Monday, March 16, 2009
"Hallettsville": young Texas writer Derek Nixon's horror concept
Netflix is offering a new horror flick “Hallettsville” for instant play. It’s interesting because it illustrates what goes on with local film. The film was produced around Austin, Texas in 2007 by Breakthrough Pictures and has distribution by Westlake, and is directed by Andrew Pozza, based on a story by Texas Hill Country actor-writer Derek Lee Nixon, a contemporary of Jared Padalecki. The film was shot in full 2.35:1 and obviously required considerable resources for a small “local” film. Unfortunately, the Netflix video quality when I watched it was not the best.
The story is a kind of mixture of “Supernatural” (probably not an accident) with something like “American Haunting”. The genre is something like what we would expect from larger companies like Rogue Pictures or Screen Gems. There is one interesting sequence where one of the other kids is writing a screenplay in Final Draft on his laptop when he is "attacked" by a spirit and sent on chase, the first major sequence in the movie where someone "gets it."
Derek plays Tyler Jensen (again, his general physical resemblance to Padalecki – “Sam” -- might not be an accident) a college kid (UT?) who leads his friends for a “weekend” at the old family cabin (before its short sale) in the tiny Hill Country town of Hallettsville, over the objections of his mother and the sheriff. It seems like something horrible happened there in 1901 (recalling “Haunting”), and there are demons around with a Passover-like agenda to carry out on the family and the other kids. They kind of sneak around, like ghosts, rather translucent, and you’re not sure what they are – until the end there is some visual reference to Revelations (again, for Bible Belt country).
The scenery is effective – it really does look like the ridges and hills NW of San Antonio. The variable music score works, as it ranges from religious chant to a polytonal chamber waltz sounding like Prokofiev – effective music I know I’ve heard but the credits say the composer is Greg Morgentsein, who is quite prolific in small film.
Does the concept work? The “road movie” – a trip to a dangerous destination is a common formula, and the religious themes ought to have some importance, even a warning – yet it didn’t quite work. A simpler film like Carter Smith’s “Bugcrush” is so much more suspenseful and effective.
Picture: near Uvalde TX (SW of San Antonio), winter 1985, personal trip when I lived in Dallas