Down by the Riverside (2007)

Sex :
Violence :
Directors Brad Davison, Marama Killen
Writers Brad Davison, Marama Killen
Starring Toby Sharpe, Rebecca Trelease, Maia Wharawhara, Axle Ness, Ross MacLeod, Jo Eggleton
Genre Rural massacre
Tagline Who will survive?


“Fortunately for us they found all the bodies” - Amelia

Five pregnant girls go to have their babies at an isolated Waikato rural property and are murdered for their troubles. At the time the Police are unable, due to apparent gross negligence, to pin the murders on either the caretaker Walter Cardiff or the Priest, who isn't named, running the property. The property is subsequently abandoned gaining a bad reputation and being apparently haunted.

Twenty years later historian Owen Smith and PhD candidate Amelia arrive at the property intent on piecing together what happened and resolving the murders. Unfortunately for our erstwhile amateur sleuths the killings not done at the property and something still resides there. Eighty odd minutes of boredom ensues.

To be honest and upfront Down by the Riverside is a complete mess of a movie, that dives off in all sorts of tangents, bringing up lots of conflicting ideas, but ultimately leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the Audience. The movie is pretentious to the extreme, without a single factor to even allude to good film making. The Directors don't know what the hell they are doing, the Actors range from average to mind numbingly awful, and the lack of budget means the production values are about as polished as recently mined ore. Which is unfortunate as there is a fine horror movie lurking underneath the failed attempts at noir, that could have been brought to light by competent movie makers. Here the Directors aren't playing for keeps and pretty much have no idea what lycanthrope they have by the tail.

The movie is shot in black and white for no apparent reason, besides perhaps wanting strangely to make it all seem period and to tap the noir the film makers are so desperately hoping to find. This becomes real irritating real quick, as the scenery looks like it might have been worth looking at, and there is no differentiation between the “present” and the constant flashbacks to past events. If you are going to film in black and white then make it work for you, at least get the lighting right, rather than simply deciding it would be artful to do so. While the movie never once captures the noir feel it does slide into German expressionism without the Directors being aware of it doing so. Something could have been done there if we had competent professionals, but since we don't another possibility goes begging as cameras are simply pointed at scenes, rather than scenes being built for Audience impact.

There are some good ideas floating around the movie without the Writers, who also Directed of course, being able to nail them down and make them work. Amelia, as a young girl, ventures into the bush where she comes across a man hanging, an apparent suicide. Irritatingly we get sudden cuts to some chick charging through the bush as well, which sort of gets tied into things as the movie thankfully winds down to disappointment station. We later learn the suicide was Amelia's brother who gave her a pocket knife he picked up at a cricket game, we really didn't need the details of the game either to be honest. Twenty years later Amelia has the pocket knife in her garter belt, no idea why, and uses it to good effect. Why exactly we had all the background information is not readily apparent, and it could have been covered far quicker and more succinctly, rather than disrupting the flow of the movie. We also have a notion of a Maori forbidding on entering the property, idea dropped after raising itself, and the real cool idea that a monster might be walking the halls of the property house, proves not to be the case but could have worked when you find out what the monster actual is. Anyone have any idea why the frack the character of Benny Johnston is introduced?

While Directors Brad Davison and Marama Killen are trying for some tension, all about creaking floorboards, they fail to achieve it as the pace of this movie is diabolically too slow and whole scenes, that should have hit the cutting room floor, meander along without adding anything meaningful to what we are watching. While there's a horror movie waiting to erupt out of the tedium, what we get is the standard rural psychosis/massacre situation, and when you get the full story there you are left wondering if the Writers weren't on crack cocaine when they came up with the increasingly implausible Priest and Caretaker, hey watch the movie to figure it out, or simply the first ten minutes as it's all so painstakingly obvious that you are left wondering why anyone would bother.

On the subject of the Priest, this dude can take more damage than Jason Voorhees and still get up and stalk a victim. All he needed was a hockey mask and a machete and the Priest would have been good to go in a slasher epic. Maybe even a William Shatner mask! Unfortunately as a protagonist the Priest is about as frightening as a lamb in a daisy field, it's like your Kmart psycho option, twelve to a pack.

That's about all I want to say about this movie, it's derivative, throws ideas around without making them stick, and so very amateur that you are left wondering if the crew weren't simply picked up off the street. The leads have exactly zero chemistry between them, which reflects a pretty lifeless movie that should have been pronounced dead well before being unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

On the bright side of the axe there are some reasonably well staged murder scenes and the piano and violin driven score by Jeremy Mayall is worth listening to. Oh and if Samara had of been haunting in 1920s New Zealand she would have been crawling out of fireplaces. Sorry one of those weird connections I occasionally make.

No didn't enjoy Down by the Riverside as it dragged it's sorry arse through the running time. I can forgive a lot in a small budgeted Indie movie, but draw the line at movie makers who do not have a firm idea of what they are doing. A drama that devolves into a rural massacre, you have to be kidding me! Zero recommendation, this one sucks.

Additional details on the movie can be found at the excellent New Zealand Videos website, including a lot more on the cast and crew than I've covered. Might be worth while checking NZ Videos for other movies though, there's any number of superior options available.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Simply a terrible mess that hides a solid idea for a dark genre movie.