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THE DIVIDING HOUR

An interesting relic from the digital revolution of the late 90’s/early 00’s. The film has been wildly overrated by many, but isn’t entirely undeserving of its cult status.

The Package
     THE DIVIDING HOUR was made for a reported $7,000 on Hi-8 video back in 1998, and was initially distributed (on VHS) at horror conventions. It drew praise from the likes of Harry Knowles, Guillermo Del Toro, Bruce Campbell and Roger Ebert, who apparently placed it on a “Top Cult Movies of all Time” list (so claims the DVD cover).
     I’m not sure how much money the film, which was heavily recut for its 2003 DVD release, made, but it has garnered a sizeable cult following. As for its talented director Mike Prosser, it took him over a decade to complete another feature, 2010’s RECOVERY.

The Story
     Four dumb-assed punks are on the run following a violent heist. They crash their car on a country road and hitch a ride to a secluded farmhouse. This place is inhabited by a near-catatonic farmer and his wife, who for some reason let this violent foursome stay with them.
     Odd occurrences begin almost immediately. A refrigerator is empty one moment and well-stocked the next. A strange figure is glimpsed in the woods bordering the house. Horrific dreams assail the quartet, who spend much of their waking hours arguing and fighting. One of them attempts to rape the farmer’s wife, which causes a permanent breach in the group.
     A couple of the guys hit the road, only to be informed by a passing motorist that they’re actually dead. Back in the house that claim is confirmed by the farmer’s wife. She winds up shot in the back of the head by one of the punks, as does her husband--who, as his assassin points out, “looks the same as he did before.”
     After that things really get weird. The clocks go haywire, as the “Dividing Hour” is apparently at hand, and the protagonists have to accept their true nature as dead people. One of them doesn’t, and suffers a bizarre metamorphosis.

The Direction
     You’ll have to forgive a fair amount in this film, which suffers from outdated video stock (it actually looks better in its initial VHS version than the “Newly Remastered” DVD) and muffled sound recording. The filmmakers also made a common indie film mistake in casting themselves and their relatives in the lead roles, resulting in protagonists that are unmemorable and lacking in charisma. Furthermore, THE DIVIDING HOUR is a product of its time in many respects, with wisecracking criminal protagonists right out of a Quentin Tarantino movie (though without the fine acting and brilliant dialogue of Tarantino’s films); Tarantino buffs will also recognize the moniker “The Gimp” in the end credits.
     Yet for all that the film was crafted with a great deal of skill. Director Mike Prosser has an eye for striking visual compositions that (nearly) offset his muddy imagery. The film is also admirably stately and expansive pacing-wise (eschewing the music video editing so prevalent during the 1990s), and its gradual shift from quirky crime drama to full-blown supernatural chiller smooth and unobtrusive. As for the last act monster effects, they’re extremely primitive but startlingly effective nonetheless.
 

Vital Statistics

THE DIVIDING HOUR
Playground Films

Director: Mike Prosser
Producer: Mike Prosser, Jeff Yarnall, Greg James, David Walker
Screenplay: Mike Prosser, David Walker
Cinematography: Jeff Yarnall
Editing: Michael Prosser, Jeff Yarnall
Cast: Mike Prosser, Brian Prosser, Brad Goodman, Greg James, Jillian Hodges, Jay Borenstein, Max Yoakum, “The Gimp”

     

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