Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Navy SEALS v Demons

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Navy SEALS v Demons
Directed by Jeffrey Reyes
AK Waters Productions / Echosworld Entertainment / MVD Visual
85 minutes, 2017

I have to admit that I was completely intrigued by the title, before even becoming aware of Navy SEALS vs. Zombies (2015). They share producers, a member of the writing team and one actor (playing different roles), but they’re pretty independent of each other, it seems (though I could be wrong).

The title indicates that this could be really bad, or so bad it’s good. I’m hoping for at least the latter, quite honestly. A good action horror film was due to come over my threshold. I’ve seen a bit of both genres lately, but let’s see how it works combined. The disc is going in the Blu-ray player now.

Deep in the heart of the Texas Bible Belt, there is a small town in Jack County which is being overrun by five motorcycle-riding demons. They are intent on gaining the virgin blood of a dozen early teen girls (a social commentary on the sexual proclivity of older teens, even in the Religious South perhaps?) so they can enter a church and get…well, I’m not sure. I’ll explain later.

Mikel Vega
These nasty demons with putty on their face are easily killing males left and right via disembowelling, and taking the girls, because even shot guns don’t work against them. What’s a spy-in-the-sky government to do? Why use a cliché and find a down-in-his-booze-due-to-tragedy ex-Navy SEAL to clean up the matter, along with two of his buddies.

Of course he first says piss off because that’s the way these storylines work. The snobby Navy recruiter wants him to go down there because the demons are going after Mexicans, and locally no one cares: “Down there another dead illegal alien isn’t news.” Even the Navy doesn’t really give a damn, he claims, but they don’t want demon-kind to spread. Again, social commentary? Considering the director is Latino, this would make sense, and I applaud it.

The trio of ex-SEALS ride into town incognito as a motorcycle gang. Wait. Whaaa? Sure, that’s not going to attract any attention in a heavily armed, police-based zone. In a cool twist, instead of the old guy who works the gas station warning the teens to stay away, it’s a young guy at the gas bar waring the older guys to vamoose. I enjoyed that.

Before the guys meet the demons, of course there is the mandatory bar fight with the local Latino motorcycle gang, so they can become allies. After that…

Liana Mendoza
Well, enough with the plot, let me get to the zeitgeist. Overall, I had some issues with this film. For example, the female lead (Liana Mendoza) gets to do an uncomfortable and gratuitous strip scene at a bar. All things considered, it is the only thing close to nudity in the film, and it just doesn’t work. Mendoza is certainly attractive, but her comments before and the strip itself feels… unsexy. Again, this is no reflection of Mendoza; it’s the film’s presentation.

Part of the reason for this is the extremely cumbersome editing throughout. There are many jump cuts, inconsistencies of image (e.g., someone picks up a cigarette, and the next angle her arms are down)¸and too many sharp jumps between locations. Considering how dark the images often are (I significantly brightened up the screenshot pictures included), this makes coherency an issue.

The sound also tends to go in and out a bit, and some parts are hard to make out, hence my not being sure why the demons wanted to get into the church, and how that would “spread” the demons. Or perhaps they said it and I zoned out? That happened on my end a couple of times here and there.

A strong feature is the three main characters. Reyes is a sharpshooter who served in the Middle East, so he does have experience that certainly lends a bit of texture to the characters. The central and tragic boozy Seal is played by Mikal Vega, who was a military badass in real life, having 22 years of service in Special Operations. Oh, and he’s freakin’ huge, man. His is the only character that any back story. Even so, like most of the others in the film, he is still under-written.

And there lies the biggest issue of the film, namely the writing. For a large cast, there really isn’t that big a (on-screen) body count; also there are just a couple of fights and a vacuum of action. This is a problem for an action film. For example, nearly everyone rides motorcycles, but the only ones who wear helmets are…the demons?!

Another annoyance is that while our three heroes and the bikers battle the demons face on, the scene keeps cutting away to a team in some far off location watching what happens in Texas from a satellite. How they see inside the buildings is something I haven’t quite figured out, and honestly, those interjected parts just feels like padding that was added after the fact.

Lead Demon
We never really get a good look at the demons as the views are dark, and also distorted by digi tricks. What one does see is…okay. However, there are a couple of decent gore scenes, mostly gastrointestinal, but far between.

I have an issue with the final battle, which I’m not going to give away, but it all seemed too easy. And the finale was kind of telegraphed more than once during the last act of the story.

Lastly, it’s kind of odd that it’s Blu-ray, and yet an extra other than sound and chapters is nowhere to be seen. How demonic! Though truthfully, I don’t know if I could have sat through a commentary track and many other Behind the Scenes featurettes.

All that being said, I would actually like to see Reyes focus more on some straightforward action films that aren’t filled with clichés that have been done to death already. He seems capable, despite my whining. I think he just needs a better script, and an film splicer/editor with some eye for narrative. Go get ‘em Reyes, I’ll be waiting!

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