Sunday, January 5, 2014

Night Claws (2013)

aka Apex Predator

Welcome to beautiful Mobile, Alabama. Mobile’s sheriff, Joe Kelly (Reb Brown), is having a tough time, because for some reason, a ten foot sasquatch has decided to make the woods around town its home, ripping people apart whenever it meets them.

Kelly’s not the only one interested in the murdering hairball. Government backed cryptozoologist Sarah Evans (Leilani Sarelle) comes to town to bag herself a sasquatch and disturb the romance between Kelly and his deputy Roberta (Sherrie Rose), and a crazy hunter (David Campbell) and his pair of goons wander through the woods. Then there’s a small group of people (among them Ted Prior) wandering through these very same woods on a survival training trip. Things will get very complicated and wood-wander-y before they get better for Mobile.

The advent of fully digital filmmaking has invited some of the elder statesmen of cheaply shot local productions back into the business of making things most people would barely interpret as movies, and putting the local colour where their younger peers only want the colour yellow. Among these happy few is house favourite David A. Prior, him of Sledgehammer and Action International films. Looking at the cast of Night Claws, Prior still has a degree of clout, so instead of the usual young people who can’t act you generally find in this sort of film, it features a lot of low budget veterans who sort of can. Unusually, these middle-aged and older veterans don’t just pop up in cameo appearances (that’s left for - I kid you not - Frank Stallone), but as the film’s actual leads, giving the proceedings slightly more dignity. And while the Reb Browns and David Campbells of this world won’t be my choice for Shakespeare, they do know how to look grumpy, deliver awkward dialogue lines with a degree of verve (and perhaps a little wink from time to time), and get by on some basic charisma.

Speaking of awkwardness, this is very much a typical David A. Prior film in its approach, which is to say, always entertaining, sometimes clever, and often just ever so slightly off. Even though nothing at all of import for plot and characters happens in a film’s middle part, as it does/doesn’t for Night Claws, Prior’s detours are generally fun to watch in that classic parallel dimension cinema way I love so dearly, where middle-aged romances still work like the ones in kindergarten did, plot twists seem to have been made up on the spot without even the tiniest thought for their sense in context of anything that came before them, and so on, and so forth.

In fact, and obviously, the whole of Night Claws carries that parallel dimension feel, presented with a bit more charm and self-consciousness than usual in this sort of affair, perhaps. The film’s final third, when the twists and turns of what we may as well call a plot become particularly random and weird (you didn’t think you’d get a Prior movie without any kind of conspiracy thriller elements, right?), is particularly lovely in that regard, with never a dull second between Prior chewing scenery, Brown being Brown, things that must surely be meant as jokes (but one can’t be sure) and Prior seemingly just putting up any old nonsense that comes to mind at the moment, as long as it’s fun. Which just made me incredibly happy while watching Night Claws.

As an added bonus – as if this were needed! -  the delighted audience (what do you mean, a 2.2 user rating average on the IMDB?) gets a smidgen of dumb gore, and a bit of shameless dubious monster costume action from a film that is as generous with its particular brand of thrills as its budget allows. In exchange, I offer up my honest enthusiasm for whatever the thing I just watched is.

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