Tuesday, August 6, 2013

You Better Watch Out -Budget Filmmaking's Answer to Amicus Portmanteau Holiday Horror

I love holiday horror; you can find me enjoying pretty much any of it. Good, bad... the campier the better and it doesn’t matter which holiday you’re throwing at me. I liked Graduation Day as much as Happy Birthday to Me as much as Christmas Evil and still had enough heart to love Thankskilling. You know what else I love? Anthology horror pictures. Sure, we’ve seen some abominable ones over the last few years and even from some folks who should know better. It’s a somewhat easy way to make a bunch of short films and combine them into a product that you can market like a feature length film. Not to say making even one short is easy but marketing short films to a feature film world is somewhat difficult in the absence of a television show to provide a vehicle for viewing. We get quite a bit of garbage out of this type of storytelling. Unoriginal stories that are painful rehashes of successful feature films.. Production values that are grossly underestimated ie filmmakers trying to work outside of their budget. Bad sound quality. Filmmakers Jay Byrne and Michael Welch have given us a holiday based anthology horror movie in You Better Watch Out that they claim is in the style of traditional Amicus portmanteau pictures and they deliver, on a budget though it may not be for everyone.

Synopsis (quoted and paraphrased from the You Better Watch Out)

A group of storytellers is gathering on Thanksgiving for their yearly get together. This year Rich, Steve and Lori each tells a horror story based on a holiday. The stories include a tale of a psychotic killer in a creepy old house, a rogue priest who finds out the truth about Santa and witness old man New Year’s Last Stand


These guys are working on low to no budget. That doesn’t mean they can’t tell a fun story that catches your attention and keeps your eyes on the screen. It does mean that effects work will suffer, overall production value may be lower than a mainstream audience is used to and the audio quality suffers (a pet peeve of mine). That doesn’t make them bad filmmakers or the movie bad, that’s just something for you to get used to if you’re going to watch You Better Watch Out. The first thing you’ll notice about You Better Watch Out has a great deal of originality.

I enjoyed each story though the last story of the three seemed to drag on for a bit too long in a depressing, filthy dirge. The second story involving the epic battle (and it is epic) between Santa Claus and a Priest is quite funny and the place from which the movie draws its namesake. This short feature is worth watching the movie alone. It delivers on laughs, on gratuity and novelty. Well done. The film opener is good. Solid story, but the connection to the holiday horror theme feels loose at best.

What makes an Amicus movie an Amicus movie comes from a few different criteria. The wrap story, the cast of familiar faces, the music and the isolated location. The claim that this is the in style of Amicus is somewhat loose. The wrap story is idyllic for an Amicus picture and that’s exactly what I thought of when watching it, most specifically the opening sequence to The Vault of Horror. The production value is not on par with an Amicus production. The blood is not Crayola red and we’re missing a few B grade big names. The location should have been more gothic to really draw in the viewer (but guys… it’s on a budget remember).

This movie has been screening as a double feature with Hometown, the previous endeavor of the filmmakers of You Better Watch Out, and with an audience, a few beers and fans who can appreciate lower budget fare, you’ve got a good effort. I’d like to see where these fellas go from here.

You can follow them on Facebook HERE, visit the website HERE and pick up a copy. That’s a fun cover/poster right?


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