Monday, August 21, 2017

A Perkins' Dozen

Quick Plot: In 1999, fourteen children were abducted in the town of Stone Cove (and yes, you will constantly hear "Stone Cold" in your head and everything is better that way).

Ten years later, the town has mostly moved on from the tragedy, with only policeman/grieving father Dwayne Hopper still trying to solve the case. While this has done little help his marriage to the unhappy Janine or parenting of the teen rebel Daisy, it looks like on a fateful night exactly a decade after the disappearance of his son, Dwayne may have met the man responsible for his pain.

While covering the overnight shift at the local holding cell, Dwayne catches the eye of a mysterious prisoner named Ronald Perkins. Something is off about the self-identified pharmacist. Is it that Dwayne has never met him, despite them both being lifers in such a small town? That much like the man who took his son, Perkins seems to be missing a finger right where young Kyle once took a bite? Or that he's just an incredibly creepy dude who is obviously, without a doubt, the man responsible for Stone Cold--er, Cove's pain.

Hopper asks one of his off-duty pals to investigate Perkins' home, a secluded ranch with a very mysterious basement. As you might guess, those fourteen children reemerge, having been caged, abused, and injected with a steady supply of PCP and other drugs.

What follows is an interesting take on ye olde zombie trope, as Perkins' victims raid Stone Cove, tearing its citizens apart with their own bloody hands. As he tries to take charge, Hopper finds himself torn between protecting his town and not further punishing fourteen insane teenagers (one of whom is his own son) who can't really be blamed for their own actions.

Perkins' 14 is director Craig Singer's followup to Dark Ride, and it's a full traveling carnival better (I think that's how math works, right?). The story itself comes loaded with a nice balance of conflict, as our monsters easily have our sympathy for the abuse they've suffered. While none of the characters make ANY smart decisions when it comes to surviving the night, it's easy to consider the fact that if you were being chased by 28 Days Later-ish creatures, you might not be thinking too straight either. 

It's probably for the best that our characters lack fundamental survival instincts, since the gore on display is one of Perkins' 14 strong points. We get our fair share of disembowelments, all done with gloriously juicy practical effects. I would have preferred to actually see most of the action, but bad lighting seems as common as poor cell phone service in the realm of 21st century horror. 

High Points
From a storytelling point of view, the whole setup (which was apparently submitted via a web contest by Jeremy Donaldson) is strong, and Richard Brake's Ronald Perkins is chillingly villainous in his clean-cut evil

Low Points
I can forgive the film's low budget for some of the rough lighting choices, but the actual geography of some of the more intense sequences is muddled and poorly defined, thereby muting the tension

Lessons Learned
When it comes to not-quite-zombie zombie movies, animal activists are always the worst

Affairs are always improved with warm champagne

Best thing about filming in Romania? The creepy eastern European children's parks, of course

I watched Perkins' 14 via HBO Go, so if you have access to that, it's certainly a decent way to spend 90 minutes of your time. After Dark's 8 Films to Die For typically have mixed results (the same series that gave us Lake Mungo and Mulberry Street is also responsible for Tooth & Nail and, you know, Dark Ride) and this one falls fairly squarely in the middle. The fresh premise probably deserves better treatment, but for a straight-to-DVD (remember those?) zombie-ish movie, it ain't bad. 

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