Lionsgate // 2007 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 25th, 2008
The most twisted show on Earth.
A family on their vacation takes a pit-stop at a curiosity: an abandoned carnival packed with history, quirky nostalgia and a family of inbred, murderous carnies. Of course our hapless protagonists are unaware of that last part, but decide to stop and check things out nonetheless.
Turns out dad is a carnival buff and can't say no to snooping around the premises. It's not long after until the crazies emerge from the dilapidated shacks and start kidnappin' and gropin' and killin'. The responsibility of protecting the family falls to dad who of course got them all into this cluster-F and so he and his young son arm themselves with guns and blunt objects and wage war on the psychopathic hillbillies.
That really is the movie in its entirety. After suffering through some exposition the film picks up at the 1/3 mark and turns into a pretty-much-non-stop locomotive of slicing and dicing. Let me be right up front about this: if you're in the mood for a blood-bath, Side Sho delivers.
With no doubt a relatively miniature budget director Michael D'Anna and his gore effects crew have churned out a satisfying exhibit of splatter violence. Yes, some of the set-ups are cheesy and fake-looking, but even when the kills are their most transparent, these guys don't skimp on the goo. Nearly every cast member ends up coated from head to toe in the red stuff.
I know this description makes the film sound dark, and maybe it is, but I never felt the atmosphere was particularly oppressive. I blame the score, a goofy blend of -- I don't know -- goofy backwoods bumpkin tunes? In the commentary Michael D'Anna gets into specifics of what he asked his compose to do and references specific artists that apparently influence the scoring. Bottom line, the arrangement creates a lighthearted-bordering-on-corny tone and if the goal was for the film to scare the pants off of its viewers with its darkness and despair I don't think that will happen. Admirers of tongue-in-cheek gore will find more sustenance here.
The story is wafer-thin and serves only to create a framework on which to hang the kill scenes. It really is as simple as Family Arrives at Weird Location in the Middle of Nowhere and Almost Immediately Menaced by Raving Lunatics. There is a smidgen of mythology as to the source of craziness but it's brief and unsurprising.
The characters, on both sides, are just as one-dimensional. Dad is okay with a shotgun and the girls hold their own in a brawl but mainly scream a lot, like scream louder and longer that in any other horror film that springs to mind. The baddies are your typical Hills Have Eyes crazies, a few of them pancaked with makeup to give that extra all-in-the-family look. My favorite: the dog-man, which is exactly what it sounds like. A man that looks like a dog.
Lionsgate unleashes a decent little disc, complete with a sharp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 surround. Extras: a commentary from D'Anna and actor John David Hart, a nice-sized making-of featurette bloopers and trailers.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R