Editor’s Notes: Convergence, Freaks of Nature, Sociopathia, and Hee Haw: Kornfield Klassics will be released on their respective formats on February 9th.
Convergence (Dark Sky Films) is a supernatural drama set in a mysterious hospital. Detective Ben Walls (Clayne Crawford) lives a quiet life with his wife and newborn daughter, but he’s called into action after an explosion at a local women’s health clinic. The explosion may be the work of a terrorist bomber Ben has been tracking. While investigating the scene, another shocking event lands Ben in the hospital. When he regains consciousness, he is surprisingly uninjured and ready to go back into the field. But at the behest of his captain (Mykelti Williamson) and the hospital’s eerie patients and staff, Ben is forced to remain inside the building.
Writer/director Drew Hall takes time setting up the plot. We get to know Ben and see how determined he is to close in on the terrorist bomber. The opening suggests a crime thriller to follow. When the supernatural element is introduced, we are already hooked on the pursuer-pursued plot. Combining horror with lots of stylized action, the movie is a textbook example of drawing on the most popular genres to attract a wide audience.
Performances are routine. It’s the story that is the real star. It’s the sort that the The Twilight Zone might have told back in the 1960s, but with more of an edge. Themes of faith, forgiveness, and grace weave through the story, which has a number of surprising plot twists.
Extras on the widescreen Blu-ray release include a making-of featurette, deleted and extended scenes, and a trailer.
Freaks of Nature
Freaks of Nature (Sony Home Entertainment) takes place in the town of Dillford, where three days ago everything was peaceful, with business as usual. The vampires were at the top of the social order, zombies at the bottom, and humans were getting along in the middle. This balance was upset when the alien apocalypse arrived in Dillford and put an end to all the harmony. Now it’s humans vs. vampires vs. zombies in mortal combat, with all of them on the run from the aliens. It falls to three teenagers — one human (Nicholas Braun), one vampire (Mackenzie Davis), one zombie (Josh Fadem) — to join forces, determine how to get rid of the interplanetary visitors, and restore order to Dillford.
The three young leads are burdened with a script that tries far too hard to be funny, with jokes that fall flat and and attempts at clever exposition that come off as contrived, and the film’s episodic nature makes for a disjointed mess with little cohesion. Many scenes have the look and sound of improvisation. If the scenes were indeed improvised, they do little to pep up the chuckles.
The movie isn’t salvaged by a parade of guest stars that includes Denis Leary, Bob Odenkirk, Joan Cusack, Pat Healy, Mae Whitman, Vanessa Hudgens, and Patton Oswalt.
The blend of so many disparate forces may have looked cool on paper, but doesn’t translate to the screen. This may be a movie for serious aficionados of horror/comedy. Others will find it pretty lame.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include a gag reel, deleted scenes, and an alternate opening.
Sociopathia (Cinema Epoch) focuses on Mara (Tammy Jean), an introverted woman who creates costumes for low-budget movies. Her reclusive persona, however, conceals an uncontrollable impulse to kill. When she’s hired by Kat (Asta Paredes), an up-and-coming producer, the two instantly hit it off. As their relationship grows more intense, Mara begins to lose her already tenuous grip on reality.
Films about psychopaths are usually intriguing, and Sociopathia falls squarely in that category. We watch Mara with voyeuristic interest as she goes about her Jekyll/Hyde life, a quiet, reserved young woman who at times becomes a maniacal murderer. Unlike fantasy horror films about monsters and supernatural creatures, those centering on mental aberration are not only creepy, but possible, as newspaper headlines attest. So films about such disturbed people register more strongly. Norman Bates in Psycho set the standard of an apparently normal person with a horrifying secret. Mara joins that group of movie characters.
Ms. Jean shoulders most of the film’s dramatic and terror moments. She believably conveys a woman with a double life, and because of this, we remain involved. The final section of the film appears rushed and perfunctory, tying things together far too quickly and unimaginatively, but those who like their horror films with plenty of blood and gore won’t be disappointed.
Bonus features on the widescreen DVD release include deleted scenes, a black-and-white version, and trailer.
Hee Haw: Kornfield Klassics
Hee Haw: Kornfield Klassics (Time Life) features two complete episodes from the early 1970s, seldom seen since their original broadcasts. Episode 45, originally aired on January 11, 1971, is from Season 2 and features Buck Owens and cast performing “Love’s Gonna Live Here;” recording artist Roger Miller singing “Dang Me” and “That’s the Way I Feel;” and Nashville Edition performing “Break My Mind.” Sketches include several installments of “Moonshiners,” “Kornfield Jokes,” “KORN News,” and “Archie’s Barbershop.” Yankees outfielder Bobby Murcer appears in several comedy sketches with Junior Samples.
Episode 48, also from Season 2 (originally aired on February 2, 1971) spotlights country superstar Loretta Lynn performing her signature songs “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Secret Love.” Other performances include Buck Owens and cast singing “Gonna Roll Out the Red Carpet;” country music songwriter Whisperin’ Bill Anderson performing “Wild Week-End” and “I Love You Drops;” and Ray Clark performing “January, April and Me.”
Hee Haw debuted on TV in 1969 as a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Each week co-hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark and the cast of comedians and musicians would welcome the biggest stars in country music to perform their songs and help deliver the one-liners. Conceived as a rural alternative to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Hee Haw ranked in the top 20 nationwide in 1971 when CBS cancelled it in an attempt to steer the network’s programming to a more sophisticated demographic. It was quickly picked up for syndication and ran through the early 1990s.