively unhinged project with an amusing and interesting performance in a side kick role who has substantial screen time and adds value to the situation. Rounding out this remaining cast in this conundrum is Darl Chryst (“Autopsy: A Love Story”), Dena Esquivel Frederickson, Jackson Furedy, Sallie Glaner (“The Visitant”), Davina Joy (“Death of a Ghost Hunter”), Pete Kelly, and Orchid Tao.
A twitching, tingly part of my soul yearned for “Hunting Evil” to come out on top, to be a solid supernatural saturation that a viewer, like myself, can sink into immensely, and with a script that precedes “The Conjuring” with the perceptive view of an unoriginal, yet sparsely used investigator concept, the appeal hyperdrives into salivation, but instead of salivation, “Hunting Evil” sluggishly drips slowly from the mouth’s corner crevices with script plotholes, badly layout composites, and undercooked characters. The story follows Jonas for nearly two decades, yet the man never ages despite already starting out looking middle aged to begin with so where are the streaks of grey, the loose and wrinkled skin, or maybe even a display a little physical ailments? Each of these natural flaws could have further enhance his lifespan evolution on Earth and speak to a little down to Earth as well. The composites look horrendously old fashion like from an antiquated video game platform. It’s as if the creators of 3D Realms not only provided the MS-DOS source code for those amazing Duke Nukem 3D levels also provided the visual worlds for “Hunting Evil” actors to humorously and painfully act against. the underwhelming, unfinished characters were slightly touched on before, but their arcs just ultimately poof into smoke without constructive reasoning or even to leave as fishhook into another movie.
“Hunting Evil” haunts onto DVD from World Wide Multi Media and MDVisual. Presented in a widescreen format and clocking in a 90 minute runtime, the DVD technically has little faults to discuss aside from the coloring looking a little desaturated and don’t visually pop. Some digital noise from the low end production quality during the night scenes that are accompanied by a little compression blotchiness, but the DVD passes muster in image quality. The English language 5.1 surround sound finds itself limited moderately to a two-channel output which is unfortunate with the amount of demonic tomfoolery being subjected to Jonas and his team. Low of the LFE and minimalistic on the depth and range, “Hunting Evil” couldn’t scare the pants off viewers audibly alone. There are no bonus features on this disc. Jonas Littleton’s troubles spread beyond a malevolent and playful demon destroying his family with “Hunting Evil” targeted as a suspect of an unfinished and problematic film. Whether turmoil driven or just the lack of rightfully placed funding, the spooky stories of paranormal investigators are left to the genre platonic professionalism of James Wan and not Charles Peterson and Lenny Rethaber.
A small and sleepy town has a haunting and grisly past. Old man Robert Bowery, stricken with a degenerative eye disease, once believed his failing eyesight would return if he gouged and digested the eyes of young children. Younger the eyes, the better. Thought to be long dead, Robert Bowery’s legacy of sadistic evil has left a dreadful impact on the town, so much so that the young townie and Sheriff’s daughter, Helen Connolly, still feels the long lasting fright of the horrific stories of Bowery’s hide-and-seek hunt of his adolescent victims at his dilapidated campground compound which he knew every inch of it’s isolated wooded location. When Helen is persuaded by her father to babysit Lucas, a little boy whose family is new in town, she begrudgingly accepts to take care of the boy in Robert Bowery’s former home, but Lucas goes missing during the middle of the night. Helen tracks him down to Bowery’s rundown hunting ground where the child eater lies in wait to sink his razor sharp teeth into children’s eyes and burst their anatomical fluids!
Based upon the short film of the same title, “Child Eater” is director Erlingur Thoroddsen’s unholy birth of a slasher paragon. The subtle, patient approach Thoroddsen establishes stretches an unlimited amount of a brooding atmosphere that compliments the gangly stature and unpigmented color of the demon-looking Robert Bowery. With Bowery’s round, tinted spectacles, thin whipping cane, and bald top, the fragile elderly have a new heroic face when combating youthful brats. Thoroddsen, who also penned the script, purposefully leaves Bowery in an ambiguous light, never really obtaining a good solid shot of the villain’s icy and bleak veneer until near the very end, that mystifies a character with such a monolithic and infamous lore surrounding him. Every character in town knows one version or another the story of Robert Bowery and his sick obsession of regenerative eye method, but not one person can put truth to the plague of his affliction and that makes the town stain that more tough to remove.
Cait Bliss returns as Helen Connolly from the 2012 short as the conflicted heroine with change of heart toward her perspective on children, especially when feels obligated in her duty to serve and protect a snatched Lucas. Bliss feels a little too old for the role that involves her character living with her Sheriff father, but Helen might be part of the millennial group where you live with your folks until your thirty or older; yet Bliss teeters on the fine line of being a final girl, similar to Heather Lagenkamp’s Nancy in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” turning her entitled life of aimless wandering into one possibly worth living and fighting for once the life changing ordeal is over. “You Can’t Kill Stephen King’s” Jason Martin provides the elephant ears, bald head, and lanky features that spectacularly builds Robert Bowery and Martin also provides a persona for a character whose always in the shadows, intoxicating the scene when visible with a nefariously bowie knife grin under a pair of Nazi-era mad scientist eyewear. Melinda Chilton, Brandon Smalls, Colin Critchley, Dave Klasko, James Wilcox, Andrew Kaempfer, and Kara Durrett make up the remaining cast in “Child Eater,” a unforgettable dooming blood junket.
Thoroddsen masterfully crafts “Child Eater’s” unsettling composure with unrivaled pacing, well edited jump scares, and an unchained animalistic killer crutched on sense other than his sight and who wouldn’t love a wretch plucking out peepers from eye sockets or ripping out jugulars with a single forceful bite? Robert Bowery could be a villainous idol and deservingly needs to be just that, but the vast weight of the Bowery mythos was attempted to be explained in too little of narrative run time, killing much of the hype that engulf’s his presence. The nearly unexplained death defiance follows into the trope trap similar to that of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, but the background provided on Bowery is unique, stemming from a vague portion of German and Polish folklore in which the latter may explain the child eater’s power, donned symbolically and, perhaps, even physically given his ability to be in the right place at the right time almost in simultaneous moments, that has been granted by the Devil.
Technically, I adore much of Thoroddsen’s slasheresque style blended with a calming patient that’s nearly unseen in the slasher genre. The only technical aspect I was not fond of was the fish eye lens used mainly in the beginning that spun a sickening wave of nausea through my corneas, the same sensation felt by viewers watching the jerky motions of a handheld found footage film. Still, Thoroddsen’s use of space, lighting, and special effects by Fiona Tyson states more than just another indie production and mesh those attributes with a superbly captivating and haunting string score by Einar Sv. Tryggvason and “Child Eater” strives further from being just another horrendously dubbed horror shunned aside for it’s nothing new attitude.
Black Stork Productions in association with Wheelhouse Creative and Blue Fox Entertainment deliver 82 minutes of toe curling fear in 2016’s “Child Eater.” MVDVisual distributes the Elingur Thoroddsen film onto a region free, not rated DVD that’s presented with an Anamoprhic Widescreen 1.85:1 presentation that’s definitely sharp even during the film’s mostly nighttime scenes. There are two audio options available: a Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 and a stereo 2.0. The 5.1 draws back the dialogue leaving more room for Tryggvason’s excellent score. Bonus features include a theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with director Erlingur Thoroddsen and stars Cait Bliss and Jason Martin. The deleted scenes leave good insight, explaining some scenes that might need more detailed clarification, and round out a rough edges. “Child Eater” eats into being an well played atmospheric horror on a budget with a rememberable child predator who can go eye-to-eye with foundational renaissance slashers!