This is the first movie that I’ve bought in a long time completely sight-unseen. As you can well imagine, I’m active in several underground and low-budget horror groups on Facebook, and this movie has been talked about endlessly for ages, so I knew I would be in for a treat.
The initial run of the Blu-ray sold out fast, and sells for upwards of $100 on eBay. Fans of the film damn-near bow down to it, and treat it like the start of a new wave of horror. It was, pardon the pun, a second coming of underground horror, bringing to life a new legend of the genre. That’s what the fans were saying. That’s how they reacted to the film.
I can’t quite say that, to me, it was the next great underground film, but I can definitely see why Ahlbrandt has developed a rabid following post-release of this film. Although clearly filmed on a limited budget, I didn’t get the sense that I was watching a lowbrow horror film, or a throw together piece of trash. The movie is a labor of love by someone who obviously understands the formula for making a good horror film. Exterior scenes of buildings and the grittyness of Philadelphia, where the movie was filmed, are beautifully shot. The color-schemes are great, from the blues and reds of the Gentleman’s club to the darkness of the drug-and-debauchery filled warehouse/home setting where the second half of the film takes place, really keep help you to forget that this isn’t a Hollywood film. It’s dark, it’s dirty, and it’s purposeful.
The production holds together, including the violence, blood, and gore FX by Doug Sakmann, with the editing done by Ahlbrandt himself. Great cuts, quick edits, and perfect sound effects make the bone-crushing sound of a hammer to the skull sound brutal. What the film lacks in over-the-top buckets of blood, it makes up for in a down-and-dirty ‘realism.’
With any low-budget film comes plenty of T&A, and Cross Bearer is no exception to the rule, but Ahlbrandt is aware of the cliché, even having a scene with characters discussing the boredom a viewer has with just listening to people talk with nothing to further the story.
“Trash doesn’t make something shitty or cheap – it makes it entertaining,” states Heather during the scene. It’s a tongue-in-cheek gag; Ahlbrandt knows it’s low budget. He knows it’s not A-list. That doesn’t matter, though. He’s making a movie, and it’s entertaining him. It’s entertaining the cast. And it’s sure as hell entertaining his legions of fans, both the old and the new ones. “If I were shooting this movie, I think it would be a little more interesting. I might have a couple more elements that would make it watchable,” says Heather, before instructing the other girls to “dig out their tits.” It’s a little wink-wink at the audience, and the movie continues.
Natalie Jean is fantastic as Heather, believable as a girl who has been down on her luck so long, that she has almost completely forgotten what happiness is. The rest of the cast fills in nicely as well, including Victoria DePaul as Heather’s live-in bitchy girlfriend, and Kacie Marie as Bunny, the token girl-of-Heather’s-dreams, the two hoping to run away to Greece together and start a perfect life. In fact, everyone plays their parts, and although Hollywood A-list it surely isn’t, that, too, makes the film enjoyable on a different level.
Isaac Williams as the title character is great in early scenes. He is outfitted and shot in a way to portray a Jesus-like character, using his ideals and bending of scripture to justify his cause to kill. These people are the scum of the earth. Prostitutes and pimps, drug dealers and whores. Once the hood comes down, it’s a different persona, and he seems more relentless. The man we see filming a pimp man-handle a girl on the street is disgusted, but calm. Cross Bearer is a force, he’s violent, and there is no mercy.
Overall, I am completely satisfied (for once) with a film that was bought as a complete blind-buy. I am now eagerly anticipating the release of Alhbrandt’s next film, The Cemetery, which is coming soon. Cross Bearer is available to own on DVD through Toe Tag releasing at www.toetag.biz.It comes signed and numbered, limited to 1,666 copies.