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Monday Night Mayhem DVD Review: “River Of Darkness”

Starring: Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Sid Eudy, Bill Hinzman, & Ray “Glacier” Lloyd
Produced By: North Shore Pictures
Directed By: Bruce Koehler
DVD Review Written By: Shawn “The Angry Hero” Marek

River of Darkness is the second feature film to be written & directed by Bruce Koehler that features the wrestling world’s favorite Olympic hero: Kurt Angle. This time around, Koehler decided to serve up the strangest wrestling-flavored Neapolitan film that he could by bringing Kevin Nash, Sid, & Glacier into the mix for this horror/vengeance film.

Kurt Angle plays Sheriff Will Logan, the head of law enforcement in a small town where everyone seems to hate him. Angle’s life gets all the more interesting when some poor waitress wanders down to the river wharf one night and is found gutted & crucified the next morning. Actually, we learn the proper term for her murder is “noodled,” which apparently is the Cajun practice of de-boning catfish like a Chinese finger trap. A few more local yokels are found murdered, some with the word “HIX” etched into their foreheads. The significance of this name is explained by a creepy old bait shop owner, played by Bill Hinzman (Night of the Living Dead), taking time out his Fangoria convention schedule to drink bathtub wine and wonder if “fish have souls.”

As it turns out, the zombified corpses of the Jacobs boys, played by Kevin Nash, Sid, & some other huge dude, have perpetrated the murders. Their look can best be described as having the skin of an avocado. The story goes that thirty years ago, the Jacob boys were a clan of outcasts, ostracized from society because “they smelled.” One of the boys, the “slow” one, was accused of rape, and the girl’s father, the aforementioned Hix, got a lynching crew together, and you can guess the rest. Now they’re back for revenge, and it’s up to Kurt to make the riverbank safe yet again.

River of Darkness can best be described as “awkward.” The acting & dialogue is painfully stilted, devoid of emotion, which is odd seeing that these characters live in a small town, where I’m sure everyone knows each other and would probably feel pretty terrible that one of their own has been brutally massacred. The delivery of the lines feels like the character exchanges of a role-playing video game, and we are waiting for the button to be pressed so the next speech bubble appears. I was also confused by the random injection of the co-ed ghost adventurers and how their leader factors into the film’s climax.

Angle’s performance is disappointing, since as a wrestling fan, I know that he is capable of much more than pedestrian line delivery & stoic stares. His character actually has an interesting back-story, and it would have made him more sympathetic to see him overcome the animosity projected onto him by the townsfolk and defeat these zombies. Sadly, there is limited physicality between Angle & Nash, save for a brief throttling. I gave their scene together 2 1/4 stars.

Sid gets in on the slaughtering action only, albeit for a scene. This was actually my favorite part of the movie, as Sid’s excessive mugging while gutting someone with a knife reminds me of Umberto Lenzi’s zombie opus Nightmare City. If anything, River of Darkness is a lot like the Italian horror films from the ’80’s that relished in loads of gore & minimal logic. There was even a bit of mysticism with the crazy church lady that I wish was given more legs. I would also be remiss if I did not mention the bang-up acting job that Ray “Glacier” Lloyd does as the diner cook who got beat out by Angle as sheriff. He provides a good societal foil to the sheriff, with his penchant for finding Hix and sacrificing him to the Avocado boys. Believe it or not, but Glacier’s got some chops, AND he makes a mean turtle soup.

It is not fair to write off River of Darkness, since there is enough of a goofy charm in this low-budget affair that makes it worth watching. The make-up & gore, at least for the first half, is impressive, and the shot composition has a cold, eerie vibe that fits well with the overall theme of the movie. Plus, it’s always fun to see pro wrestlers on film engaging in endeavors outside the squared circle. So, as a wrestling media aficionado, or if you dig old Italian Euro-shock cinema, pick this up, watch it, and place on your DVD shelf next to The Chaperone & The House by the Cemetery.

River of Darkness is now available on DVD for purchase at www.NorthShore-Pictures.com. Thanks for reading! Be sure to follow me right now on Twitter (at www.Twitter.com/AngryHeroShawn), and check out my updated blog (located at www.FutureEndeavored.tumblr.com). Thanks for reading, and remember: Above all things, be a man!

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