For those of you who would prefer to simply check out the Reader’s Digest version of this review, here it is: Staunton Hill sucks.
From the very opening of Staunton Hill, it’s very apparent that director Cameron Romero is following in the footsteps of his famous father, George A. Romero, whom some of you will no doubt remember as the guy that made that Night Of The Living Dead movie. For starters, Cameron has directed an indie horror film. In Pennsylvania, to boot (I think) — just like his pappy did forty years afore him. There’s even a rather forced reference to the elder Romero’s classic flesh-eating zombie film here: but it is a mention that does not fly by without getting at least a single “a-wooga!” from the timeless red alert of vicariousness.
And that was just the beginning.
No, I take that back: it was the end. Unfortunately, Cameron Romero’s Staunton Hill did not come across as much of a film. The story, taking us back to 1969, has five extremely dim-witted youths (Cristen Coppen, David Rountree, Kiko Ellsworth, Christine Carlo, and Paula Rhodes) walking through the rural area of Virginia, on their way to Washington D.C. to march in the rallies for peace and justice. Naturally, the five kids (none of whom look even remotely like they’re in the late ‘60s) get suckered into trekking out to an old pig farm in the woods run by a family of yokels (Kathy Lamkin, Sherry Weston, and B.J. Hendricks) who like butchering their guests up.
Why? Well, if you even glance at the artwork for the film, it’s because “In God’s Name They Prey” (heh, prey — get it?). Apparently, there was a little girl in the family, too (who is only shown via some ethereal operating room footage), but she somehow lost some skin and a foot. As such, the family is looking for skin and feet donors in hopes that they’ll be able to sew up the gaping wounds of the storyline (oh, and fix the girl). But, honestly, there’s nary an explanation as to why the psychotic family of backwoods freaks do so except in the grand “Um, duh!” moment of the movie (aka “the shocking twist ending too extreme for theaters!”) wherein we learn, well — nothing, really.
Anchor Bay must not have been too intuitive about the reception this one was going to get, either, since the barebones DVD only has a single solitary trailer tacked on at the beginning of the disc for a special feature (which you are unable to access through the Main Menu). They didn’t even bother adding the Making Of Staunton Hill featurette that was said to have been made for the home video release. Ouch. The audio/video presentations are also nothing that should have warranted a full day’s wages on somebody’s paycheck: the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is downright lackluster at times, and the 5.1 English Dolby Digital soundtrack would have been better off as a plain ol’ Stereo mix, as it adds practically nothing to the Wonderful World of Surround. On the plus side, though, Anchor Bay does give us English SDH subtitles (a good habit they finally seem to have developed).
Going back to Cameron’s pops: remember how the original Night Of The Living Dead had that wonderful social commentary, saved the gory moments for the middle of the film, half-way likable characters portrayed by a half-way decent cast, and even had memorable production values despite its budgetary limitations? Well, after viewing Staunton Hill, I’m inclined to think that the only thing George passed on to his son Cameron was the family name.
Oooh, wait just a ‘sec… Suppose that we’ve all been duped. Could it be? What if, ladies and gentlemen, Cameron is really George’s pet zombie? Come on, it makes perfect sense! You see, in exchange for not eating his flesh, George allows Cameron to make crappy horror films so he can feel like he’s just as cool as George? But the whole thing is really a top secret super hush-hush scheme of George’s to show all of those overpaid and overrated horror filmmakers in Hollywood that a brainless walking dead dude in Pennsylvania could make the same kind of shit they do. It would even account for why George is quoted on the back of the Staunton Hill box as saying “This is as scary as it gets”).
If that’s the case, then I award Staunton Hill (and George) five stars (each).
But, it probably isn’t the case, so I’ll say it again: Staunton Hill sucks.