30th Mar2014

‘Dead on Appraisal’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mike Pfaff, Zack Fahey, Marguerite Insolia, Michael Brouillet, Anthony Berhle, R. Daniel Long, James Howell, Laura Owen, Nicholas Leonard, Adam Conn, Andrew Kramer, Fidel Castro Jr., Luke Bishop | Written and Directed by David Sherbrook, Scott Dawson, Sean Canfield

dead-on-appraisal

Obviously inspired by the success of V/H/S and its sequel, low budget horror pioneers Brain Damage Films, and writer/directors David Sherbrook, Scott Dawson, Sean Canfield spin a trio of horror tales all set in the same house in Dead on Appraisal – which sees real estate agent John Dante stuck with a house he can’t sell. By reliving the house’s sordid past in conversation with his wife, John discovers that there may be more lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly cursed abode…

Sometimes I wonder what I’m getting myself into with all these low-budget horror flicks, even moreso when one opens with the “Brain Damage Films” logo. You see I’ve never had much luck with Brain Damage’s output, especially those films that were released under the companies banner here in the UK – I’ve been burned too many times by their mix of a decent synopsis, cracking cover art but godawful film! But, as is a horror fans wont, I was willing to give this new anthology the benefit of the doubt and give it a spin.

The first tale in Dead on Appraisal is The Morning After which follows the aftermath of the party of a lifetime, as a group of friends wake to find a nightmare in the form of a killer bug invasion. This first short starts as it means to go on, opening with a title page ripped straight out of a monster movie – for that’s what this is, an homage to the low-budget monster movies, especially those released in the 80s, complete with ridiculous rubber suits, over the top gore and a character that seems to have taken a leaf out of the Rambo handbook! There’s no much plot to the tale beyond the discovery of an unknown “egg”, which duly hatches, and the short could’ve done with some better post-production (especially when it comes to grading the film) but even as is, The Morning After is actually really enjoyable goofy, and gory, fun.

Then there’s the much darker Father Land in which we hear the story of Robbie, a young veteran who returns home to live with his father. Traumatised by the horrors of war, his dark secret slowly bubbles to the surface – revealing the truly terrifying reality of war and the effect it has on soldiers who are never really re-acclimatised to civilian life. A much darker tale than Dead On Appraisal‘s first short, Father Land really keeps you guessing as to Robbie’s mental state and motivations until the final, twisted reveal and the supremely downbeat conclusion.

Reminiscent of 80s heavy metal horror such as Trick or Treat, the final tale in Dead on Appraisal, Freddie and the Goblins, follows Freddie Cooper, the older brother of one of the victims in the very first tale, as his band mates try to ditch him – only to be caught up in the singer’s growing psychosis. Sitting somewhere between a Troma movie and the likes of Ghoulies and its ilk, Freddie and the Goblins is as far removed from the previous two stories as can be – a psychotic trip with a heavy metal soundtrack, with a (sadly) all-too predictable story. Even if said story is told in an incredibly fun way – gotta love the use of puppets in this particular tale.

Of course no anthology is complete without a sting in its tale, and Dead on Appraisal is no different as real estate agent John Dante comes to discover for himself just why he can’t sell the house!

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed Dead On Appraisal. Yes the film was shot on a limited budget, yes the acting from some of the cast left a lot to be desired and yes the stories weren’t all that original but that still didn’t stop this from being a fun creature-feature. In fact it reminded me a lot of the old TV show Monsters, which did a lot with the limited budget it had – especially in the puppetry and creature creation – and so does this film.

If you can look past its few faults you’ll have a lot of fun with Dead on Appraisal. I know I did.

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