Monday, September 5, 2022

Miner Mayhem

If there's one thing I've learned about horror movies no one's ever heard of streaming on Amazon Prime, it's that they have a lot of axes. 

Quick Plot: Lauren, an adventure tour guide in the Utah canyons, suffers from recurring nightmares involving a ghostly prospector (like you do). Her last trip through the canyonlands left someone paralyzed, but when five millennials win some form a contest that gets them a free two-day wilderness tour, what's a gal to do?

I hate to repeat what I did very recently with The Resort, but there's no other way to break down the tourists than as such:

Asthmatic Crypto Currency Geek

I know you think I'm being cute or simple in this summary, but trust me: this is who these characters are, and by golly, the script refuses to budge. You can feel the not-terrible actors trying to bring SOMETHING to these tropes, but there's simply no room. Lesbian hates men, Weed likes to smoke, Influencer must selfie and use the word "selfie," Ashmatic Crypto Currency Geek has an inhaler, and so on. 

One would assume that Lauren, who's introduced as an actual human being, would lend some form of depth to the proceedings but quite frankly, it's a bit hard to root for her when you realize SHE'S A REALLY TERRIBLE TOUR LEADER. Despite barely surviving her last trip through this space, she underpacks, doesn't charge the satellite phone, wanders away from the five idiots she's fully responsible for watching, and constantly forces a seriously injured man to climb DOWN ridiculously steep cliffs in total darkness rather than climb up. SHE'S THE WORST.

It's not terribly surprising when the evil nightmare prospector starts hacking away at the quickly separated band, though the reveal of exactly how he hunts (and how some are protected) has some interesting ideas to it. 

Writer/director Brendan Devane makes a valiant effort to craft a slasher that incorporates the horrors of American history into its bloodshed. It's a decent concept, and filming in the stunning Utah landscape offers a grand background that could do a whole lot of the work for it. 

But you helps if we could actually see the action. 

Why anyone would make a horror film in this region and not utilize the daylight is beyond me. Sure, CGI blood splatter doesn't look GREAT in the desert sun, but you have CANYONS for goodness sake. When Lesbian and Jock argue about who can climb a treacherous cliff faster, it's hard to have any context because we can't actually see the land.

It's a shame, though not terribly shocking for any first-time filmmaker (to put it in the movie's terms, if I had an Instagram follower for every low budget horror film with bad lighting, I'd be up to 82K too). I can't say The Canyonlands shows promise of greatness, but it had some freshness to its ideas. I wasn't overly impressed, but hey: I wasn't bored. 

High Points
I can't knowledgeably comment on how the indigienous storyline is handled by The Canyonlands, but having recently watched the higher profile Antlers, I can promise you it's a whole lot more responsible than that!

Low Points
I'm serious about the lighting: even with the brightness turned up on both my television and phone screen, there were multiple scenes where the only visible section was the block for the subtitles

Lessons Learned
Octagon skills don’t translate smoothly to the canyons

Gold can drive a man to do terrible things, and a ghost to do even worse

It is very mean to brag about your successful social media presence in front of a nerd

The Canyonlands isn't a particularly good movie, but it moves quickly enough and brings some new twists on a basic wilderness slasher setup. It's not for those with high standards, but if you like lower budget genre fare, it might scratch a certain itch. 

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