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Friday, May 20, 2011

DVD Review: HIGHWAY 91

HIGHWAY 91
Directed by:  Sonny Fernandez

HIGHWAY 91 is the latest film from indie director Sonny Fernandez.  While obviously cheaply made on little or no budget, the film is fun, entertaining change from most independent zombie films out there. Here is the basic plot of the film:

"Highway 91" follows a group of survivors after the zombie apocalypse, together, they are trying to reach a rumored sanctuary along the old abandoned highway, on the way however, they will have to face serial killers, religious cults and each other. "Highway 91" Is another true indie epic from Down Twisted Studios and features the usual bullet flying, brain blowing, gore soaked madness you've come to expect!

Sonny Fernandez is the man behind Down Twisted Studios...makers of such films as THE NEW GIRLS, THE ABORTED, and THE LAST BATTLEGROUND.  I have seen any of these previous efforts from Fernandez, but after seeing H91, I will definitely be checking out some of his other films.

It seems as though every independent Horror movie studio always makes a zombie film...and most of the time they are bad...really bad.   Luckily, Down Twisted Studios' zombie effort does not fall into that category.  Now don't let me steer you wrong...this film is not for everyone...and it very low budget, but I enjoyed it and I have a feeling most true Horror fans  (and zombie fans, especially) will enjoy this film.  I saw one website's review claim it was  "better than THE WALKING DEAD". Well, I wouldn't go that far....its not anywhere near the caliber of THE WALKING DEAD, but that is not a fair comparison anyway due to the extreme differences in budget and film making experience.  It's no WALKING DEAD, but it is better than most independent zombie efforts.

First off, let me get the bad stuff out of the way.   Yeah, I said it...bad stuff.  There is some bad stuff in this film.   Most noticeable is the poor video quality.  I'm not sure what kind of camera they used for this film, but it is a not very good quality.  It looks like it was shot on a regular Mini DV home video camera.  I know that is a budget thing, as camera's are very expensive, but investing in a higher quality camera (HD) would make a world of improvement for Mr. Fernandez's films.  Although, at the same time, the poor video quality gave the film kind of an old VHS feel, which was actually kinda cool now that I think about it. 
Another concern I have is the editing...it is very choppy at times when I feel there should have been a smoother transition between scenes.  This effects the music in some scenes, as the sound will just stop instead of just fading out.
I also spotted a major goof which is very noticeable as our group of survivors is walking through a field.   The Camera is in front facing toward the group and the sun is behind the cameraman.  As the walk through the field, the shadow of the cameraman is in plain site on the ground below.
Lastly....my main complaint was the length of this film.  It clocks in at over 2 hours long.  I feel this could have been cut down to a good 80 or 90 minutes, as some scenes did seem to drag at times.  But, kudos to the filmmakers for having enough of a story and plot ideas to make a movie this long!  Most independent zombie films run a little over an hour and some of them seem like they have enough substance for about a 20 minute short and they somehow stretch it into a full length film.

Now for the good stuff...as stated above, this is not your typical cookie cutter zombie film.  This movie is full of great ideas, and I love the way that new characters are introduced throughout the film.  Just when you think the film is getting "routine", a new plot point is thrown in.  At one point the group of survivors happen across a house that is secured, but is run by a crazy cult who's leader, the one they call the "messiah",  has created a serum to reverse the effects of the zombie virus, although he hides this and plays it off as if he has a magical power over the zombies....the reason the followers believe he is the chosen one to be their leader.
Another great thing about this film is the dialog. The dialog in H91 is hilarious at times.  The actor that plays the part of Virgil is especially enjoyable and has a lot of the funniest lines. 
Now to the real starts of the show...the zombies!!   This film boasts some great zombie makeup and effects...some are very over the top, but some are just spot on and look great.  And I have to give props to the filmmakers here for actually having zombies buried in the ground that come up out of the ground.  I'm not sure why most zombie movies don't ever actually show the zombies rising from the ground, but most low budget, independent zombie movies seem to skip this step.  It seems like a very cheap and easy effect  (buy a shovel....dig a hole) and looks really good on film.
CGI, but it is well done and it lots of fun.

While not one of the greatest zombie films ever...its is leaps and bounds above most low budget horror films.  Bottom line is that it was very entertaining, which is the main thing a movie should be.  I would encourage all of you to check it out and keep an eye out for future films of Sonny Fernandez...if his films keep improving, he could be a big name in the horror industry some day!


CLICK HERE to watch the trailer
CLICK HERE to purchase director Sonny Fernandez's older films from Amazon.com. 
(HIGHWAY 91 will be available soon!)

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