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Quarries; an astonishing quagmire

Quarries movie poster

4/13/2017 – By Catherine Reed – Quarries is the very definition of cliché. It is nothing more than a collection of recycled, half-imagined tricks that even amateurs try to avoid when making a feature. It is the typical case of filmmakers who believe they know what they’re doing, but the notes are hopelessly out of tune. Like David DeFalco’s notorious Chaos, Quarries believes itself to be an heir to the tradition of Wes Craven or John Carpenter, but is unbearably mistaken.

The film rehashes the classic horror scenario made popular in the 1970s- young, mostly attractive, victims trapped in the woods while escaping a nefarious villain or monster. In the case of “Quarries” the story focuses on Kat, played by Nicole Marie Johnson, who is trying to overcome the scars of a bad relationship by partaking in some sort of outdoor therapy program. Of course she makes it to camp two days late and missed out on the wilderness training. So now she must cope with Jean (Sarah Mornell), an experienced backpacker who makes grandiose, Ayn Rand-like statements about the forest “eating you” if you’re a weakling, etc. Also in the group is Joy (Joy McEveleen), a veteran who keeps pointing out that she’s been shot before, Madison (Leisha Hailey), the token soft-spoken one, and Wren (Carrie Finklea), the rebel who handles knives but has some intriguing allure.

As the group descends into the woods rivalries of course start to emerge, a group of scraggly backwoods hunters start setting their cannibalistic sights on them.

Quarries

Quarries makes no effort to go beyond its B-movie pretensions. It lacks even the basic B-movie style or energy of a film like Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects” or “The Descent.” It’s a bad geek show that’s based off of watching too many bad movies, while misunderstanding the lessons of good ones. The setting could have atmosphere, but director Nils Taylor never attempts to set up a convincing world to pull the viewer in. Instead we’re treated to cliché shots, clunky editing and a complete lack of suspense.

Consider that the terribly unconvincing villains are revealed in the first scene in such a rushed, clumsy way that we have nothing to look forward to or wait for in fear for the next hour and twenty minutes. There is nothing particularly fearsome about the threat these girls face. The hunters are a cheap repeat of the old “evil hillbillies in the woods” device that’s been in play going back to “Deliverance” and “The Last House on the Left.” In the recent horror film “The Witch,” the atmosphere and dread worked precisely because the film took its time to generate a sense of the unseen. The film is so obvious that Johnson always has some sort of scar on her bottom lip- because apparently it’s the only way the audience could comprehend that she is leaving an abusive relationship.

The screenplay itself, written by Johnson and Taylor, lacks any sense of how people actually talk. The script has no sense of even moving the story forward with its dialogue. When characters speak it is either in very stale, needless exchanges (“Hey is that uhm, a phone charger? Can I, uhm, take it for a whirl?”) or in very corny statements.

The performances in this film do not help the script. Johnson is particularly stale as the lead. Her dialogue is delivered with a dead, wooden tone and she seems to be trying very hard to strike a pose in every scene. The best performance is by Finklea, who is convincing as a drug-using, scarred individual who stands out from the rest of the pack. In one scene, when Johnson starts interrogating her about what drugs Finklea’s character uses, the mismatch in abilities is plainly obvious. But alas she’s pulled into situations where she seems out of place, in the sense that her range just doesn’t jive with this level of mediocrity.

Quarries, horror movie

The cinematography is the equivalent of a straight to video or bad TV movie production. The director has no idea if wants to make the woods seem full of dread or plainly picturesque.  The violence in this movie is reduced to the same jumping, flesh-biting, growling nonsense of every wannabe zombie movie, that we pray for the director to at least go over the top. Instead even the gore feels curiously boring, maybe because it isn’t shot with any style or grit, like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or the recent “Don’t Breathe.” Instead the film is reduced to characters running in the woods, climbing rocks, and at times getting injured and repeating over and over to “apply pressure” to a wound.

By the end of the whole ordeal we don’t care who lives or dies, because there’s nothing to care about when it comes to the plight of these characters. “Quarries”  is not a good horror film, or a decent B-movie, it is an exercise in wasting your time.

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