by Joseph Shelton
Thank God for little blessings, like the laughter of children, the smell of rain, and independent sci-fi and horror films. Let everyone else have their The Greatest Showman (out now on DVD and Blu-Ray at Movie Lovers!) and their Avengers. I’m happy with my The Beast of Yucca Flat, or Yor: The Hunter From the Future. What those gems lack in production values they make up for in chutzpah. While the rest of American cinema plumbs the bottom of the barrel for new romantic comedy ideas or for as-yet-unadapted superheros to make films out of, independent horror films answer society’s really tough questions, like: what are some really nasty ways to die?
Take for an example the recent revenge thriller Mohawk, set in the colonial America of the 18th century, in which a menage a trois of unlikely lovers – a British lad, a Mohican warrior woman named Oak and another Mohawk youth named Calvin – battle a small contingent of bloodthirsty colonists through an increasingly surreal and dream-like evocation of New England. Real-life Mohican woman Kaniehtiio Horn brings a steely intensity to her performance as the fierce Oak (she’s not just the star, but also the historical consultant), while horror stalwart Ezra Buzzington is terrific as the requisite baddy, Colonel Holt. WWE legend Jonathan Huber rounds out the cast as only professional-wrestlers-turned-actors can.
Here director and co-writer Ted Geoghegan exceeds the ambition on display on his previous effort, We Are Still Here. That one was a nifty haunted house movie with some neat twists – this is a haunted country movie, in which the sins of the past are the scariest ghosts of all. If that lofty ambition sometimes outstrips the film’s production values, so be it. After all, shouldn’t a movie’s reach exceed its grasp? Do the costumes feel as authentic as, say, Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans, or the artsy Canadian frontier bummer Black Robe? Hardly. Do its young stars sound like they were raised 300 years ago? Not exactly. But Mohawk has got it where it counts, which is, of course, horrifically memorable practical gore effects, the raison d’etre of indie horror movies since the dawn of time.
Put it this way, weary moviegoers: Mohawk, and movies like it, should be like a balm to those tired of the same-old stuff. Forgive the roughness around its edges, and it just might surprise you.