Berkshire County (2014, 1 hr 23 mins)
I’m back for another helping of Canuck horror at the 3rd annual Blood In The Snow Film Festival, where a select number of Canadian-made horror is showcased over 3 days with many of the directors and actors in attendance. It’s a smaller, more intimate festival, held at the Carlton Cinemas in Toronto, where fans and film cast and crew can literally rub shoulders at the theatre and after-parties all weekend.
The opening night film was Berkshire County. In the tradition of classic slasher and intruder films, this flick melds the two for a large helping of suspenseful, action-packed horror.
The victim of a cruel video prank that quickly spreads through her high school, Kylie (Alysa King) is having a rough time of it. She unable to deal with the shame and ridicule of the aftermath, and feels outcast and hopeless. Taking on a babysitting gig in a remote country home on Halloween night, she tries to escape the memory of the mean stunt, but when 3 pig-masked intruders darken their doorstep, Kylie is in for a night of terror that will test her will to survive.
Berkshire County‘s director Audrey Cummings’ first feature-length film was an overall success. The components for a typical horror film-teens, sex, jump scares and knife-wielding bad guys-were elevated to create tension, great plot twists and action that culminated with car-crash velocity, leaving plenty of room for a sequel with an over-the-top ending.
Alysa King’s terror-stricken performance was a great rollercoaster ride that took you from despair to determination, and Madison Ferguson as Phoebe along with Christophe Galland who played her brother Sam, did a stellar job as the scared charges under Kylie’s care. At the Q & A after the film, King said it was a great honour to play such a strong female role, and beating out 200 other girls for the part, as well as winning a “Bloodie”award for best actress at this festival, she really gave it her all. Also look out for Samora Smallwood, who played Roberta. Without giving away any spoilers, she will knock your socks off, and I hope to see both her and King in more films soon! And the bad guys? The stuff of legend. The pig-faced slashers were methodical, creepy and pretty bad ass! From their pork truck of terror to their underaged minion, they will surely haunt your nightmares for years to come. Definitely goes into my book of iconic villains.
We also learned some inside info about the shoot and what inspired the film at the Q & A. Writer Chris Gamble pulled from true life events when he was a babysitter. Breaking his glasses that basically left him blind one night on the job, he was terrified by some strange knocking on the door, which was later found out to be a prank. Cummings and Gamble funded the film with their own money, but they had fantastic news of Canadian distribution with A71 Entertainment, International with Ravens Banner, and a soon to be announced U.S. distributor. The cast and crew all felt the set of the isolated house was super creepy, and I have to agree. It was particularly hideous, and appeared to have endless rooms similar to the Winchester Mystery House in California. Cummings had a lot of issues with the use of the location, including foreclosure and some miscommunication with the owner which lead to a couple of script rewrites for the 22 day shoot, but it obviously worked out to bring us a great horror film.
I had to ask about the masks. When you see them, I think you will agree that they are incredibly horrific. They were created at The Butcher Shop, a Hamilton, Ontario based makeup effects studio. All the cast agreed that the shop itself was something out of a horror movie due to its creepy basement location, so it set the scene for what they were about to be a part of! Carlos Henriques, owner of the studio and special effects artist on the shoot, created the masks to Cummings’ specifications, and even went so far as to use a real severed pig’s head as inspiration for one of the masks.
Berkshire County has won the grand jury prize for Best Feature at Shriekfest in L.A., and has since won awards all over at many festivals. Do yourself a favour and see why because it really is the whole horror package and one of my top picks for the BITS Fest!