This Land Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Terror Films

this land poster large

Directed by Richard Greenwood Jr.
Written by Leon Langford and Collin Watts
2023, 107 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 10th, 2023

Starring:
Natalie Whittle as Ava Owens
Adam Burch as Neil Owens
Jerod Powers as Dakota Owens
John J. Pistone as Grady Moss
Mindy Montavon as Barb Moss
Taylor Scorse as Reagan Moss
Garret Camilleri as Ranger Corbin

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Review:

Have I ever mentioned that I detest politics (and religion) as a general rule of thumb? I probably have at some point. It’s a subject that almost always tunes me out immediately…except in horror films. There is something about the malleable nature of horror storytelling that lends itself to political subtext rather wonderfully. From the darkest visions of The First Purge to the waking nightmare of Gigi Saul Guerrero’s Culture Shock, the soil of horror is rich and fertile.

This Land tells the story of the Owens’, a bi-racial family who have recently suffered an awful tragedy when the mother, Ava (Natalie Whittle; Starf*cker), is attacked by one seriously whacked-out intruder, losing her baby in the process. Her liberal husband, Neil (Adam Burch; 40 Days and Nights), takes Ava and her son, Dakota (Jerod Powers; Catfish Killer) to a cabin deep in the woods for some rest and relaxation. He wants them to heal as a family, and it might work except for the cabin being double-booked with another family! The Moss’ are as red state as it gets, and it isn’t long before former cop Grady (John J. Pistone; Another Time) and Neil are trading barbs, arguing about gun laws, and just generally disliking each other. It’s a story as American as apple pie and school shootings, but then a group of Aztec cultists shows up with crude stone knives and freaky masks, leaving the disparate families no longer at odds. Instead, they are now in a fight for their lives together whether they like it or not. God bless America!

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Essentially two films in one, This Land spends the first hour or so settling in with these two families (after a strong opening) and giving you a reason to give a damn about them while keeping you on your toes and ready for something by using all the standard tension-building tricks. What drag there is is light and passes quickly and quietly. Tonally it’s barely a horror film in the first act, but you can feel the shit getting ready to go down. You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it only enriches the conflict between House Owens and House Moss.

Once the titular shoe drops, the film becomes a full-on home invasion story and the violence and gore ratchet up significantly. This Land isn’t a bloodbath, but it isn’t screwing around either. The Aztec flavor and mythology of “The Flayed One” promised in the dark and disturbing opening credits comes out to play in full force, and while it certainly borrows some tropes from other home invasion flicks, This Land hits all its marks efficiently and with a surprisingly wicked sense of humor (stick around for a credits scene, too).

Everyone is perfectly cast for their parts. John J. Pistone as Grady is every “Back the Blue” type you’ve ever met, and Adam Burch typifies the soft liberal who isn’t actually all that soft with his portrayal of Neil. Natalie Whittle is believably traumatized but still tough as nails, making a well-paired opposite to Mindy Motavon’s boozy Barb. Still, it’s the kids who steal the show in This Land. Jerod Powers and Taylor Scorse have a nice natural spark. They also show Gen Z in a very positive light, which I really appreciated.

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A complex film that’s equal parts home invasion horror, sociopolitical family drama, and visceral nightmare, This Land accomplishes the neat trick of balancing those elements with an overall deft hand. It doesn’t hurt either that it’s a good-looking film, extremely well shot with just enough visual flair in the camera work.

Political horror is a hard one to pull off, running the risk of coming across as either too preachy and agenda-driven or not probing enough. But when it finds the sweet spot in terms of both tone and balance (just the right amount of cringe, you might say), it’s enough to make you exclaim “God bless America!”.

Did I already say, “God bless America!”? Right. Well, this time I’m saying it much less facetiously.

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Grades:

Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover
Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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