Berkshire County (2014)

Rating:

Canada. 2014.

Crew

Director – Audrey Cummings, Screenplay – Chris Gamble, Producers – Audrey Cummings & Bruno Marino, Photography – Michael Jari Davidson, Music – Jim McGrath, Makeup Effects – The Butcher Shop (Supervisors – Carlos Henriques & Ryan Louagie), Production Design – Josh Heisie. Production Company – Narrow Edge Films

Cast

Alysa King (Kylie Winters), Madison Ferguson (Phoebe Harrison), Cristophe Gallander (Sam Harrison), Samora Smallwood (Pig Out/Roberta), Arand Chartrand (Marcus), Bart Rochon (Swine), Leo Pady (Piglet), Josee Young (Amy Winters), Robert Nolan (Glen Harrison), Daphne Moens (Chelsea Harrison), Daniel Stolfi (Officer Reilly), Marcus Tarnoy (Officer Stockton)


Plot

Seventeen year-old Kylie Winters is shamed after a video of her performing oral sex on Marcus is placed all over social media at school. She is asked to travel to neighbouring Berkshire County to act as babysitter for the Harrison children as their parents go to a Halloween party. Kylie answers a knock at the door and opens it to be greeted by three people wearing pig masks whom she takes to be trick-or-treaters. Instead, the pig-masked people invade the house, coming after Kylie and the two children.


Berkshire County is a Canadian film that represents the directorial debut of Audrey Cummings who had previously made half-a-dozen short films. Cummings shot the film in and around the Toronto area. (Despite the title, there is no Berkshire County in Canada – the nearest is in Massachusetts or else in England, an area that is most famous as the seat of Windsor Castle).

After its introduction and the central character’s predicament, Berkshire County settles in to some very familiar genre patterns. The set-up of the babysitter alone on Halloween night with intruders in the house is a slasher movie standard that goes all the way back to classic films like Halloween (1978) and When a Stranger Calls (1979) and in particular has a number of resemblances to Bruce McDonald’s Hellions (2015) that came out not long after. The two films in particular that one is reminded of here is the remake of When a Stranger Calls (2006), which had babysitter Camilla Belle home alone with two children as she was stalked in and around a lushly designed open home. The other is of The Strangers (2008), another modern slasher film that featured a couple’s home being invaded by sinister figures wearing masks – both films seem to go out of their way to hide the identities of who is behind the masks (although that is eventually revealed here). The van sinisterly cruising through the countryside brings recollections of the French High Tension (2003).

All of these elements are capably brought together by Audrey Cummings. The film generates an okay tension, although there is the overall feeling that is retreading well-worn genre tropes rather than it is ever doing anything that is original or else turning the screws on an audience and putting them on the edge of the seat. The characterisations are genre standard. The twists – that the friendly 911 caller is a trick being played on the heroine to the despatch of the cops sent to investigate the heroine’s call to the not-over-yet twist ending – are all familiar.

One of the pluses of the film is its obtaining the use of a house that comes with some very unique interior designs that look often striking on screen. Another interesting touch is the introductory scenes about the heroine’s humiliation and public shaming after her engagement in a sex act is posted all over social media – this is a very topical issue at the moment, although the disappointment of the film is that after having introduced it, it proves of no further relevance to the situation in the film. In a standard slasher film, for instance, you would have expected the killer(s) to be obsessed with the heroine and have snapped in some way after finding this posted online.

Audrey Cummings subsequently went on to make the labyrinth film Darken (2017).



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