For some obscure reason I seem to like Joel Schumacher's work, especially his more recent output. I don't follow him too closely, but whenever I see a chance to watch one of his newer films I like to grab it with both hands. So when I heard Schumacher was dipping his toes in the horror pool, I got pretty excited. And not without reason.
Even though Schumacher's films aren't all that unique, they seem to possess a certain quality not often found in Hollywood cinema. The broader strokes seem to answer to the Hollywood cliches, but the details are usually a lot more interesting and colorful. Add some nice visual touches and I'm pretty much sold. Though I must warn you, I'm probably the only person alive who considers Batman & Robin the best Batman film out there, so a certain level of caution is advised if you want to take my word on Schumacher's work.
Town Creek is a rock solid USA horror flick with some fancy dashes of European flavor. Even though the setting, characters and plot all hint at Hollywood, the pacing, directness and lack of filler do refer to the current European style. It makes Town Creek an interesting blend of money and passion, though one that requires you to be at peace with the mix of worlds which Schumacher serves.
The film starts with a 10-minute flashback. Some crazy Nazi dude is looking for a set of old runes and lands himself in the home of a rather unsuspecting family. After the quick introduction, we jump to current time where we meet the main character, a paramedic whose brother went missing in the woods. His brother finally returns after a two-year lapse and the both of them leave for a good portion or revenge. They end up at the house of family from the introduction, who appear very much untouched by time. This all in a mere 20 minutes.
Visually the first 10 minutes are shot in truly luscious black and white. I was actually quite disappointed when the film switched back to color after the introduction, though it doesn't take Schumacher long to reboot his visual trickery. Similarly to The Number 24, Schumacher likes to play with light to bring more atmosphere to the images, and does so with great success.
For horror films in particular atmosphere is crucial, and with half the film playing during nighttime Schumacher makes sure to grab every opportunity to use dark shadows and functional camera work to cover up some of the sillier effects. Creature effects are decent enough, but would surely fail in broad daylight. Add some fires casting flickering yellow lights and gone are your worries.
The soundtrack is pretty decent, though at points a little overblown for a film like this. It's probably Schumacher working too long in Hollywood already, but a little more subtlety or snappy power would've worked better. Some scenes are set to long-winded, emotional and somewhat bombastic music which doesn't really help the overall atmosphere. Acting is on the same level, as nobody really falls below acceptable norms, though I'm pretty confident none of the actors are going to win any prizes either.
Town Creek is a film that stays clear from overly long introductions and slow tension build-ups. It's 20 minutes introduction, 70 minutes rush. The second half succeeds in building up the tension while keeping the action flowing and ends up in a pretty nice finale. Nothing too special or original, but it simply works.
The film is not a horror masterpiece, for that it is not pure enough and fails to blend its influences into a truly homogeneous mix. It is, on the other hand, a short, fun and visually accomplished ride through Schumacher's world of Nazis and horror. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.