Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 25, 2011)
In the same vein as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes 2010ís Savage County. A bunch of high school students go for a day at a swimming pond, an event that goes awry for one of them. When alterna-girl Angie (Ivy McLemore) gets pushed in the drink as a gag, she storms off in anger.
While Angie stews, the others dare wimpy junior Patrick (Doug Haley) to ďding-dong ditchĒ at the residence of the Hardell family, the resident local freaky hicks. When Patrick does this, an older Hardell emerges with a gun Ė and superstar jock Noah (Sinqua Walls) whacks him with a shovel before he can shoot the teen.
This kills the old man and sets up a showdown. The Hardells like to abduct and torture girls; earlier, we saw how they treated missing classmate Dorothy (Melissa Carnell). As she wanders back from the pond, Angie stumbles upon the house and ends up in their clutches, so her friends need to try to rescue her.
On the surface, that seems like a decent idea for a movie, and at its core, I suspect someone could scrounge a fair to good horror tale out of the material. Unfortunately, writer/director David Harris fails to find any way to develop the story into anything other than a turgid dud.
For one, too much of the movie lacked a sense of believability. I donít mean this because of the notion of the murderous hicks and their torture chamber; yeah, thatís a clichť and not particularly realistic, but itís not the main problem, as Iíll accept that conceit within the horror film genre.
I find it more difficult to swallow the disparate nature of the kids who hang out together. You have the class president, the valedictorian, the nerdy AV kid, the punky alternagirl, the star athlete and the bad girl and her 22-year-old neíer-do-well boyfriend.
Really? On what teen planet would this crew be partying and spending time together? Granted, the movie makes some minor attempts to explain the connections; some of the kids are related, and it seems that Patrick gets the social boost because the others use him for his AV talents.
I still donít buy it, though, and the story progression also stretches logic. For all the events to come together, the movie requires way too many reaches. It never handles these well, so we donít accept them; indeed, they seem to odd that they openly distract us from the story.
It doesnít help that other gratuitous choices appear. Noahís prom queen girlfriend Caitlyn (Rebekah Graf) gets grounded and canít accompany the others, so we see her via her webcam; she apparently never goes away from it, and she DJs for an unknown audience. Why? I have no idea. Caitlynís antics provide much of the movieís music, but we donít need them; the flick couldíve just used the songs without this odd explanation. Caitlyn does play a more active role later in the movie, but her online DJ thing just offers another weird decision that takes away from the story.
Perhaps I wouldnít have been as distracted by all the goofy choices if County delivered any scary goods. Alas, thereís not a jolt or a jump to be found in this tedious mess. I guess the Hardells are supposed to give us the willies, but theyíre such stock hillbilly weirdos that theyíre not disturbing at all; theyíre just too cartoony and predictable to muster any threat.
The movieís torture/horror moments canít provoke any reaction either. Partly thatís because they lack good pacing and direction, but itís also because we donít invest in the teen characters at all. If we donít care about the participants, their fates donít matter to us, and thatís the problem here.
Really, though, the main issue stems from the lackadaisical direction. Harris doesnít seem to know how to propel the story along, so it just kind of rambles and lollygags for its 79 minutes. A dull horror movie isnít a good thing, and thatís Savage Countyís biggest crime: itís a slow, muddled mess without any scares or drama.