Look, every family has their fair share of holiday drama. Especially in politically divisive times (like now) the elders of the family and the youngsters don’t always get along. Over-indulging dredges up old grudges. This family is no different. Gregg (David Lee Hess) wakes up on Thanksgiving morning to the sounds of his father in law, Francis (Steve Uzzell) and his girlfriend Beverly (Lana Dieterich) having loud, over the top sex. If only his day would improve from there. His kids are out of control – one is a sex addict and one is a drug addict, and they both think their hiding it. He’s stuck in a loveless, bitter marriage with his wife Constance (Kelly Dealyn). He has the crushing weight of creating the perfect Thanksgiving dinner on his shoulders… and maybe he has a secret or two of his own. But the family drama is totally blindsided when a family of hillbilly psychos come banging on the door. In a turn out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a “happy” (albeit dysfunctional) Thanksgiving unravels into something hellish. There’s a lot I could say – both positive and negative – about DERELICTS. Much more than I could fit into a few hundred words. I could give a TED talk about what does and doesn’t work in this film, and unfortunately, mostly about what doesn’t. Excruciating amounts of triggering sexual content, presented not as true terror but as something comedic, was the first red flag for me – even as I found the overall aesthetic choices and the cast to be incredible. There’s a general energy to this film that simply doesn’t gel with me, at all. Serious familial issues, rape, abuse, and of course torturous physical harm, are played for laughs – but the content itself is too serious to really be portrayed that way. Some remarkably impactful practical makeup effects are blindsided by seemingly lazy mistakes. I found myself totally distracted from a stunning eye gag (involving a penis pump no less) by the fact that one of our yokel family members only had her top teeth painted and her bottom teeth looked bright and shiny white. Small things like this ripped me from the narrative. DERELICTS is another example of a film that almost made it to “great”, but fell into traps of poor continuity, misogynistic messaging, and tired tropes taken too far. DERELICTS also addresses one of the major downfalls of modern horror, though not to great success — cell phones. 99% of classic horror tropes could be undone if someone whipped out a cellphone – and the case of a botched home invasion is no different. So how does DERELICTS handle this problem? By inserting an awkward, clunky scene into the first fifteen minutes of the film in which Gregg confiscates all the electronic devices from his family members (including his wife and in-laws, which is markedly controlling and flat out weird and adds an edge to his character that is never followed through on for the rest of the film.) A for Effort, C- for execution. The ending of DERELICTS is confusing, with a rapid change of tone and aesthetic, and very little “wrapped up”. Maybe I am just not cool or smart enough to “get it”, but I found myself scratching my head. The cast of DERELICTS deserves raucous, hooting-and-hollering applause. David Lee Hess is a particular standout of nuance and subtlety, in direct contrast to the loud, over the top family invading his Thanksgiving dinner. Their work should go into the hall of fame of ensemble features. Even with hollow moments of the script, the cast never stops giving 110% percent, each with depth and character that is far beyond the simple concept. Applause, also, to the creative team, who brings us a conventionally unconventional Thanksgiving Horror Film. It has its flaws, and it’s not one I see myself putting on after the last slice of pie on Halloween night – but what the hell. They can’t all be “Thankskilling” right? (I’m thankful that our HorrorBuzz family knows that that is a joke…) Happy Horror Holidays!
Makeup Artist, Monster Maker, Educator, Producer, Haunt-lover, and all around Halloween freak. When Miranda isn't watching horror films, she's making them happen. When she's not doing either of those things, she's probably dreaming about them. Or baking cookies.