Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TLA Releasing: Hell's Ground

HELL'S GROUND (dir. Omar Khan, Pakistan, 2007, 77 mins.) TLA Releasing is proudly presenting Parkistan's FIRST splatter and mutant-cannibal flick! (I think I am getting sort of a reputation about my penchant for zombies! I should had a post-label!) In fact, it is being publicized as a badge of honor for having been banned in Pakistan! Well, with its reputation preceding it, I launched into TLA's DVD. First, it is comprised of a set of five very attractive students, who (for reasons I didn't catch until my second viewing) are on a little road trip that leads them to... GORY HORROR! The first twenty minutes are a tad slow. But when the blood begins to pour, the entire film shifts into a really effective nightmare. I will dispense with its typical plot, which is an unashamed homage to "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and mention the atypical visuals and iconography that actually set this apart from your run-of-the-mill indie-zombie flick.

The cinematography uses an eclectic assortment of lenses, focus and film stock. At first, I was a bit put off by the graininess. But, as the film proceeds, the visuals attain a dreamlike fog, as they go deeper into the mutant ridden forest. The concentration on grays emphasize the pale, mutant makeup. These people really look... SICK! The gory cannibal moments are pretty well done, and have the added effect of being surrounded by flies! That was a nice touch that added to the realism of it all. Though a lot of American rotting-flesh pics will include maggots and such, I can't say that I've noticed what should be the obvious addition of swarms of flies to emphasize the rot!

Now, unto some presumably Pakistani-centric iconography, most significantly, the psycho in a burqa. It freaked me out. There is just something really disturbing about a masked maniac, and this maniac is covered from head to toe. He (yes, a man, so we have a bit of Pakistani Anthony Perkins going on here) is also armed with a horrific collection of medieval weapons and tools with which he dissembles his victims. The butcher scenes are pretty hardcore. The assembly of other odd characters only seem even more alien to this Western observer. The only friendly faces they run into are on their way out of the city, when they are stopped by panhandling drag queens.

The transfer appears a bit rough, but that is due to the source. The sound design is particularly inconsistent. However, these typically low-grade values only add to the creepshow. Trivially speaking, the subtitling is unusually large and higher in the frame than one is used to.

There is a commentary from director Omar Kahn. I LOVED it! It is actually really informative and exceptionally focused on the details of the filming. He even speaks to the lighting and lenses! In fact, I found that those first slow twenty minutes went by quite quickly when viewed with his commentary. Kahn has an exceptionally charming and entertaining speaking manner and points out some fabulous moments. ("Notice the field behind them? It is shoulder high cannabis! It's just there. We're not trying to say anything about that, of course.") He even speaks to the need to bribe the Pakistani censors in order to get a film approved.

Other extra features include video of reactions to its premiere at LUMS in Lahore, Pakistan; a featurette entitled "Ice Cream Zombieland", which profiles director Omar Kahn's business model (he owns and ice cream parlour!) and producing technique; a music video; theatrical trailer; TLA Releasing previews.

Maxxxxx says
re HELL'S GROUND: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

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