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A Nasty Monster Design

Finally, someone has the good sense to turn the dreaded lawn tool into a terrifying instrument of evil. The horror market demands it. I foresee a huge potential franchise in the making with titles like The Day of The Rake and The Rake Versus The Hedge Trimmer.

Just kidding, folks. Director Tony Wash’s gruesome supernatural thriller is about a horrifying monster known as “the Rake” terrorizing a pair of adult siblings and their friends in an isolated country home. It’s an admittedly goofy name for a horror movie that pulls no punches.

This little horror movie drags in spots but offers effectively creepy moments and a couple of dynamite set pieces for horror fans. However, The Rake doesn’t break any new ground with its pedestrian, bog-standard horror plotting. The script is unpolished, even by indie standards. What it does well is deliver atmosphere and genuinely excellent creature effects in spite of the limp dramatic elements.

Starring Shenae Grimes-Beech (Scream 4), most notable in recent years for her leading roles in Hallmark channel movies, The Rake is Two-Thirds of a good horror film. What’s missing that would make this a more memorable frightfest? Pacing issues and an incoherent lore explaining the monster, turn what could have been a macabre classic, into yet another direct-to-video horror movie in search of a better script. The movie is so good at the scary stuff that it almost makes up for sitting through the mopey family squabbles between the characters. It punts almost entirely on the monster’s background, which is a no-no in this horror fan’s book.

The Rake is two-thirds of a good horror film

Young siblings Ben and Ashley (Shenae Grimes-Beech) witness the shocking murder of their parents as they celebrate Christmas together. The killer warns they are infected before committing suicide right in front of them. It’s a visceral opener that leaves nothing to the imagination and is one of The Rake’s real highlights. It draws you into this family’s world and sets up what should be a classic horror film.

Now twenty years after the massacre, the adult siblings come together at their adoptive sister Nicole’s new home in the country. Nicole’s husband Andrew has little patience for his troubled sister-in-law Ashley. Ashley has been in and out of mental hospitals since leaving home, fearing that the monster that took their parents’ lives will come back to kill her remaining family. Ashley is troubled by the idea that the creature that slaughtered her parents may not be finished, seeing visions of the Rake all the time. Everyone else thinks Ashley is a mentally disturbed woman that should be under medical supervision except Nicole.

There is a lot to like about The Rake’s sinister creature work and its moody atmosphere strikes the right note. Despite the grim aesthetic and overly dark cinematography, the monster’s frightening appearance holds up quite well when revealed to the audience. The cast are solid professionals for a low-budget genre film, which isn’t always a given in indie horror productions like this one. Despite the tense opening scene, the relatively short movie feels like it’s crawling for the next act or two. Only running about 78 minutes, the incoherent family tension and messy characterizations bog down its needed suspense. A bunch of disturbing visions by Ashley don’t really break up the monotony.

By the time the scares pick up and the creature returns, you’ve lost most sympathy for the nominal protagonist, Ashley. She’s not a particularly likable lead character. The mentally unstable woman has been tormented most of her life and her disturbing behavior depresses everyone around her, including her loved ones. She’s practically the epitome of the misunderstood emo girl. The audience just isn’t given much motivation to root for her and everyone surrounding her feel like useless redshirts waiting to get killed off.

What’s frustrating about The Rake is director Tony Wash has crafted a fairly creepy movie from sub-standard parts. There are several moments that will scare anyone watching it alone. But parts of it are mostly useless, including several friends of the siblings that show up with little explanation. Are thirty frightening minutes worth watching the entire 80-minute movie? It is rental material for horror fans and a miss for everyone else.

Distributed by Sony for Red Band Films on DVD, the main feature is presented in 2.40:1 video with 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. No subtitles or closed captions are included. The Rake has not been rated and features graphic violence, a small scene of sexuality and minor nudity.

Full disclosure: This movie was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Great creature work and a steady cast produce a serviceable direct-to-video horror flick. The pedestrian script and incoherent storytelling make it rental material at best.

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