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Case Number 20588: Small Claims Court

Buy Dismal at Amazon


Cinema Epoch // 2009 // 79 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 28th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson is constantly menaced by cannibalistic rednecks. Must be the moonshine cologne he wears.

The Charge

Eat or be eaten.

The Case

I think we can call it. We have officially moved into a new era of horror movies; where the overwhelming number of villains has transitioned from the omnipresent Creepy Ghost Girl to the Inbred Cannibal Yokel. It's the Moonshine Age of Horror!

I've seen countless movies employ this already-run-ragged heavy and here's another: Dismal! Don't let that shocking and fairly cool DVD cover art fool you; this outing is about as familiar as it gets for the killer hillbilly genre.

A group of college friends go out into the Great Dismal Swamp to score some extra credit for their biology exam. I was an English major in a small liberal arts college and my science classes were more focused on measuring tables and pouring fluids into beakers. So I have no idea how demanding a legit post-secondary-level bio class might be, but if I would have to camp overnight in a place called the Great Dismal Swamp then I'm transferring to a tech school to learn HVAC.

Doofy cannon fodder they are, the students go out, engage in some sexy romps in the most unsexy spots you can think of (pressed up against a tree in a smelly-ass swamp), trade witless banter, and ultimately fall prey to the menace of two killer rednecks.

Dismal is familiar and derivative, but it's not awful. In fact, it's actually a nicely put-together micro-budget horror movie, sporting some nifty kills, a dark sense of humor, and a genuinely surprising final act plot twist.

True, I'm bored sideways with the over-dependence on lethal backwoods types, but I guess there's a primal fear ingrained somewhere in the American subconscious for white males who live in sheds. And, of course, the gentlemen depicted here have a craving for human flesh, which allows for a sequence of torture (another trope I'm about done with in horror flicks).

Lest I digress into bitching mode, let me once again affirm my appreciation for the quality on display. Dismal is comprised of stuff you've seen in many, many, many other movies, but it's well-executed familiarity, spiked by nastiness, and a particularly impressive bit of make-up work.

The DVD: a nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, 5.1 surround, and sadly no extras.

The Verdict

The accused is sentenced to picking up litter in the Great Dismal Swamp.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Cinema Epoch
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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