Friday, November 16, 2012

Abberdine County Conjuror (2005)

Pack: Tomb of Terrors
Disc: 4

Subgenre(s): Zombies, Witchcraft

Year: 2005 (IMDb says 2006)

Rated: R
Length: 135 minutes

Director: Jeff Cooper
Writers: Jeff Cooper, Teresa Deasey, Natalie Geneva,
Liz Goddard, Ellen Keefer, Winter Wytchwood
Starring: Teresa Deasey, Liz Goddard, Jeff Cooper

Synopsis: On one terrifying evening, a group of campers ventured into Abberdine County and fell victim to a back woods Conjuror and her sadistic apprentices Edda and Raven. Bev has gone camping for some rest and relaxation, but when she strays from the path leading back to her camp she is quickly abducted by one of the Conjuror's Zombies then shackled naked to the bloodletting table where she is repeatedly drained of blood for the conjuror's potions. As Meg and Mike are setting up camp, Molly is escaping from her captors only to find herself lost in the woods. Even the local Fortune Teller, Jessie is abducted and subjected to torture and various forms of abuse. The Conjuror, who is over 150 years old uses her victims blood to brew her life sustaining potions that keep her alive but do not keep her from aging. In fact, she is so hideous at 150 years old that she is not played by an actual person but instead is a life size puppet operated via cables...


As a fortune teller, she should have seen this coming.

"Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones..."

"This is the worst sauna ever!"

Old enough to bleed, old enough to kill zombies.

Review: With a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes, Abberdine County Conjuror is quite an endurance test. I didn't make it all the way through in one go the first time I watched it and was prepared to write it off. But, when I gave it another chance, I actually quite enjoyed it.

At first, Abberdine County Conjuror seems to be a very linear zombie story made by a bunch of amateurs with no idea about pacing or how to tell a story. If you have the patience to stay with it through all the bad acting, poor effects, and confusing character introductions, it does get better and everything is revealed. It's possible to even care about some of the characters by the end.

The sound is pretty dreadful in places because the built-in microphone on the camcorder was used rather than a separate boom mic. It's a shame since the budget should have covered such an essential item. For those of us who don't mind adjusting the volume on our TVs several times, it's not too much of a problem though.

Unfortunately, the sound is the least of the movie's problems because a firmer hand was needed with the editing. As the first project by Jeff Cooper and his friends, I can understand why they wanted to keep every piece of footage in even though it slows the narrative down to a crawl. Notable excesses include too much time following Meg (Teresa Deasey) around in the dark while she's being pursued by zombies, and it really does feel like several days worth of watching Molly (Liz Goddard) wandering through the woods drinking a 2 litre bottle of Coke. In fairness, I didn't particularly mind because both actresses are beautiful, but such things will be a chore for most people. There are a couple of very nice shots of deer for those who are more interested in Texas wildlife.

The night shots are hard to see in some cases especially as the zombies are dressed like monks and blend into the background too much. I'm not entirely sure why the Conjuror needs all the zombies anyway since her sadistic minions, Raven (Natalie Geneva) and Edda (Ellen Keefer), do the real work, but nevermind. The fact that their victims are being drained of blood almost puts Abberdine County Conjuror in the vampire subgenre so I suppose the zombies pull things back into the voodoo/witchcraft mode lest we forget the title of the movie.

There aren't really any superfluous or underused characters apart from the first victim, Bev (Charlemagne Domiana), who provides little more than a tease of things to come with her nudity. If you are expecting lots of skin and hardcore gore then Abberdine County Conjuror isn't the movie for you. You have to wait a very long time to see any more.

Possibly because they were improvising, none of the actors provide much depth or consistency to their characters. Again, it's their first film so you have to judge them accordingly. They aren't the products of a Shakespearean drama school or anything.

The intention of the film seems to be about establishing Jeff Cooper as an iconic Australian zombie hunter named Sean Steel. I'm sure it's a bit of an ego trip in some ways since Jeff Cooper has multiple credits for doing just about everything on the movie. Abberdine County Conjuror is Jeff Cooper's baby for sure, but he's not too bad in his acting role. His very "steampunk" leather outfit and medieval weapons are neat, but I don't know enough about Jeff Cooper to tell if he was merely putting on an accent (since he sounds British occasionally too) or if that's his natural speaking voice. If he's actually an American, I have to give him credit for that aspect because he fooled me. As far as believing in him as a zombie hunter, I've seen worse.

Winter Wytchwood really stood out as Jessie the fortune teller. She's very nice to look at and even sings at one point. It's hard to watch her being bullied by the evil Raven and Edda because she looks so vulnerable. Unfortunately for Jessie, even worse traumas are to come. One suggested piece of sexual abuse with a baseball bat is rather vile, but this is a horror movie after all.

Other highlights include a voodoo doll with bones for arms and legs being used to inflict injuries on Meg. The scene cuts nicely back and forth between the doll and Meg's agony. There's a little bit of editing talent shown here and in other places even though they are few and far between.

The most memorable moment is when Molly gets drunk on one of Jessie's potions, spews a load of expletives at hallucinations and shows her boobs. It's a fun scene and provides almost as much comic relief as earlier when Molly finds a box which one of the zombies has been wheeling around. It contains the aforementioned bottle of Coke and the potion plus a blanket and one shoe. Why was the zombie wheeling that around? I have no idea. Molly is definitely a good character, and I'm tempted to seek out Jeff Cooper's follow up movies just to see more of Liz Goddard.

There isn't much gore in Abberdine County Conjuror, no scares, or suspense apart from waiting to find out how Molly ended up in the woods, but there are some uncomfortable moments which make you feel bad for the victims especially when they are being tortured or bled. Most of the real violence is shown off screen, and the choreography of one fight in particular is ridiculous. It's obvious that nobody knows how to use a whip either. Realism is simply not this movie's strong point.

In spite of all the flaws (or maybe because of them), I still got quite engrossed in Abberdine County Conjuror and found the fantasy backwoods world to be cleverly realised. By the end of it, I wanted to see even more. I wish Jeff Cooper would make a sequel.

Most Memorable Moment(s): Molly getting drunk and topless.

Originality: Superficially similar to The Vineyard (1989) but very different.

Best Line(s): "Hey, honey, you have such beautiful, soft skin. It's going to be a shame to have to cut it up."
Worst Line(s): "The only good zombie is a dead zombie."

Best Effect(s): Crossbow bolt in a zombie's eye.
Worst Effect(s): Skull on a pole.

Goriness (out of 10): 1
Sexiness (out of 10): 3
Profanities (out of 10): 6

Hottest Actor/Actress: Teresa Deasey who plays Meg.

Orange light makes her even hotter.

Picture Quality: Average (slightly fuzzy)
Audio Quality: Below average

Rating (out of 10): 5


IMDb or Wiki:

Final Thoughts: Although Abberdine County Conjuror would benefit from a lot of trimming, it's very entertaining.

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