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By Doug Brunell | June 2, 2008

A DVD box set called “The Gore Pack” had better deliver the goods. It doesn’t have to be on the level of the “Guinea Pig” franchise, but the red better flow, right? Yeah. So what is offered here? Four horror films, starting with the giant bug fright called “Insecticidal.”

“Insecticidal” has been slammed by horror fans, and rightly so. It is a weak movie with horrible special effects (of the cheap CGI variety) and a script dashed out after a weekend of Red Bull and Halo. It does have some positive qualities, though, starting with the concept.

When Cami (Meghan Heffern), a nerdy college student, starts mucking with the genetics of insects in order to prove her thesis that they were once the dominant species, you know things can only go south, and they do. Before you can say “mouthful of maggots,” Cami’s sorority house is under attack by a gang of giant, computer animated creepy crawlies. It’s a nice idea full of possibilities, but tainted by shoddy dialogue, a tepid script and those god awful computer effects that are about as far removed from scary as Barney the purple dinosaur.

To save the film from being too boring, there’s plenty of nudity and some lesbian make out sessions to stiffen the resolve of male viewers. Cami’s sister, played by Samantha McLeod, has her cleavage on prominent display throughout the film, too. All of this makes for a pleasant diversion from everything that is wrong with this film, but only really distracts you if you’ve never seen a naked female before.

“Insecticidal” is enjoyable in a way that only a bad horror movie can be. The nudity helps, and the story has hints of originality, but it is ultimately hampered by a crew that doesn’t have the skills or determination to pull off this ambitious a project. And as for gore, well, it has its moments, but they are few and far between and far tamer than they should have been.

The second film in the set, “Night Fangs,” has a lot going against it. First is the title. Horrible. Second is the fact that it’s a vampire film. Third is the acting, which borders on unwatchable in places. Fourth is the sometimes muddy logic. Those complaints aside, this is actually an extremely good film.

The back of the DVD box hints that the movie gets its inspiration from the Hammer films, and that is no hyperbole. Just look at the plot. Two lesbian art teachers (Cyn Dulay and Leslie Frank, who would fit right into a Jess Franco film) are killing people in the tradition of Elizabeth Bathory in an attempt to gain eternal youth. What they end up becoming (after killing a virgin) is vampires, and it’s up to a college professor (Ricardo Islas) and a few of his students to stop them.

What saves this film from being just another retread vampire mess is how all of this is handled. These vampires aren’t the usual drop-dead sexy things that goth kids seem to love so much. Sure, they have those moments, but they are also animals who growl and drool and feed as such. It’s effective and disturbing. And then there’s the predictability factor. You simply can’t guess who is going to live and die. You don’t see the end coming, either, and the acts of violence are sometimes totally random, as if the writer threw out the traditional plot elements and went more with a real-life feel. Guess what? It works. It keeps you on edge just like a horror film should.

So how are the gore and scares? The blood does flow and in copious amounts. As mentioned earlier, these vampires are animals. They not only bite their victims, but they stomp their faces, too. And as for scares, well, it takes a lot to make me jump, but there is one scene, which I won’t spoil, that is handled so well that I went back and watched it a couple times just to make sure I was seeing it right. It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments that in lesser hands would have had the director focusing on it for maximum fright, but the way it is handled here works so well that a single second more spent on it would ruin its effect. (It still didn’t make me jump, but I was damned impressed.)

“Night Fangs” is a solid picture that makes this box set well worth buying. The same can’t be said for the third film in the set, “Wedding Slashers.” In fact, there are only three things that save this film from being a total disaster: the premise, Jessica Kinney (who proves that even in the worst of movies the camera loves her and that she is so much more talented than the script gives her credit for), and Richard Lynch.

“Wedding Slashers” centers around a lovely young lady named Jenna (Kinney), whose suitors meet untimely and gruesome deaths whenever they get close to marrying her. There’s a reason this is happening, though at first viewers are kept totally in the dark to good effect. It’s an interesting story idea that is brought down by a horrible script, high school level special effects (that are gory but thoroughly ineffective and implausible), and actors who should have stuck to working at the mall.

The story seems as if it can’t decide on whether it’s a comedy or a horror film, and it fails at both. The scary moments aren’t scary, and the funny moments aren’t funny. And other than two stellar casting choices (Kinney and Lynch in a small role), it’s as if the filmmakers didn’t even care to make this work.

“Wedding Slashers” is a waste of space in this box set.

Ironically, the final film in the package, “The Last Horror Movie,” features a man, Max (Kevin Howarth), who films weddings for a living. He is also filming his own little movie, which he has conveniently dubbed over “The Last Horror Movie,” a run-of-the-mill horror flick you just happened to rent. You expected your standard slasher film; Max and his assistant are going to give you something a little more realistic. You see, when Max isn’t filming people shoving cake in each other’s faces, he’s killing folks and capturing it on film. Now you’re a witness. Will it be too much to take? Is Max wrong in doing this? How much is a life worth? The film asks all those questions (and answers some of them, too), but that’s all irrelevant because you may be his next victim … or that’s what he would have you believe.

“The Last Horror Movie” never quite feels real, but it’s still fairly effective because it’s the questions that are important here. In presenting those moral dilemmas, the film knows exactly where its spine lies. The murders are just a way to force viewers to answer or at least acknowledge their own role in the violence.

As this film is in a box set based on gore, you would expect it to be a bit messy, but it’s really far tamer than the other films in the set. Yes, there is blood, but the murders follow real-life rules, not slasher film rules, and that works in its favor (much like the “Amateur Porn Star Killer” series). It doesn’t need to be “Hostel” to get its point across, but people buying this box set for the gore may be a bit disappointed. That’s their loss, however, as this is the strongest film in the package.

Overall, “The Gore Pack” is worthy buying for “The Last Horror Movie” and “Night Fangs.” The other two films are forgettable. If you can find the two good films on their own, go for that because they really deserve a place in any horror film collection.

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