Carnivorous [Hell’s Labyrinth] (2007)

This one was so frustrating.

Not for the reasons you might expect though: after all, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect.  I’d seen Drew Maxwell’s 2011 film Dark Nemesis, so I know this earlier film was going to be cheap and somewhat unpolished.  I knew the creatures would be digital and somewhat less than perfect, and that there would be rough spots here and there.

But after no more than a few minutes, I was seriously aggravated with this film: it felt cramped, with the characters crammed into a tiny part of the screen, and it seemed as if the actors had the tops of their faces cut off in half the scenes.

Okay, I’m exaggerating.  Maybe a third.

It was so consistent, particularly in the early part of the film, that I have no idea how these shots got into the film, particularly one where every single actor has the top of his head cut off for most of a scene.  Didn’t they watch the daily rushes? Was this the fault of a badly placed widescreen mask? Did they digitally zoom in on a medium shot to turn it into a close up?  Did their DP have serious vision problems? Was this some sort of weird artistic choice? Is this because Tubi messed up?

I have no clue.

And, I’ll note, this is despite the fact that they had a 400 foot greenscreen to work with.

Now the basic idea here is a familiar one: a group of people wake up in a strange, trap-filled CGI labyrinth, with hordes of nasty monsters with glowing mouths and eyes chasing them.

And yes, we get a collection of cannon fodder extras who get killed off quickly and a handful of the familiar sort of characters you find in this sort of story: the tough girl, the strong he-man type who leaves everyone else behind and will do whatever it takes to survive, the guy with a past who knows he’s being punished for his sins.

Ultimately, there is a very Lovecraftian solution, with powerful beings from another dimension, in which this maze exists.  This leads ultimately to an ironic and somewhat nihilistic ending as seems appropriate for a Cosmic Horror film.

Now I have to note that, despite the horrible framing, the CGI world actually looked quite good (if slightly unreal), all stonework and weird statues, with plenty of Gothic atmosphere.  It’s better than one would expect from something this cheap, although the film is a bit dark at times.  The creatures are surprisingly good as well, even though we don’t see much detail as they are nearly black and almost always seen against a very dark background.

I suppose it was because they used such a large greenscreen, but the action sequences are mostly fairly good.  There’s a sequence involving barbed wire where it seems to conveniently vanish when no longer needed, and a few other minor glitches, but most are no worse than you’d find in your typical B movie.

And I doubt this one was made for anything close to a b-movie budget.

Storywise, it worked reasonably well, with a few odd twists and unexpected sequences which show up along the way.  There’s a standout sequence involving a cry for help that ends in disaster when a young man does a very stupid young male thing — which is resolved in a bloody and unexpected way moments later.  And I love the weird red-skyed sequence at the Stonehenge-like gate (even if it doesn’t look much like Stonehenge).

Now I’ve seen a lot of films with extremely minimal budgets, and I’m used to ignoring many of their minor problems.  But I didn’t find myself having to do it as much on this film as on many of the others I’ve seen.  In fact, as grade Z movies goes, it’s reasonably good.

Not quite as good as Dark Nemesis, but good enough to be worth a watch if you are into grade Z films.

And you never know, you horror freaks, Lovecraft buffs and other assorted denizens of the shallow end of the movie swamp (you know who you are) will find much to enjoy in this one.

So if you are desperate for something to watch long after midnight, you might want to try Carnivorous.  It’s not too bad once you give up on trying to readjust your screen because they couldn’t possibly have wanted it to look like that.

I’m fairly sure they did, but I hope I’m wrong.

But if you do watch it, you might want to have a plentiful supply of popcorn on hand.

The good stuff.  You’ll need it…

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And the coming of Space Monster Wangmagwi!…

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