Thursday, April 21, 2011

3.2 HIDE AND CREEP (2004)

Hide and Creep (2004)
Dir. Chuck Hartsell & Chance Shirley
USA

I'll be honest with you.  I went into this one expecting it to be anywhere from lame to awful.  It was advertised as "Even better than Shaun of the Dead" so I went in expecting the worst.  Because, you know, hyperbole like that doesn't do anyone any favors. 

But I am happy to say that I was completely wrong in my expectations.  This film was pretty damned entertaining.  And for a horror comedy, what more can you ask for?

Hide and Creep is a zombie comedy set in Alabama, made by Alabama film makers Chuck Hartsell and Chance Shirley, from a script by Shirley.  According to the film makers, this low-budget film came in at around $26,000, and while it is definitely low-budget, the money was very well-spent. 

So much so, in fact, that I am now dying to see their follow-up film, Interplanetary.  It's tagline is "Monsters.  Mayhem.  Mars."  For more info on that and their other projects, check out the Crewless Productions website.

But what about Hide and Creep?

Spoiler Shields Up!

The story takes place in the small town of Thorsby, Alabama and follows four storylines that eventually converge.  We open with Chuck (director Chuck Hartsell) of Chuck's Super Video World, on the phone with a customer, schooling them on zombie films.  We also follow Michael (Michael Shelton), a man who wakes up in a tree with no pants after an alien abduction.  The town's preacher, Reverend Smith (Barry Austin) is losing faith in his congregation when he is attacked and wounded by zombies.  And the members of a hunting club, Keith (Kyle Holman), Lee (also played by Michael Shelton), and Ted (Chris Garrison) try to survive the attack as well.

Here's where Hide and Creep steps up and moves past a film like Exhumed.  Most of the main actors in this film (Holman and Austin, along with someone I haven't mentioned yet, Melissa Bush as Barbara) are actually trained actors with degrees or have extensive experience in community theater.  And, as luck would have it, the other main supporting roles are all well-cast.  There's not really a bad apple in the bunch.  In addition to that, the actual technical elements of the film are solid.  Everything is well-lit and the shots are set up professionally and imaginatively.

Having actors who can actually play the comedy, as well as the occasional dramatic moment helps bring the film home, even when the jokes don't quite live up to the performances.  But more often than not, the jokes work just fine.  One scene in particular made me laugh until I cried.  Ted is, unfortunately, bitten by a zombie and finds himself changing, but still paranoid about whether or not the others have been bitten.  His sudden transformation into a zombie, snorts, snarls, and all, was freaking hilarious.

The best thing about Hide and Seek is that it doesn't take itself too seriously.  At the same time, it plays on our expectations a bit and actually gives some of the characters (Keith and Reverend Smith in particular) some emotional depth and resonance.  Both characters go through some interesting changes over the course of the film, and while some of the gun club jokes are a little broad, ultimately we end up liking Keith and caring about him and his family.  Reverend Smith also gets our respect and sympathy, dealing with a community that uses and abuses him.

The film has its fair share of deliberate nods to other films and does a good job of providing another very satisfying entry into the overflowing Zombie Comedy genre (I'm going to try to avoid ever using "zom-com" as a descriptor).  I'd watch this one again with friends, for sure.

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