Sub Rosa has been rescuing a great number of odd low-budget independent movies of late, getting the most for their money by combining features related by theme, actor or director into these B-Movie Theater Double Feature DVDs. This recent disc contains two demonic pieces of no-budget oddity.
“Malefic”, the better of the two, is a strange horror-heist movie from the highly-underrated writer/director Steve Sessions (“Cremains”, the upcoming “Dead Clowns”). Lilith Stabs and Jeff Dylan Graham head up a group of goth punks who have stolen the corpse of a rich man’s child from a funeral home and are holding it for ransom. (Which is a very unusual twist that I can’t think of every having seen before.) Holing up at a remote cabin, they find an artifact once belonging to the fabled “Hobb’s Witch”. Chaos ensues. While each member argues over their current position and future plans, a demon (sort of a paper-mache worm-thing) has been unleashed to pick them off one by one.
It’s well known that “Malefic” had a slew of production problems, due to scheduling and a modest budget, so there are strange holes in the story. An interesting twist has to do with narration from beyond-the-grave. Acting-wise, this was one of Stabs first “straight” roles, though she’s still playing her mannered “Lilith Stabs” persona, and she’s quite good, if a tad overly-dramatic at times. Graham is pretty good, as usual, but is given little to do but stand around and look pretty. It’s the offbeat story that is the real star here. And with the multi-talented Sessions having gone on to bigger and better things, it’s fun to see an early effort from the artist.
The less-successful of the pair, “Raising Hell”, deals with politics and demonic forces (insert sarcastic “hand-in-hand” comment here). An incumbent governor gets his hands on an article that controls a demon, which he uses to eliminate his competition and enemies. Unbeknownst to him, a sect of Jesuits are after this article – the so-called “Keyes of Solomon”. Caught in the middle is his terribly young-looking press rep and a female cop who is investigating the gruesome murders.
Much praise is deserved for co-writers and directors Bethmann and Szmyr for attempting to craft a thick, layered and deep story that nonetheless becomes quite muddled and even ridiculous at certain sections. But the intention is earnest. While the actors may not all be top-notch, everyone’s taking their work seriously here.
Both films are worth any horror fans’ time. The DVD boasts a slew of trailers, stills and featurettes.