Beyond the Wall of Fear: Joe Sherlock Day
Dir. Joe Sherlock (2016)
Man these films are tough to nail down in a sentence… A Lovecraftian anthology of danger in a small town that’s populated with all of the people from the previous films, who seem to be alright after their decapitations healed.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Beyond the Wall of Fear, the so-far best-named Joe Sherlock film, opens with a woman who has a terrible dream about being chased by some sort of creature with green hands. She immediately grabs a bottle of booze and calls her psychiatrist, cuz those kinda dreams are not cool. He assures her that he’s sending in more medication to the pharmacy, and the woman continues to drink herself into needing a shower. Surprisingly, the film avoids a cheap T&A shot and keeps things relatively PG-13 (don’t worry, it’s just for this short). After she showers, the woman receives her pills in what’s got to be the best pharmacy-by-mail on the planet. Shortly thereafter, it is revealed that she was scared to death and the entire thing was an experiment set up by the creepy sunglass-alien-man (SAM) from the previous film, Odd Noggins. There’s something that’s actually creepy about this dude, which is certainly a rarity in these types of movies. I’m sure he’s just a regular dude, but he’s got that “they’re coming to get you, Barbara” kinda vibe to him. From this story we jump headfirst into a conglomeration of stories and ideas that combine to form a small-town Lovecraftian nightmare.
See, you can't read that shit when you're in bed, you'll have weird-ass nightmares.
The music in Sherlock’s films are reminiscent of Full Moon movies, with the strangely gothic organ overlaying most scenes. It’s almost circus-like, playful but dark at the same time. This film is much darker than his other films, with a Lovecraftian vibe of monsters lurking just below the surface, or on the outskirts of town just beyond our reach. There were some seriously decent segments of the film, where the acting was legitimately good, and the pacing overall was actually excellent. The segment of the man, his dog, and the creature that stalks the animals in the neighborhood is legitimately creepy, and the man’s voiceover was interesting and kinda haunting. The sound effects, most evident in the previously mentioned short with the dog, were excellent and matched the action much better than in Sherlock’s other efforts. The film as a whole feels much less forced than the previous films of his that I have watched, which helps to add to the “realism,” for lack of a better word. But this is an anthology movie with a lot of decent stories strung back-to-back, and I’m totally here for it.
This is the second of Sherlock’s movies that features the fictional Channel 12 and their late movie. This leads me to believe that Sherlock grew up much like I did, with the horror show that would titillate young children with movies of monsters and mayhem when they were able to stay up past their bedtime. These midnight movies, be they creature features, old Hammer vampire flicks, or just the stereotypical late-80’s slasher movies, are a staple of the horror genre and a great introduction to horror for people who might otherwise be scared off. This is how horror hooks itself into the brains of young viewers, creating lifelong fans and, as we see here, new creators for the genre. It’s one of my favorite things about horror, the accessibility that the genre as a whole has for fans of all shapes, sizes, and ages. The movies don’t have to be good, they just have to be movies. Sometimes, the worse a movie is, and the younger we are exposed to it, the more likely we are to be a fan of the movie once we grow up. That’s how a lot of these boutique physical media companies make their money; these low-budget shitty movies are their bread and butter, selling sometimes exorbitantly expensive limited edition sets to people who remember these movies with a nostalgic fondness from their childhoods. Sometimes they’re flat out wrong, but it’s their thing, it’s their movie. They feel that ownership because of how integral these movies were to their adolescent lives.
Ultimately, that’s what’s so great about movies like this. Horror fans are rabid, and they consume everything in their path much like the creatures in the movies that they love. When you’ve seen so many A-list horror films, sometimes you just have to seek to find what else is out there. Is it some random YouTube video, filmed on an iPhone and taking all of the creativity a ten minute sketch session can bring? Or is it a film like the ones we see from Joe Sherlock, created with all of the love and attention that a Hollywood blockbuster has, just lacking the budget, the schooling, and some of the knowhow? It’s clear that Sherlock loves the films he makes, and I greatly appreciate the behind-the-scenes featurettes we get at the end of some of his films. These are friends getting together to make memories, and friends who are willing to share those memories with others. It’s a selfless act, and it’s a fun time. You can’t criticize a film for the low-hanging fruit of production value anymore than you can criticize a novel for being in another language. If there is anything that you take from this review on movies you would probably never choose to watch, it’s that: Just because you don’t speak the language doesn’t mean the content isn’t worthwhile.
At the end of the day, the critiques that you can apply to movies like this often sound unfair: low budget, low production value, poor acting talent. You can’t expect these things to resolve completely without money to back it all up, and that’s exactly why films like this are the way that they are. Instead, since the filmmakers either don’t have access to more funding or don’t desire to apply more funds to the moviemaking process, focus must be applied to other issues that are realistic. You don’t need money for a decent script, a good, logical storyboard, or a good eye for camera angles. These things are available to anyone regardless of how much money they have. The script in this film isn’t terrible and the camerawork is at least passable. There’s not the normal part of the plot that stretches throughout the movie like in other anthology films, and I do think that the movie is a bit lacking because that part is missing. Other than that, Sherlock has all the goods to provide a good film, both here and in his other features. Sherlock has infinitely more talent than a lot of other folks making ultra low-budget films. Finally, with Beyond the Wall of Fear, we’re getting closer to seeing him fully realize that talent.
And, once again... Boobs.
Who this movie is for: Ultra low budget film fans, B-to-Z-movie fans, Fans of Lovecraftian horror that can’t afford HBO Max to watch Lovecraft Country
Bottom line: This one is the best Sherlock film I’ve seen so far, and it’s surprisingly decent. There are shades of a really good movie in here, and Sherlock has clearly developed some talent in creature design and writing. Hell, even the sound in this film is way better than it’s been in previous films. The film as a whole would work better as an anthology film, but if viewed as such, it actually really works. It’s always strange to come away from a movie like this having genuinely enjoyed yourself, because most of the time you’re in it for the irony (I know, film hipster, I’m sorry). But this one had some really great bright spots that make me excited to see where Sherlock goes from here.