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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Murder > Killer > Monster > Heist > Vietnam > Comedy > Satanism > Exploitation > Area 407 (2011/IFC/MPI DVD)/Battleground (2011/Well Go USA DVD)/Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Penumbra (2011/IFC/MPI DVD)/Piranha 3DD (2012/Weinstein Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D and

Area 407 (2011/IFC/MPI DVD)/Battleground (2011/Well Go USA DVD)/Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Penumbra (2011/IFC/MPI DVD)/Piranha 3DD (2012/Weinstein Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D and DVD)


3D Picture: B-     2D Picture: C/C+/B-/C+/B- & C     Sound: C+/C+/B/C+/B- & C+     Extras: C-/D/C-/C-/C-     Main Programs: C-/D/C-/C-/D



Now for our latest slate of Horror releases….



Everette Wallin’s Area 407 (2011) has a good idea done badly and with more and more illogic.  A group of unsuspecting airplane passengers become part of a secret evil government experiment, having fun in their flight until they have to crash land, killing some of them, then they are in the title locale which has a dirty secret of its own.  The result is laughable, however (I guess LOST figured into this when they were piecing the script together) and the plotholes are more massive than the holes in the wrecked jumbo jet.


For instance, how did the “government” know when they would crash, how would they crash and how could “they” make sure that there would be any survivors?  That’s just the beginning.  Then you got the shaky camerawork (allegedly the passengers recording the events for fun before they take off, though haven’t airlines banned such cameras?) and it just gets more and more ridiculous.


If they had done this more seriously and thought this one through, this could have been fun and not dumb, but the makers choose the latter and this dud is the result.  A trailer is the only extra.



Even worse is Neil Mackay’s Battleground (2011/aka Skeleton Lake) which starts as a heist film where four robbers steal a small fortune and are on the run, but they pick the wrong abandoned house to seek refuge in because a stereotypical, angry old Vietnam vet who hates everyone, loves to torture people, is perpetually bitter and loves to kill.  It revives every ugly, cheap-shot stereotype Right Wingers had manufactured about men who served in the actual conflict (if they were no so “weak” and “damaged” that “we” would have “won”) and just gets worse and worse.


By the time the biggest slap in the face happens (a super-stupid variant of the Russian Roulette sequence in Michael Cimino’s masterpiece The Deer Hunter (1978, reviewed elsewhere on this site) happens, you know the makers have zero idea of anything about Vietnam, suspense, writing and how to portray human beings.


Easily one of the worst releases of the year!



Next up are two very similar tales inspired by the success of Piranha 3D (also reviewed elsewhere on this site) issued in 2012: John Shepphird’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack and John Gulager’s official “sequel”, Piranha 3DD.  They both have much of the same structure, same jokes, same murders, same killings, some name actors and same formula.  Though on one from MTV’s horrid Jersey Shore series shows up in the former, actors have been hired to impersonate rip-offs of them and the result is a lame release that is still better than the awful Piranha 3DD, which should have been fun but is just a totally stupid cash-in.


Shark has Paul Sorvino, William Atherton and Jack Scalia, while Piranha has David Hasselhoff. A returning Christopher Lloyd and what’s left of Gary Busey.  They’re both dumb “teens-getting-killed” flicks, but at least Shark has some amusing moments, though it is a one-note comedy.  Both also have more blood than needed.



Finally we have Arnaldo Hernandez’s Penumbra (2011) in which bad people seize yet another house, but this time, it is the old family mansion now owned by a stuck-up female businesswoman in Buenos Aires.  In this case, the potential renters are Satanists and because she is an independent woman, she must suffer!?!


We do to with the sexist, cynical side of what is semi-torture porn and a very stupid work overall.  This had potential (especially coming from overseas) and some of the actors are interesting, but the result is a zero-suspense would-be thriller that can be borderline offensive and junk overall.  A trailer is the only extra.



The anamorphically enhanced DVD images (1.78 X 1 image on Area, 2.35 X 1 on the remaining three discs) are all on the soft side, sometimes form ill-advised style approaches, but Area and Piranha are especially soft and hard to watch, though Piranha fares better in its 1.78 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image and 2D 1080p presentations, though one is not better than the other.  The 3D shows the makers going for the “throwing things at the audience” approach to the format and none of the three versions leave much of a visual impression.

However, the 1080p versions of that release plus the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Jersey are the best performers on the list as expected.  However, they both have motion blur, obvious digital work and both color and detail limits that hold them back from anything we would call demo material.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Piranha and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on Jersey represent the best-sounding releases on the list, but once again, with limits including some bad recording moments, a lack of consistent soundfield and limited fidelity at times.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on all the DVDs are poorer as expected, but Area and Piranha (again?) are the weakest of all.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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