Hot Rod

Netflix just doesn’t slow down its new streaming releases, with a huge crop recently being added on the first of the month and more noteworthy titles appearing on regularly.

The great variety in titles can be easily seen by taking a look a rich, slow Western-horror, an absurd comedy, a dude punching wolves in the face, a prescient media classic and .

The New and Noteworthy

The Burrowers (2008)

The Burrowers

It’s 1879 in the Dakota territories and someone is attacking entire families in their homes. Some individuals are slaughtered and their bodies left behind while other family members are taken. Assuming the attacks to be the work of the Sioux, a group of settlers set off to find the missing members of the Stewart family. Along the way, they meet up with the vile, racist Captain Henry Victor (Doug Hutchison) and his troops. The settlers part ways with the Captain and his men and, as members of the search party begin disappearing, quickly realize the evil they seek is coming from below the ground.

A changing of the guard at Lionsgate sent this wonderfully cinematic horror film straight to DVD after a handful of festival screenings. It’s too bad because that stigma may sway some people from giving The Burrowers the shot it deserves. Writer/director J.T. Petty (Soft for DiggingS&Man) smartly builds his story up as a fairly straightforward (and quite good) Western with hints of the horrors to come. Establishing solid characters and a detailed sense of time and place allows for maximum shock effect when the horror cylinders fire.

The Burrowers is one of the best Western-horror hybrids around and sure to please genre film fans.

Hot Rod (2007)

Hot Rod

If you are anything like me and most of the other film-goers in 2007, you chose to skip out on this odd looking film from the Lonely Island comedy team. In the years since and as a sizable cult following has formed, I’ve discovered the error of my ways. Hot Rod stars Andy Samberg as Rod Kimble, a young man who fancies himself a stunt man based solely on the fact that his dead father was Evel Knievel’s understudy. When his stepfather, from whom Rod is desperate for acceptance, needs expensive surgery, Rod and his friends come up with a plan to pull off a record breaking stunt to raise money.

Drawing its basic premise from many ’80s dance and sports movies, Hot Rod plays off the comedic talents of Samberg, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Will Arnett and the rest of the cast. What results is a somewhat episodic series of scenes with each vignette operating at various levels of near-surreal humor. It’s a film that gets better and better with multiple viewings with new, subtle jokes waiting to be discovered and the more memorable sequence – many based on ridiculous repetitions – somehow managing to be even funnier than the time before.

Other additions of note: The Grey, Marley, Lake Mungo, Network, Explorers, Charlie Bartlett, Bellflower, The Conversation, Dread, Sunset Boulevard, Everything is Illuminated

From the Vault: Down Terrace

Down Terrace

This handheld-shot family crime drama relies on strong performances and a clever script to keep things sharp and engaging. Father and son convicts Karl and Bill return home after a stint in jail and are immediately faced with problems. Bill is concerned with finding out who was responsible for their incarceration and works on gathering information from family associates. Karl has a pregnant girlfriend. Presiding over affairs is matriarch Maggie who is no more keen on the prospect of being a grandmother than she is in allowing the family business to be taken down by a snitch.

It all meshes together naturally and it’s only a jarring transition into act three that breaks the smooth progression of things. Still, there is great stuff in the finale and in the grand scheme of the wonderful microcosm of drama, comedy (it’s frequently laugh out loud funny), and sporadic violence found in Down Terrace it is ultimately a minor complaint.

Bonus points: Appearances by two Spaced alumni, Julia Deakin (who played Marsha in Spaced) is Maggie and Michael Smiley (Tyres) plays family friend Pringle.


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