Color, 2006, 75 mins. / Directed by David DeCoteau / Starring Sebastian Gacki, Emrey Wright, Dean Hrycan, Valerie Murphy / Rapid Heart (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) / DD2.0

No, it's not about werewolf rap artists. This surprising installment in David DeCoteau's popular series of boys-in-peril horror films carries over many of the visual staples from titles like The Brotherhood series but, rather than the campy humor many viewers might expect, delivers a dark and fetishistic tale more reminiscent of an all-guy Audition. Adopting a more poetic approach than usual thanks to voiceovers and a fragmented structure, the film begins with the dead body of young artist Rachel (Murphy) lying on a lakeside dock, murdered by a group of young men at a nearby retreat in the woods. Pushed over the deep end, her brother Travis (Gacki) vows to avenge her death and undertakes a series of occult rituals to gain her advice from beyond the grave. However, he gets more than he bargained for as her spectral voice guides him to stalk and kill her scantily-clad attackers with a butcher knife, though claiming the final victim proves far trickier than he imagined.

Shot outdoors in Canada (probably near those same damn woods from most of the Masters of Horror episodes), Beastly Boyz features not only a different tone from the expected (probably due to the frequent juxtaposition of sharp knifes and tight underwear, which will probably send UK censors into fits) but a completely new visual look as well. The stylized, click, colorful lighting of the past few DeCoteau films is switched here to a bright, realistic appearance, rather similar to Argento's "natural lighting" films.

The actors' performances are difficult to evaluate since they don't really have dialogue to deliver, but they do the cat-and-mouse routine effectively enough and manage to outrun Tom Cruise at his most fleet-footed. However, the most unforgettable sequences are the two longest murder set-pieces, one in a shower (with some jolting, quasi-sexual bloodletting) and another involving a long bondage scenario that turns incredibly disturbing.

Rapid Heart's widescreen transfer looks fine throughout; DeCoteau's decision to steer away from his former scope lensing in favor of standard 1.85:1 framing here (and in Ring of Darkness) means the compositions are more standard and TV-safe. The stereo mix is also rather complex and layered, which makes sense as the soundtrack has to do most of the heavy lifting when the actors aren't speaking.


Color, 2000, 85 mins. / Directed by David DeCoteau / Starring Nathan Watkins, Josh Hammond / Ventura (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) / DD2.0


Color, 2001, 81 mins. / Directed by David DeCoteau / Starring Sean Faris, Stacey Scowley / Ventura (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) / DD2.0


Color, 2002, 82 mins. / Directed by David DeCoteau / Starring Kristopher Turner, Paul Andrich / Ventura (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) / DD2.0


Color, 2001, 86 mins. / Directed by David DeCoteau / Starring Matt Twining, James Foley / Ventura (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) / DD2.0

While Hollywood studios were cashing in on the quickly diminishing Scream craze, prolific B-movie maestro David DeCoteau, the man behind such cable favorites as Creepozoids and Dr. Alien, rode the teen horror wave in a quite unexpected fashion with a quartet of home video cult favorites which quickly found an audience, though perhaps not the one originally intended. While the "hot, young line-up" ad art looks like your average Dimension Films horror knockoff, these are peculiar puppies indeed and guaranteed to live on in the pantheon of off-kilter cinema.

A vampire film more by suggestion than action, The Brotherhood tosses in some riffs on the old Dorian Gray story and sets it all at a sunny college campus. Newbie Chris (soap actor Samuel Page, acting here as "Nathan Watkins") winds up sharing a dorm room with twitchy Dan (Josh Hammond) but catches the eye of frat boy Devon (Bradley Stryker), who tries to lure him into going Greek. Looking like refugees from an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot, the frat boys make Chris feel welcome but have darker designs in their nasty, beer-guzzling hearts; namely, they're a bunch of immortal bloodsuckers who need to find new blood and new bodies keep going through the centuries. Meanwhile pretty coed Megan (Elizabeth Burderman) and Dan try to uncover the mysteries of this infernal youth order, while Devon initiates Chris with one of the more perverse three-way scenes in horror history.

While most teen horror efforts (at least in the '80s, not the desexualized '90s) focused on young women running around in their undies or nothing at all, The Brotherhood turns the formula on its head by stripping all the guys to their white boxer briefs for the last third of the film instead. It's a fairly amusing conceit actually and makes the film seem a lot more perverse than it really is; the actual gore content is kept to a minimum and there's no nudity per se. It's still demented enough to keep an adventurous horror fan's attention, however, and it looks and sounds great. Acting is less impressive, thanks mainly to the stilted script and wafer-thin characters, but sometimes you can't have everything.

A sequel in name and underwear only, The Brotherhood II: Young Warlocks hops over to an upscale private academy where John (Sean Faris) suffers daily torment from a gang of preppy bullies, who are apparently jealous of the attentions given to him by pretty Mary (Stacey Scowley). During a nocturnal swimming pool bash, a strange buffed outsider, Luc (Forrest Cochran), offers John and two of his buddies a chance at untold power by joining an ancient sect of warlocks, who cast black magic in their skivvies and walk around the campus wearing black shades.

Thanks to a more intricate plot and slightly improved acting, this follow-up is a generally more confident piece of work, while the characters are better defined and have more complex motivations than the previous film's Lost Boys-style plotting. The blood quotient is also upped, thankfully, and the atmosphere actually gets moderately creepy from time to time thanks to some surprisingly accomplished camerawork. Despite the numbering of the titles, newcomers may want to start out with this one instead; it's arguably the best of the series and will probably appeal to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too.

So, from vampires and warlocks we then move to the much messier The Brotherhood III: Young Demons, a sort of soft-focus slasher film spiced up with would-be supernatural elements. A group of teens breaks into their school for some weekly game-playing in which they assume roles and act them out, with one of them romping around in a medieval knight suit. They run up and down dark hallways a lot. Much fog ensues. Meanwhile Lex (Kristopher Turner) surveys it all from his library headquarters, and eventually the nitwits summon up genuine forces of darkness from a book of spells. Or do they...?

Unfortunately with this outing, DeCoteau decided to go artsy by filming almost the entire film at dutch angles, with the camera slowly swaying back and forth. Grab some Dramamine; you're gonna need it. While the previous two films were unrated but fairly tame in content, this one somehow squeaked by with a PG-13 despite a killer who seems to force (offscreen) oral sex on his victims. There's also a laughable shower scene that must be seen to be believed, and it all ends with an anti-climactic ending that should have most patrons hurling their remotes at the TV.

A more appropriate third installment for the series would have been The Frightening, paired up as a DVD double feature with The Brotherhood III. This amusing high school yarn begins with a single mom (the always watchable Brinke Stevens) bringing her teen son, Corey (Matt Twining), to a new town after a tragic mishap at his old school (involving wrestling, believe it or not). However, something's amiss at his new school. The students are dying in a horribly sadistic fashion, and a mysterious clique of teens appears to have its eye on Corey.

[Warning: possible spoiler alert!] Released the same year as the markedly similar but far less entertaining Soul Survivors (itself a thinly disguised teen rip-off of The Sixth Sense, this sole film in the batch to bear a legitimate R rating is the most traditional horror venture but shares the ogling sensibility of the first two Brotherhood films. The exaggerated, colorful bloodshed is fairly strong for a teen market title these days, and as with the other titles, it's all shot extremely well and moves along nicely. Don't expect any dense narrative layering or emotionally sensitive direction; it's pure popcorn fare and gets the job done well enough.

Shot in Los Angeles and Canada, these inaugural efforts for DeCoteau's film company, Rapid Hearts, look and sound considerably more impressive than his previous horror work. From the sleek widescreen compositions to the thunderous surround mixes, these should keep home video tech buffs happy. While the insert for the first Brotherhood disc states all these titles were anamorphically shot at 2.35:1, that doesn't appear to be the case exactly. The first two titles were released in blearly-looking, full frame editions from City Heat, with weak colors and distracting cropping in almost every shot. Borderline unwatchable, these at least prove that the films were actually shot in some variation of the Super 35 procedure, with the actual 35mm negative shot somewhere around 1.85:1 but framed for scope presentation, as demonstrated by the ample dead space usually visible at the bottom of the frame. The double feature discs from Ventura, all framed at 2.35:1, feature much more satisfying framing, adding substantially to the sides but losing that extraneous vertical information. Ditto for the second pairing of The Brotherhood III and The Frightening, both of which benefit from the scope presentation lacking on the VHS and stand-alone DVD releases.

Ah, and then there are the extras. DeCoteau provides commentary for all four films and is joined on the first by Bradley Stryker. While all are entertaining and worthwhile, the dual commentary is the best of the bunch as the two riff off each other throughout the film. DeCoteau tries to downplay the homoeroticism angle, not too convincingly, by simply arguing that he wanted to provide a novel twist on the usual horror formula. True enough, but anyone who's seen his wacko softcore work like Petticoat Planet and particularly Naked Instinct should know that he's always been one to give a little something to every segment of his audience. Each title contains its own trailers and photo galleries, while the second disc includes a healthier dose of goodies including Brotherhood III cast auditions and behind-the-scenes footage (most of it raw but fairly interesting; the former consists of cast members reading out lines from The Frightening, since the movie didn't have a finished script yet). The Frightening only includes a lengthy, silent raw footage excerpt from the first film's memorable menage a toi, with DeCoteau providing commentary again. For more entertainment in the same, uh, vein, may we also direct you to the astonishing Voodoo Academy (the uncut DVD only, of course) and the first Rapid Hearts film, Ancient Evil.

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