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June 2011

Husk

cast: Devon Graye, Wes Chatham, C.J. Thomason, Tammin Sursok, and Ben Easter

writer and director: Brett Simmons

80 minutes (18) 2011
widescreen ratio 16:9
G2 DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by Max Cairnduff

Husk

Originality is a funny thing. How often do US teenagers find themselves getting killed off one by one in some isolated spot? It's the plot of hundreds of films, with the only real variant being what's killing them this time. If I were an American teenager there's no way I'd leave the cities. A film can be unoriginal though and still be pretty good. That's the territory of Husk. The characters are familiar (there's a nerd, a jock, a hot girlfriend, a popular kid, and one who gets killed off so quick I'd struggle to say what he was... 'Unlucky', I guess), and the threat is arguably a bit silly (possessed scarecrows), but it's the execution that matters and Husk is a solid and well delivered horror movie.

The film opens with five teenagers driving along a country road. As they chat and joke around, a raven suicide charges their windscreen cracking it and covering it in blood. They crash and black out. When they come to, the car is a wreck and one of them is missing. The only place he could have gone is into the adjacent cornfield. They head into it looking for him and hoping that if it contains a farmhouse they might even be able to call for help from there. It does contain a farmhouse. It's not somewhere they can call for help from.

From there, Husk goes into very creepy territory. The scarecrows move at huge speed and attack with real savagery. The house is abandoned, but at times a light glows in an upstairs room and the teenagers soon discover what that means and it's not good news. The nerdy kid starts to have visions of the farmhouse's history and the origins of the evil that stalks it, but visions aren't that great when they can lead to you wandering off alone into the corn-rows...

The visions are obviously there so the audience can work out what's behind it all. Yes, it means the characters can work it out too, but the movie doesn't really need them to. It helps though explain the rules to what's going on, and there plainly are rules to it. The scarecrows can't leave the corn. As long as the kids stay by the house (it's in a clearing) they're safe from attack. They can be lured out though (the visions among other things), and unless they want to spend the rest of their lives there that protection is only so much use. There are other limits on the power attacking them which become apparent as the movie continues. I won't spoil them but I did enjoy the feeling that there was a logic to it all; a supernatural logic, absolutely, but a logic for all that.

Equally pleasant is a lack of plot driven character stupidity. Yes, one of the characters does decide to get out whatever it takes and so puts everyone in danger. That's a genre staple. At the same time none of them act like idiots just because the plot needed them to. Husk sticks to formula, but intelligently, with the characters trying to work out what they need to do to survive. When things go wrong they go wrong for a reason.

The acting is solid throughout with the five teenagers each being played distinctly and convincingly. They're not deep character studies, but nor should they be for this kind of film. The truth is this is a movie which does pretty much what it says on the tin. There are teenagers. There are killer scarecrows. One of those groups probably enjoys their encounter more than the other. There's no underlying social message here. The monsters aren't symbolic of anything. Sometimes a scarecrow is just a scarecrow.

Husk is efficient genre horror. I'd usually say something like that as a criticism, but here it's a positive. Husk isn't a movie that will change your life, but it is fun and I'd definitely watch another Brett Simmons film if one came my way.



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