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Staunton Hill (2009)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/6/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/9/2009

In my recent review for the film Surveillance, I wrote about what a daunting task Jennifer Lynch must face when making a film, as she knows that she'll be compared to her father David Lynch. While George Romero necessarily as well-known as David Lynch, his fans are no less devoted and his contribution to the horror film genre is undeniable. So his son, Cameron Romero, should feel no less pressure as he settles into the director's chair with his film Staunton Hill.

Staunton Hill takes place in 1969 and focuses on a group of friends who are travelling through Virginia on their way to Washington, D.C. to participate in rallies. Jorden (Cristen Coppen), Cole (David Rountree), Boone (Kiko Ellsworth), Rainia (Christine Carlo), and Trish (Paula Rhodes) have hitchhiked their way to a small rural community. While stopping to rest, they meet Quintin (Charlie Bodin), who offers to give them a ride. While on the backroads, Quintin's truck overheats and the group is forced to walk. As night falls, they come across a farm and decide to spend the night in the barn. The next morning, they meet the farm's inhabitants, Louise Staunton (Kathy Lamkin), Geraldine (Sherry Weston), and Buddy (B.J. Hendricks). The young travelers immediately get the feeling that something is odd about the Staunton...and that feeling is correct.

Given the success of the recent Zombieland, the zombie film is still going strong nearly over 40 years after it was created. I don't know if today's youngsters are aware of the fact that George Romero's Night of the Living Dead introduced the idea of flesh-eating reanimated corpses overtaking the Earth. That simple, black-and-white film started a genre which is still going strong today. Romero has certainly made some other interesting films in his career, but Night of the Living Dead solidified his place in the horror pantheon.

So, one would assume that Cameron Romero may feel pressured to create not only a good movie, but a ground-breaking one. Therefore, it's surprising that he fails on both fronts. We'll take that second point first. Instead of bringing anything new to the genre, Staunton Hill is yet another Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff. By using elements from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and the obscure 1990 entry Blood Salvage, the movie lets us know that it has no original ideas. We get the requisite stereotypical characters, both with the young travelers and the Stauntons. The only difference here is that there are only three Stauntons, as opposed to a larger family, and I assume that had to do with budget. If you don't know what's going to happen from the first frame, then this must be your first trip into the genre.

The lack of any original ideas is further confounded by the poorly written script and the film's slack pacing. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens for the fist 34 minutes. Watching this part of the film is almost like watching a boring documentary, as we simply watch the characters do things. Once things do begin to happen, the predictable pieces fall into place, and when one character decides to go to the bathroom by herself, we know that nothing good can come of it. The dialogue, what little of it that there is, is inane, and tells us very little about the characters. There is never any suspense or even any "jump" scares. We get some mild gore, but that shouldn't impress anyone.

When Staunton Hill suddenly arrived on the scene, I was surprised that I hadn't heard of the film from George Romero's son. Now I know why. What makes things even more embarrassing is the "This is as scary as it gets." blurb on the DVD box from George Romero. Did he mean scary good or scary bad?

Staunton Hill has little, tiny baby dolls in its pocket on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has a nice crispness to it, but it is a bit flat. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are pretty good, especially when the film makes use of odd sound effects. The surround sound and subwoofer effects come into play during the action scenes, and while they aren't overwhelming, they are effective.

There are no extras on this DVD, despite the fact that a making-of featurette is listed on IMDB.com.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long