Are you familiar with a film called C.H.U.D.? Well, writer/director Drew Fortier (Attack of Life: The Bang Tango Movie) certainly is. His first feature Dwellers (not to be confused with Dwellers: The Curse of Pastor Stokes) could be described as a found-footage version of the 1984 cult favourite.
Dwellers is also the first film from Ellefson Films, headed by former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson who makes an appearance playing himself. That’s as opposed to his more recent appearance on camera playing with himself. The trailer for the film first appeared in November of 2019 and the film is just getting released now. Was it worth the wait, or should it have been left to dwell on a shelf?
The film opens with a radio DJ talking about the disappearance of filmmakers Drew Fortier (Drew Fortier), James L. Edwards (James L. Edwards, The Dead Next Door, WrestleMassacre) and Douglas Esper (Douglas Esper, Anathema) before cutting to Esper alive and being interrogated by Inspector Dotani (Omar Baig, Let’s Make a Movie) who may or may not be a cop.
Drew was hired by Ellefson to make a documentary on the homeless, but hasn’t managed to get it made. Under threat of a lawsuit, he needs to get that remedied right away. So the three of them begin interviewing local street people and begin to hear about people disappearing. A local cop Detective Jenkins (Rick Jermain, Pungo: A Witch’s Tale, Milfs vs. Zombies) doesn’t seem too concerned, however.
Thankfully all this only takes up the first half-hour of Dwellers, because, to put it mildly, it’s pretty dull even by found footage standards. Ellefson’s rant at Drew and Drew’s subsequent rant in his car is amusing. But apart from that, it’s all pretty dull and the three leads are lacking in any kind of charisma. Watching them try and interview the local homeless population is painful.
Once they go underground into the tunnels Dwellers picks up a bit. They’re almost immediately robbed by a knife-wielding homeless guy, He in turn is promptly killed by something lurking in the dark. The trio sees security cameras in the tunnels. Something strange is obviously going on.
Unfortunately, Dwellers doesn’t do much with any of this. It’s all linked to some unnamed government agency and some kind of cover-up. But what agency and what they’re covering up is never explained. Nor do we find out what the creatures are. We don’t even get a good look at them for that matter. A few shots of their hands and a glimpse of a face, that’s it.
Apart from being a monster film without much of a monster, Dwellers also suffers from looking like it was all shot in the same few feet of tunnel. And most of the homeless that we meet are remarkably clean and well dressed. Worst of all, the constant cutting back to and from the interrogation room breaks any sort of mood the footage in the tunnel manages to establish.
A good idea that went badly wrong Dwellers feels as half-assed as the documentary Drew is filming. It was as if there was no real script, just an outline and some badly improvised dialogue all shot on any location that happened to be available. Amazingly that didn’t stop it from winning a pile of awards on its festival run. Granted they were at fests I’d never heard of before, but it’s still surprising.