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Derelicts (2017) Review

Derelicts is a bit of a rarity, it’s a Thanksgiving set horror film. In the USA, Thanksgiving is second only to Christmas among holidays. It actually is the biggest day of the year for travel. And since it’s so close to election day, it’s also the biggest day for tense and awkward family dinners.

But it hasn’t gotten much attention from the horror community. For years, all we had was Home Sweet Home, starring Jake “Body By Jake” Steinfeld as an escaped mental patient on PCP. Now we also have Thankskilling and a segment of Holiday Hell. But that’s nothing compared to Christmas, Halloween and even New Year’s Eve. Can director Brett Glassberg (ABCs of Death 2.5 segment M is for Mind Meld) and his co-writers Andre Evrenos and Clay Shirley change that?

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It’s Thanksgiving morning and one dysfunctional suburban family is getting ready to face the day. Gregg (David Lee Hess, Frazier Park Recut) is the unemployed father turned househusband, Constance (Kelly Dealyn, Get Backers) is his wife who has replaced him with her career. Leslie (Dalton Allen) and Barbara (Emily Ammon) are their troubled teens. And Constance’s father Paul (Steve Uzzell, Santa Barbara, The Legend of Billy Jean) and his girlfriend Bev (Lana Dieterich, Holy Hell, Teeth) are subjecting everyone to their frequent, extremely loud sex.

What they don’t know is Constance’s brother and his son won’t be joining them. They’ve been ambushed by Cap (Les Best, Scare Package, Nothing But the Blood) and his family of derelicts, Sal (Clay Shirley), his little sister Bo (Kara Mellyn) and special child Turk (Andre Evrenos). And Cap’s adopted war buddy Black Forrest (Sam Pleasant, Urban Justice). It’s going to be a holiday dinner none of them will forget. If they survive.

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Derelicts was not the home invasion film I was expecting. It’s got a nasty streak to it that gives it the feel of something like the original Last House on the Left or Fight for Your Life without that film’s racial angle. And while Turk is meant to be Leatherface in a fuzzy mask, the family as a whole reminded me of the homeless clan in Chad Ferrin’s Attack in LA aka Parasites crossed with Rob Zombie’s Firefly family. 

And that’s where I have an issue with Derelicts. It really wants to make a point about the nature of families and which of the families is the “better” of the two. But just as I couldn’t share Zombie’s respect for his creations, I couldn’t get behind this bunch either. I’m just not buying the idea that some bunch of sadistic killers have more value than a normal family, no matter how dysfunctional.

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Stepping away from that and looking at Derelicts as a horror film, though, it’s an effectively nasty film. It holds off on much of the action and gore until the last act, but we get plenty of psychological torment and nastiness along the way. It’s actually something of a relief when the shit finally hits the fan. Much of the violence is on the screen and depicted without CGI. Unfortunately, the budget kept a couple of fairly nasty deaths from being shown.

And while some of the indignities Derelicts inflicts upon its cast may be predictable, the ending wasn’t. It’s equally effective and fittingly logical. It might also make you think that listening to your drunken uncle rant about how Trump was cheated out of the election not seem so bad.

Terror Films will premiere Derelicts on the Kings of Horror YouTube Channel Friday, November 13th. This will include a live chat with the filmmakers and some of the cast. The film will remain on the channel for a 6-week exclusive window before hitting multiple digital platforms beginning Christmas Day. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.

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