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(2013)
Directed by Jeremy Berg
Starring Trin Miller, Brandon Anthony, Andi Norris, Josh Truax, and D’Angelo Midili.

I’m not the biggest fan of independent movies usually because they lack a good story, decent acting, and tend to just throw some blood, gore, and T&A at the screen thinking that’s what makes a good horror flick.  Not that I’m against all of that…when it works.  But it really doesn’t help the stereotype of genre when that is all there is in the film.  So when we come across one like SADER RIDGE, it gives me hope that there are still filmmakers out there that are trying to make a honest and true fright film, without falling into the same old traps that most independent filmmakers (and even bigger budgeted ones as well) fall into and go for what they think, or are being told, what the audience wants.  Instead, they set out to make a good old fashion atmospheric picture, with a decent cast that makes the story believable.

The movie starts off with a quick shot of someone digging a hole in the ground at night.  Right there, we get the feeling that it is not going to end well for someone.  Or maybe it already has.  Next we see Sam and her friends Caitlin, Roman, and Mark, getting ready for a trip to see a house that Sam has recently inherited.  On the drive out to the house, we learn a little bit about some of the characters, slowly building up their personality and their history.  Sam knows nothing about this house since she doesn’t remember much of her childhood after she was adopted when she was 5.  But once they arrive at the house, and meet the young caretaker Eric, things from Sam’s past slowly start to creep back into her head.  Was she really best friends with Eric when she was younger?  Why doesn’t she remember that?  Why won’t he tell her about her real family or what happened?  With the different things she starts to see, the voices that she hears, are these flashes from her past, or could her friends being influenced from some darker force here?

What I really liked about this film was the slow tension that it builds as the story progresses.  When things start to happen, we start to question what we are seeing and if it is real, just like our main character Sam, as she slowly starts to lose her grip on reality.  The film is beautifully shot with some amazing landscapes that really give the viewer a sense of where they are at.  However the filmmakers got the location to make the movie, it works perfectly since it really isolates the characters but also fits into why they are there.  In other words, the script really works.  The music is very sedate throughout the film, usually just coming in with some strange, almost vibrating sounds, that really enhances the atmosphere.

Like a most independent films, there’s a lot of people doing double and triple duty.  Jeremy Berg directed the film, but also co-wrote it, co-produced it, and was even the cinematographer.  The other co-writer, John Portanova, was also one of the producers.  They were able to get a small cast that was able to carry the story.  Since there are really only 5 characters here, keeping the plot going and believable lies strictly on them, and they do an admirable job here, becoming much more than just black and white cardboard cut-outs.  Sure, sometimes the viewer might be confused as to what is real or not with them, but before too long we learn the truth.  Or at least we think we do.  While the whole cast does a grand job here, I think the two that really stand out is Trin Miller as Sam, who comes across as the stable and friendly one of the bunch, but has no idea of the dark past that she has buried.  The other one is D’Angelo Midili who plays the caretaker Eric.  We sort of get the feeling that something just isn’t right with him right off the start, but then we start to question those feelings, or at least start to see more than we did at first.  Signs of talented actors when you can bring those written words to life.  The rest of the cast also does a great job with their characters, Roman, played by Josh Truax, who is always collecting sounds on his tape recorder; Mark, played by Brandon Anthony, who has a history with Sam that we are not too sure about; and lastly Caitlin, played by Andi Norris, who plays the quirky, bubbly friend of the group, who seemed to remind me of a young Jamie Lee Curtis.

SADER RIDGE is a great example of how you can make an independent film, that doesn’t have to have all the usual clichés in there and yet can still make an effective horror film, that isn’t like every other one out there, and that can still hold your attention throughout.  I guess it really comes down to having a good story to start with, and talented people to make it come to life.  And the makers of SADER RIDGE have done just that.