Samhain 2002 Uncut Workprint Review
aka Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain
Directed by: Christian Viel
Starring: Jennifer Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So before we kick off, it’s important that I tell you that this review is of the workprint that I got my hands on in 2002 (Thanks very much to Christian Viel) under the film’s original title of Samhain. It turns out that the copy released later as Evil Breed, was heavily butchered by Lionsgate and includes numerous scenes that were shot by a different director. I haven’t seen that version, so I’m unaware of exactly how much of this footage was kept, but judging by the reviews that I’ve read scattered around the web, it ended up as a bit of a jumbled mishmash. Please forgive me if you go and buy the DVD and it excludes most of the stuff that I’m going to write about here.
Secondly, I took the liberty of posting a picture of Chasey Lain. Now this is not from the movie, which was made after she got hooked on drugs and lost that traffic-stopping beauty. But hey, when would I get another opportunity, eh? Ok, back to the film…
If you were a director that was looking to cast female victims for a slasher movie, then surely it would make sense to add a couple of porn stars? It’s not as if they’re inexperienced in front of the camera, they have no qualms with the requisite nudity and how many unattractive porn queens can you name? Christian Viel obviously recognized the potential of mixing hardcore actresses with hard-gore effects and so he cast four of adult cinema’s sexiest and most notorious stars. Jenna Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn Allen and Taylor Hayes all turn up for cameos in arguably the most intriguing slasher flick to be released since Scream reinvigorated the genre.
Five Canadian/American students and their teacher head to Southern Ireland as part of their history course. Upon arrival they are told the legend of a cannibalistic clan that roamed the hills of Scotland and murdered locals for food. The cannibals were eventually caught and burnt at the stake, but it’s rumoured that one of the tribe escaped and headed to the woodland of Ireland to find refuge. After the kids have settled and begun doing what all massacre-fodder does in these flicks, the mandatory goody two-shoes (and definite heroine candidate) begins to be spooked by a shadow creeping around late at night. Could it be that the flesh hungry maniac is still at large in the Forest? Well what do you think…?
Samhain suffered terribly throughout a nightmare production and seems to have been jinxed right from the get-go. It had been initially scheduled for an October 2002 cinematic release to coincide with the Halloween based date of the story, but over a year later, the best that it could muster was a trip to DTV land on the Film 2000 label. (Yeah, the guys that gave us crap like Paranoid, Carnage Road et al). Almost as soon as the shoot started, Wal-Mart refused to develop Jenna Jameson’s nude make-up shots and Chasey Lain began acting like a drugged-out primadonna on set, which upset cast and crew members. Finally to add insult to injury, the producers got cold feet just before the flick was about to hit shelves and began talking of re-editing everything and removing all the gore. Reports have said that they were unhappy about the copious amounts of violence and wanted to trim scenes down so it would achieve an R rating. Veil of course disagreed, seeing how his entire synopsis was boosted by its creatively graphic display. Eventually after months of arguments, the director parted company with Warehouse productions and the feature was locked in the vaults.
It is because of these issues that Veil’s slasher is a tough one to rate accurately. The workprint that I received came without a completed soundtrack, but all the gooey parts were full and intact. I was impressed that it boasted a few credible jump-scares, some luscious cinematography and a couple of the most disturbing set pieces that I’ve seen for some time. One guy is disemboweled via his rectum before being strangled with his own intestine, Jenna Jameson is stripped naked and gutted in unflinching close up and Chasey Lain ends up ‘spilling her guts’ after an unfortunate rescue attempt from her boyfriend (Richard Grieco).
Even if the murders are uncommonly gruesome, Samhain never feels mean-spirited, which is due to the characters being thinly portrayed as little more than typical slasher clichés. The dialogue was not so much inspired by Wes Craven’s Scream as it was flagrantly cut and pasted, and they never really invested in developing the personnel beyond a basic level. Certainly the inclusion of Jenna Jameson was a great move by Veil, due to her massive global following and profile. Her fans will be pleased to know that she whips off her top (as expected) and so do Chasey Lain and Taylor Hayes too. Samhain is no soft porn movie though, and when it gets its hands dirty with the horror parts, the tone really does turn grim. Veil’s direction is sharp and he provides some much-needed injections of suspense. Even if the film includes countless nods to Halloween (going as far as to include footage from the movie), Veil choses to follow the Joe D’amato ‘gross-out’ methodology. There are a few attempts of humour in the script that feel somewhat misplaced and unnecessary, because there was real comedy to be found in Ginger Lynn’s shameful attempt at an Irish accent. I have to give her some credit for a great battle with the hulking killer though and it was well choreographed by Alan Chou. Hilarious pronunciation aside, she probably gave the most energy to her character and out-performed the majority of the non-porno actors and actresses, which isn’t a huge compliment, but still…
The final cut that is available of Samhain removed most of the gore that was in this workprint, which is a shame, because I would have liked to have seen how it would have looked with sound and all the trimmings. Despite Veil’s vision never being completely fulfilled, this version is worth checking out for a slice of exploitation that we haven’t seen to such an extent since the times of titles like Giallo a Venezia (1979). That also had a few extreme moments, but more importantly for this comparison, it was poorly acted, roughly made and never gained much recognition. It may not be Veil’s fault that this one ended up in such a mess, but the net result is still a feature that could, would and most certainly should have been a contender. It ultimately wasn’t though.
Final Girl: √√
* Review originally posted 12/11/2002