Throwback horror is a huge genre business. Give the Directors, actors, crew, and everyone to work in a time when the genre was in an age when anyone with a blade, drill, screwdriver, or some other implement could wreak revenge. When sexual repression, peer pressure, and social mores were simpler and easy to comprehend. Usher in (not the House of Usher) the Bayview Entertainment’s DVD release of Grainger Hines’s “haunted house” thriller, The Mill (2008).
The film concerns events in an abandoned mill in which eight college kids get up to sex, fun, drinking, drugs, and adventure all in the name of partying. Those heady days of the carnal or in this case, what it tries to do is be charnel. The eight enter a night of horror filled with snakes, wild dogs, tarantulas, and a pack of rats. The trouble is you can see everything coming but that’s not the point because what they do and what they show is believable (to a point) and sincere. Truly the best part about The Mill (2008) is the actors.
The cast which is all filled with the usual folk that inhabit these pictures like the outcast, the tough guy, the girl with poor morals, etc. are all here. Shawn (Austin Hines) takes his friends Amber (Tiffany LeShai McMinn), Madison (Kelly Ray), Whitney (Leah Marie Parker) and the nerdy Cari (Blaire Welch) and their dates, Kyle (Catori Swann) and Jesse (Austin James), plus goofball Nick (Robert Rainbolt), out to the shuttered mill. The mill, of course, is haunted and the horrors begin. The evil world of spiders during sex, rats that devour flesh, air conditioning fans that turn on and adorable guard dogs that look tough.
Actor Grainger Hines tries to keep the action moving with good use of our actual manufacturing plant that has fallen on hard times. The picture opens with an all too familiar real-life moment we all have seen that of news crew and police being interviewed at a crime scene. The actors do deliver their lines convincingly in an almost natural tone making this effective. The trouble is that the film lacks focus, and a modicum of high stakes, particularly the ending. The picture drags in places with nonsensical macho dialogue. This is particularly evident in the inevitable peeing scene when they drink maybe one or two beers and then must relieve themselves against a stone wall.
The good thing about this film which many modern films do is that it doesn’t shy away from showing intimacy to a point. Yes, the sex with the pants is still on variety but it is still sincere in what it is trying to show without resorting to long shots, skipping over with a fade or out of frame. In this age when you need an “intimacy coach” (maybe they had one) it is refreshing to know that scenes of this nature are built by the actors that learn to trust each other. That’s why it’s called actor training, building relationships and trust on screen.
The Mill (2008) has the makings of a throwback film, yet it is more of a toss-out. The Mill (2008) doesn’t go far enough with a sledgehammer end. There are moments of homage to other films such as running in a warehouse pursued by dogs reminiscent of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). A character talking through a hand puppet can be from several previous films. Odd music track in this picture as I assume that the music of the throwback time is perhaps pricier than the budget allows. The songs featured can be off-putting to the film style with their vocals and lyrics of today particularly the end title music. The town’s name is Landis so that could be a reference to Director John Landis. Who survives the night? Do you really care… no. This is popcorn horror. Watch a good cast that is loved by the camera and gets into trouble that you know is coming.
Review by Terry Sherwood
THE MILL is out now on Prime Video UK, Prime Video USA and DVD from BayView Entertainment