Hell's Half Acre Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
Written and Directed by Scott Krycia and Sean Tiederman
2008, Region 0 (NTSC), 53 minutes, Not rated
Tesia Nicoli as Nicole Becker
Todd Labar as Derek Moore
Steve Mittman as Steve
Scott Perry as Officer Scott Perry
The quote on the box promises "An insanely fun non-stop cheeseride." A 60 minute running time is also listed, but both pieces of information are total bullshit. The film is preceded by a seven minute "public announcement" that sets the tone with an outraged woman warning parents about the film, Hell's Half Acre. The idea is nice and execution is pretty spot on, but it is simply too long. Looking past the padded intro, the actual movie runs only 43 minutes, and it is a tedious journey.
This title should not be confused with the '50s film noir (directed by John Auer), the red light district in Texas or the brutal 2004 novel by Christopher Baer. Instead this bloated short is a series of confusing sequences loosely tied together by the promise of a satisfying conclusion that never arrives.
I feel compelled to go through point by point as the script is so incompetent that it is hard to convey how that all that happens within the movie is presented in 40 minutes and still manages to be disappointing. This is a poorly assembled piece at odds with itself from the very beginning.
Three guys find the bodies of their missing friends and reach the conclusion that Bob Moore is responsible for their deaths. A home invasion results in Bob and his young son Derek being taped to a chair and set on fire. The house burns to the ground and the nightmare is over.
Ten years later we are tossed into a world where logic is optional. Nicole (Tesia Nichols) and Steve (Steve Powers) are parked at a playground where she sees a figure (Todd Labar) lurking beside a tree. He vanishes before her eyes (suggesting something supernatural) only to reappear with a sledgehammer, smashing the windows of their truck. Steve is killed and Nicole runs for help. She reaches the no-budget police station and attempts to report the crime. The only detective on duty is unable to hear her story as she is cut off by the out of uniform Officer Scott Perry (who oddly appears within the opening PSA) declaring her story "crazy." She reaches for a conveniently-placed gun and is immediately locked up for the night. The next day, all is forgiven when the cops find Steve's corpse exactly where Nicole said to look.
The killer reappears and attacks the cops with a shotgun and two machetes. He then finds his way to Nicole's home and kills her barely-introduced family, but ignores her. Next the killer passes through a brick wall and kills a random basketball team before moving on to attack a group of mourners with a chain gun. Fortunately the bereaved have brought weapons, but the script can't decide if this monster is 2D or 3D and therefore makes him unstoppable.
Nicole learns that Bob and Derek were killed in a fire ten years ago. Despite the fact that Derek was only a child, she is convinced that the kid has grown into an adult ghost-maniac and that she must stop him. Her plan involves dressing as a babysitter by wearing a pastel sweater and ponytails, followed by driving around the city looking for... well... Derek. Luckily she easily spots him while driving past a building where he is casually standing in the lobby.
Next we are introduced to a radio DJ who is flooded with calls of people hiding in groups around the city. His advice is melodramatic and ineffective, but then he is quickly forgotten and we move on to more random people. They cower in the very building that Derek the Magic Ghost has been spotted. Nicole is too late to save these strangers, but that's okay because we are now ready for the weakest rooftop confrontation in the history of no-budget cinema. I'll resist the urge to spoil the ending, except to say that it is confusing and disappointing. I will answer the question that would have provided something heavily clichéd, but entertaining: Is there a connection between Nicole and the maniac? Nope...that would be too creative.
I really hated this movie when it was over, and I hated it even more that I had to watch it again to make notes. Outside research filled in some of the blanks concerning the plot and the limitations of the production. Hell's Half Acre was written and directed by Scott Krycia and Sean Tiederman. The production spanned five years and their tenacity makes me really want to like the end result. On-set footage demonstrates their creativity, and eagerness to make this the biggest most badass movie in the history of ever.
The production value of burning a house to the ground for no money and attempting gunfights with firecrackers earns an extra star for this review. The crew has talent, but the script really lacks cohesion. When making a film without cash, you get what you pay for in the acting department. Aspiring f/x artists may be able to perform a few tricks that keep audiences tuned in, but the cornerstone of the entire project is the script. The least expensive thing that will serve the most purpose to the production is taking the time to make the strongest script you can. It should never be required that a viewer visit the company website and watch the behind the scenes doc in order to follow the basic plot of the feature. Audiences watching this movie will lose less than an hour of their lives, I feel for the crew members that have lost five years to this turkey.
Video and Audio:
Not reviewed as this is a screener.
The behind the scenes featurette runs 13 minutes and manages to explain quite a bit. Some of the plot is cleared up and it is revealed that the crew worked five years on this project. Three minutes of deleted scenes are presented with a look at their filming.
I applaud these guys' ability to stay with this project and see it through to completion. Their determination and resourcefulness are encouraging and I look forward to seeing a full-length product in the future. Next time, if the script gets a polish before filming begins, then the audience will be as satisfied with the end results as the filmmakers themselves.