There has been a welter of micro-budget horror pictures released straight to DVD over the last couple of years. Shot on video and often featuring a lack of acting, editing and directorial skills that could easily outdo Jess Franco at his absolute worst, almost all of these can be dismissed as being the work of over-enthusiastic but woefully undertalented and inexperienced amateurs. I’m not going to name and shame here as that’s not the purpose of this site. Only very occasionally does one of these films turn out to be worth watching. The last I remember was TEARS OF KALI (also reviewed on this site) but another that’s well worth a look if you’re the kind of forgiving horror fan I am is SOUTH OF SANITY.
At Routledge research station in Antarctica, someone is murdering their way through the fourteen members of the research team isolated there. The killer wears black leather gloves (hooray!) a scary rubber mask, and is careful to ensure each victim dies in a different, horrible and creative way, just like in the best slasher movies. Who is the killer? Is it one of the team? Has someone broken into the camp? Is it a vengeful spirit?
I’m not going to say any more than that because that’s really all you need to know. Despite it’s British pedigree, SOUTH OF SANITY actually was filmed entirely in Antarctica, by a research team based there who needed something to fill their spare time. The fact that it turned out so well is a testament to the creativity and skill of those involved. The acting ranges from acceptable to the need to be quite forgiving, but once the movie gets going horror fans who have had to endure far worse will appreciate that at the heart of this is a very decent little horror picture. The genuinely isolated locations add immensely to the atmosphere, and all directors Kirk F Watson and Matthew Edwards really need to do to create a sense of claustrophobia indoors is just point the camera. Where their skills come to the fore is in the setup and editing of the murders, which all come across as being filmed by people who know how to do horror and do it well.
SOUTH OF SANITY reminds me in spirit of the best of Roger Corman or William Castle - it has a fine gimmick to draw you in with its Antarctic setting, and once you’ve paid your ticket you stay to the end because it actually turns out to be a lot of scary fun. There’s a suitably bonkers explanation for what’s been happening, as well as an ending that’s appropriately bleak. Corman always said he made LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS because he intended to play tennis but it was raining. SOUTH OF SANITY got made presumably because it was more fun than another game of Scrabble. Well done for picking up the camera, chaps.