Credit where it’s due, director Josh Shreve has created a great little horror film that punches way above its low-budget indie status. Of course, it’s riddled with clichés, but great fun nonetheless, and the acting and visuals are more than passable; in fact, one of the things that elevates Talon Falls above the usual straight-to-‘video’ (sorry, still love that term, even though it’s wholly inaccurate) dross is that you actually care about the characters. Yes, against the odds, you find yourselves rooting for the four horny teenage caricatures who find themselves the unwitting main attraction in a horror theme park where the exhibits are just too real.
It opens in familiar territory with the four kids on a camping trip stopping to fill up at a redneck truck stop and, after being intimidated by the creepy low-brow locals, they pick up a flier for Talon Falls (which is in fact a real horror attraction in Kentucky, where much of this movie was filmed) and are soon given front-of-line passes to jump the huge queues. In true slasher fashion, they split up to make out, and everything goes tits up very quickly, as they are captured, caged and brutalised, for the titillation of the unsuspecting public, who are so caught up in the vicarious horror of the park, they can’t – or won’t – discern real suffering from fake. So far, so Hostel then and some of the torture scenes are pretty gruelling, toe nails being lifted with scalpels and knees smashed with sledgehammers, but Josh Shreve does a great job of mixing gratuitous violence with genuine tension and there are plenty of heart-in-mouth moments during the various cat-and-mouse set-pieces, making for a damn decent horror that far surpasses expectations. Ian Glasper