07th May2014

‘Easter Casket’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jason Crowe, Josh Eal, Erin R. Ryan, Steve Rimpici, Dustin Mills, Allison Fitzgerald, Janet Jay, Roni Jonah, Brandon Salkil, Minnie Grey, Eugene Flynn, Dave Parker | Written and Directed by Dustin Wayde Mills

EASTER-CASKET

Dustin Wayde Mills is an indie filmmaker out of Ohio, who specializes in low (some would say micro) budget horror, a number of which involve puppets(!), released directly to his [growing] fanbase via self-distributed DVD, Blu-ray and VOD channels. Having found some success with the films released under his Dustin Mills Production banner, Mills has expanded his repertoire with his new production shingle Crumpleshack Films which aims to produce rough(er) exploitation flicks. And with the release of the first Crumpleshack Films production, Her Name Is Torment, we’re taking a look at some of the highlights of Mills’ oeuvre, beginning with his killer bunny flick Easter Casket.

All hell breaks loose when Peter Cottontail aka The Easter Bunny hears that the Catholic Church is about to do away with all Easter rituals not pertaining directly to the resurrection of Christ. With warrior priest Father Asher hot on his trail Cottontail starts a rampage leaving the bodies of the clergy, and a few schoolgirls, in his wake. Can Asher stop him before its too late?

For those who have never seen a Dustin Mills Production before, Easter Casket is actually a great example of Mills’ style… and his predilections. Before the opening credits have ended we’ve had copious amounts of nudity, a puppet (in this case a wise-cracking killer bunny), a murder and a sly dig at organised religion. And the outrageousness only continues throughout the rest of the film, with much more nudity (something that you’ll notice about Mills films is that he’s not afraid to fill his frame with nubile young ladies) and a LOT more gore – often pushing the boundaries of taste and [mainstream] decency. But that’s not to say Mills doesn’t know how to give a good scare…

There’s a particular sequence during Easter Casket in which Mills only uses a single actress, a hotel room door, an eerie soundtrack and some evil humming on the party of Mills (as the voice of Cottontail) which rivals the likes of Robert Wise’s infamous 60s horror The Haunting for sheer creepiness. There’s no blood, no gore, just old-school scares. It’s these little flourishes, and Mills’ tendency to lean towards unimaginable craziness of course, that make his films so enjoyable to watch – even despite the rough and ready micro-budget nature of his films.

It’s a credit to Mills that his cast are willing to throw themselves to the mercy of his insane stories, and his cast of relative unknowns (many of whom have worked with the director on multiple movies) give it their all no matter the situation. In the case of Easter Casket, Mills has two great leads in the shape of Josh Eal as the demon slaying priest Father Asher and actress Erin Ryan (who has become something of a Mills regular, appearing in The Ballad of Skinless Pete and Kill That Bitch) as Catholic “schoolgirl” Aubrey. It’s easy to see why Dustin Mills has had Ryan back for multiple movies, she’s easily the best actress in this flick, somehow managing to bring a depth to what could easily be a one-note character. Her performance is so layered and complex it’s hard to believe she’s working from the same script as everyone else – especially given the absolute lunacy of the rest of the film, which includes coke-snorting, gun-wielding bunnies, a kaiju inspired 60ft Easter Bunny and a dildo loving priest!

A modern example of the true cinematic auteur, the films of Dustin Wayde Mills never, at least in this reviewers opinion, disappoint. Often pulling not only writing and directing duties but also editing and acting in his films (in the case of Easter Casket he voices Peter Cottontail and makes and appearance as a creepy Priest), Mills is also responsible for the visual effects in his flicks. And if there’s one thing you can guarantee about his movies, it’s that the low budgets never hold his imagination back – somehow  he manages to pull off some ridiculous (and often horrific) set pieces, combining practical effects and CGI with ease. In fact his effects work is reminiscent of the early work of Peter Jackson – the gross-out moments in this film recalling the likes of Braindead and in particular Bad Taste, plus his insane killer Easter Bunny could have stepped straight out of Jackson’s Meet the Feebles.

Easter Casket isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the likes of Troma and Full Moon it would be well worth the time and effort to track this film down and give it a go. You can order the film on DVD direct from Dustin Mills right here, or you can watch (rent or buy) the film via IndieReign.

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