Switch Killer/Season of the Hunted
Studio: Lions Gate
Film Length: 69/97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DD Stereo Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $19.95 each
During the 1980’s a whole wave of horror films hit theaters, which were often bashed by critics but loved by the fans. Even though these films always hit with strong controversy over their violence and gore, fans ate them up making the genre one of the most profitable of the decade. However, while the best of the bad was released theatrically, director to VHS movies were being pumped out left and right. Producer’s realized they could shoot a film for $100,000 and as long as they had plenty of sex, violence and nudity, horror fans would buy the film up and make a profit.
This trend died out somewhat through the 1990’s (as did the horror genre overall) but with DVD being as big as it is, producer’s are once again trying to milk whatever they can out and fans and Lions Gate brings two such films to DVD. As any horror fan knows, when you going into these direct to whatever films, you can just hope for the best and pray you don’t end up with something horrid. Switch Killer, better known as Transamerican Killer and Season of the Hunted are our latest offerings so let’s hope for the best.
Season of the Hunted (2003)
Steve (Timothy Gibbs) is surfing the internet when he comes upon a website that offers lodging in the woods with the best hunting in the state so he quickly signs up for the vacation. Steve, tired after cleaning up Ground Zero, invites four other friends including a Vietnam vet (Muse Wilson) on what’s suppose to be the ultimate deer hunting trip. Once the five New Yorker’s reach the country they’re introduced to seven rednecks who quickly inform them that they are going to be the hunted. The next day, the rednecks start stalking the city boys because they need food in their stomachs. More redneck cannibals, I’m so proud to be from Kentucky.
The back of the DVD claims this is a cross between Wrong Turn and Cabin Fever but that’s pretty much just marketing hype because this film owes a lot more to Deliverance, The Most Dangerous Game and even a bit of The Deer Hunter. There isn’t a single original moment in this film and for the most part it’s highly predictable, even the so-called twist ending, which I’m sure most will catch the second it’s set up. The acting is amateurish as is the directing and dialogue but if you don’t mind that type of stuff you could find yourself enjoying the movie.
The key with these direct to video horror film is that they deliver the goods and Season of the Hunted at least delivers some violence and gore. Most of the action takes place with a bow and arrow, which makes for some silly special effects, which really reminded me of the nails used in that director to video cult classic The Nailgun Massacre. Remember that one? If so then I’m sure you’re a horror yet so you know what to expect here. The gore factor is actual very high, especially when you compare it to the current trend in Hollywood. The director seems to have a fixation on showing close ups of the mouth with blood coming out and we get several scenes like this. There’s also a gruesome scene with one victim on a table being chopped up for dinner. None of the gore effects are in the field of a Tom Savini but they’re passable and certainly a lot better than most of the acting.
The biggest problem with the film, outside of all the amateurish acting, which is to be expected in this type of film, is the incredibly insane rock soundtrack that pops up ever so often. I’m not sure who’s doing the singing and I’m too lazy to look it up but it sounds like a very bad imitation of Nine Inch Nails. There also seems to be a lot of missing scenes because the editing makes the film very confusing at some points. There’s one scene where a hunter is sitting on the ground and the next time we see him he’s tied up in a tree. How did he get there? I guess there was a scene cut and there are other moments like this as well. Finally, I really wish young horror director’s would study some low-budget films from the 1940’s. Perhaps they could learn something from the likes of Monogram who were smart enough to deliver the goods and keep the running time between sixty and seventy minutes. This film runs over ninety-minutes and at least twenty could have been cut as they serve no real purpose to the film and my only guess is that the director wanted a longer running time.
If you dislike horror films in general then there’s no reason to try and get it with this film but if you’ve seen every horror film under the sun then you might want to check this one out. Season of the Hunted is a rehash of several already mentioned films, as well as one scene lifted from My Cousin Vinny, but the badness gives us some gore and a hilarious Vietnam flashback scene.
Switch Killer (2005)
Now here’s a plot that would make Jess Franco and Edward D. Wood, Jr. blush. Living in L.A., Jamie (Cara Jo Basso) is sick and tired of her boyfriend beating the hell out of her so she decides to turn into a lesbian and move to Las Vegas where she can start work as a stripper. A few months pass and Jamie is now a hot item in Vegas, stripping, making good money and pleasing all the men and even the ladies. Soon, her psycho ex-boyfriend shows up after having a sex change and starts killing all of Jamie’s stripper friends since they are “dirty women”.
Switch Killer is certainly a throw back to the 1980’s when horror films were politically incorrect and they didn’t care how much they disrespected women. This film is pure sleaze from start to finish and the violence towards women would make any fan of the 80’s slasher very happy. Everything you’d expect from your typical slasher is here including the bad acting, silly storyline, gore, violence, sex and of course that always watchable nudity. Switch Killer, in the end, doesn’t work out totally but there’s certainly a refreshing nostalgia trip to be taken here.
Those who don’t enjoy horror films will never understand the charm of a film like this but if you do enjoy them then I’m happy to report we haven’t seen anything like this in a very long time. Director Mack Hail could have taken a survey asking horror fans want they wanted to see and he delivered on all accounts. After Scream, female characters were being shown as something more than dumb bimbos just on screen to take their clothes off and be slaughtered but here they’re all played out for lesbians just standing around naked and being slaughtered. Director Hail makes a very nasty and sleazy little film that has wall to wall nudity and he was even smart enough to make the setting a strip club so that the viewer can take in even more flesh. Being Las Vegas strippers, the big boobs are flowing a plenty.
On the gore level, there’s certainly nothing overly graphic but I will say the final battle has our hero with a very large chainsaw. Every stripper usually meets her fate with a large butcher knife, which contains various throat slashings, head stabbings and various other body wounds. There’s even an old style massacre scene where our killer goes psycho in a group of people and just stabs whoever gets in the way. There’s one scene, which relies on CGI that actually plays out for some laughs, which is also important to a film like this.
Another thing that really works is a short 69-minute running time that doesn’t allow for any boring, talk scenes and the director is smart enough to make sure each of those minutes has some sort of action going on whether it’s the nudity, the violence or the gore. Another strange this is that this film was given an R rating but the MPAA yet they’ve given NC-17 ratings to the likes of Saw, which is in no way the same league as this movie. With all the sleaze and sex it just goes to show the MPAA can switch positions at any moment.
If you can’t tell, Switch Killer isn’t anything great or original but for die-hard horror fans it’s rather refreshing to see a film that tries to appeal to the fans and not the critics. The movie is pure trash on every level but the throwback to the early days of slasher films is certainly appreciative and lets hope the director will come back with another one soon.
VIDEO---SOTH features opening credits that are non-anamorphic 1.85:1 but the picture quickly goes Standard (4:3), which appears to be the correct ratio. I couldn’t find any evidence of what the correct ratio should be but the film did play a few theaters during horror conventions but looking at the framing, the 4:3 image appears to be correct. There’s plenty of room at the top and bottom for mattes but nothing appears to be missing on the sides. The film was shot on digital video, which leaves us with a very clear image throughout. I’m sure many don’t like the look of digital, myself included, but I couldn’t see any DVD faults with the image. There were no speckles, dust or anything of that nature so with that in mind the transfer captures what the film’s suppose to look like very nicely. I’ve never been a fan of digital video and the film has a problem in its darker scenes because they aren’t lit very well and that leads for some extremely dark scenes without any detail and sometimes it’s rather hard making out what’s going on. However, this is a problem with the source and not the actual transfer.
With SK, once again we’ve got to talk OAR since Lions Gate never appear to know what they are doing. Whereas our previous film started off wide and then went full, this film here starts out in the Standard (4:3) ratio, then turns wide for the opening credits and then goes back to Standard when the film starts. This movie never got a theatrical release so why the ratio is going back and forth is beyond me but the ratio changes once again during the closing credits, which shows some earlier scene in the movie, this time being matted of course. As with the previous film, this one here appears to have been shot with the Standard ratio and nothing seems to be missing on the sides. This too was shot on digital video and the transfer comes off very nice. The transfer also captures the bright, neon lights of Las Vegas and makes them very pleasing on the eyes. The night scenes contain some grain, which is to be expected. The print contains no edge enhancement, speckles or other errors however.
AUDIO---SOTH get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a Dolby Stereo Surround track and both sound very identical. Again, seeing as how the film was shot video, the audio track isn’t the greatest in the world and some of the dialogue is bit low throughout and sometimes it sounds quite muffled, especially a scene inside a dinner. The dialogue stays in the center speaker throughout and the Surrounds are only used whenever the music score kicks in. Some Surround usage is attempted whenever an arrow is shot but this sound effect never really comes out too well. After comparing a few scenes I’d suggest going with the Stereo track. SK comes with a Dolby Digital Stereo track, which is actually very impressive. The Stereo track offers very clear dialogue, which sounds quite dramatic and the music score is also impressively used here.
EXTRAS---Both discs contain trailers for Season of the Hunted as well as upcoming Lions Gate films such as Employee of the Month and Shadow of Fear.
OVERALL---If you hate horror films then there’s no doubt you’ll consider both of them among the worst films you’ve ever seen. However, if you’ll watch anything dealing with horror then I’d recommend both of these as rentals. Season of the Hunted is typical garbage but it at least goes for some laughs and gore. Switch Killer on the other hand goes all out with the nudity, sleaze and gore, which is a great flashback to 1980. Lions Gate doesn’t do anything special for either film and the OAR can be debated but you really can’t expect much with films like these.
Release Date: Both Out Now