Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Cinema File #79: "Night Claws" Review

Welcome back to the second part of my four part series I've informally dubbed Bigfoot Season, showcasing four films from 2012 following that sassiest of Sasquatches, Bigfoot. After the disappointing Asylum effort, I was a bit leery of this even lower budgeted production, but while it was as technically inept as it appeared to be at the outset, I have to admit that I enjoyed the result a lot more than the one I thought I'd like, even if I wouldn't call it a good movie in general.


Evidently, Night Claws was made by the same director of Deadly Prey, a Poolboy-esque 80's movie that has garnered a cult following with the "so bad its good crowd," and not only does this film apparently exist in the same universe as that one, referencing past characters, but it also stars Reb Brown, known to any committed Mystery Science Theater devotee as a low budget mainstay. This film feels very much like an attempt to cater to that same crowd, taken seriously but made for laughs, and yet while I am very much not a member of this fanbase, I found that even with ignoring or forgiving the deficiencies that I guess I am supposed to find amusing and appreciate ironically, there was still enough here that I genuinely liked.

Night Claws is what The Asylum's Bigfoot should have been, and I instantly saw more potential in the first five minutes of it than I did in the last Bigfoot movie I reviewed. For one thing, as you might expect by the name, most of the kills take place at night, thus concealing the shabbiness of the special effects and costumes, which are bad even in comparison to the CGI Asylum beast, but at least done completely on set with practical effects, which I appreciated as a fan of classic B movies. Though it does move a little slow out of the teaser until we get back into the woods in the second act, once it does, its a solid horror movie with a shadowy monster stalking unsuspecting victims, with a enough twists to the human related subplot to make it if not entirely entertaining, at least not altogether boring.

The acting is not great, even by the standards I typically apply to these low budget movies, but not so bad that it got in the way of the action. Reb Brown is as wooden as he's always been, but he's a decent enough leading man and his arc ends in a way that I legitimately was not expecting. I also enjoyed the moral ambiguity of the characters, most of whom save Brown's noble sheriff are either jerks at the outset, or have ulterior motives that eventually reveal themselves, in one case jarringly with a quick flashback that comes out of nowhere. I found myself rooting for the abusive gun toting husband to survive and become the protagonist, and by the end, we're given a last minute game changer making the Bigfoot attacks only the smallest part of a larger story with bad guy plots within bad guy plots and freaking Frank Stallone in the most bizarre celebrity cameo since Julia X.

This picture came from a fansite called The Stallone Zone

Night Claws is not a good movie. Its cheaper than most cheap movies I watch and it shows, the body count is artificially inflated through the stupidity of side characters, who constantly insist on confirming that nothing is wrong just before being pounced upon by a monster, and pretty much every scene not in the woods feels like unnecessary padding to drag out the narrative. That being said, its a Bigfoot movie. This isn't a sub-genre that has to be thought provoking or technically amazing. Night Claws does what it has to do, and does it well enough to meet the bare minimum for Sasquatchian cinema. If you're enough of a fan, its probably just enough for you to enjoy, if not, best to stay away.

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