Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cookers (2001)

NetFlix 3.1/5
IMDB 6/10
My Rating: 7/10

After stealing a huge stash of drugs, speed freaks Hector (Brad Hunt) and Darena (Cyia Batten) plan to cook up an enormous batch of crystal meth and get rich quick. Hectors old buddy Merle (Patrick McGaw) has the perfect hideout / meth lab, an old abandoned farmhouse in the woods where no one will ever find them. Unfortunately, no one will hear their screams either. Turns out. they may not be alone after all. It seems the farmhouse is the site of a horrific urban legend. Paranoid and tormented by demons and terrifying visions, they fall prey to their descending spiral of drug use and mysterious horrifying hallucinations causing the scared and frightened trio to ultimately turn deadly against each other.    

This is one seriously intense, award-winning indie horror flick. Imagine "Blair Witch Project" crossed with the original "The Haunting", with little homages throughout to flicks like "The Thing" and "Halloween". For all that, though, it is a very original pic and not a pastiche, and it can scare the pants off you if you can get past the budget limitations of the "Shot on handicam" look.

A couple of crystal meth addicts and their redneck friend find an abandoned house deep in the woods, and use it to set up a temporary meth lab to produce the trunkload of crystal meth that will supposedly finance their escape to happier lives. As isolation and drug-induced paranoia creep in and crank up, odd things begin to happen that leave the characters and the audience stuck trying to decide if the house is really haunted or if it's all drug-induced hallucination.

There are few SPFX in the movie and the hauntings are mostly "old style", including a "pounding at the door" scene that tips its hat to "The Haunting". Think continually re-opening doors and windows, creaks, bumps, strange sounds, etc, instead of CGI ghosts and monsters.  Mercifully, this also came before the explosion of Japanese horror ripoff movies in the states and we're spared the 500th repetition of someone crawling across a ceiling in jerky staccato, or yet another pale kid with black eyes.

The actors do a great job. Unknown indie actors could have easily mucked up the depiction of the strung-out leads, but instead their disintegration is very freaky and convincing. I suspect that if one has ever had a friend or family member with drug problems, the movie might well be unwatchable. You know these people are doomed from the start, with their daydreams of "The BIG SCORE" that will fund their magical happy life in the Caribbean, but you're still oddly drawn to care about their fate as their mental gears begin to break down under stress.

This also gave me major flashbacks to my youthful days of adventuring into old, decrepit haunted houses in the woods, right down to everyone all sitting in huddles inside telling each other creepy Southern ghost stories by candlelight. There's a great scene where someone tells a, "And hanging from the handle was a bloody hook!"-type story to our increasingly twitchy, drugged-out group who begin seeing odd things in the shadows.  Eventually, paranoia takes hold and the house is locked up tight with windows boarded as our cast begins to seriously lose their oars within.

While there is very little blood, this flick will likely be too wired for some.  One of the first reviews on IMDB said that the reviewer found it so intense that they had to shut it off and take a break after the first thirty minutes. NOT a movie for anyone who gets easily wound up or freaked out. And all achieved without $100 million, Playstation graphics or gore - It's an impressive accomplishment in no-budget filmmaking.

FWIW, looking back at it, I'm struck by how much it really was the drug culture version of The Haunting. The same steady progression of events till crack-up, the same "Is it all in this character's mind?" theme, etc. Poor Eleanor never realized how lucky she was that she wasn't on crystal meth during her time at Hill House..

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