Movie Review: BADLANDS OF KAIN (2016)

Two girls on a cross-country road trip in their clearly less-than-reliable VW bug – what could go wrong?!  As you’ll quickly learn in the latest directorial effort from The Funhouse Massacre‘s Andy Palmer, this adventure was doomed from the start.

Shannon (Rachelle Dimaria) and Kris (Katrina Norman) head out on a road trip to re-kindle their friendship but don’t get very far before their car breaks down right outside of a sleepy, little town called Kain.  After calling for help, tow truck driver Terry (Super Troopers Paul Soter) arrives and takes them back to Kain for the night while their car is being fixed.  Upon meeting several of the odd residents of town, they soon realize things aren’t what they seem and getting out will be a lot harder than they ever expected.

While it’s not exactly the most original of storylines, Badlands of Kain is a pretty fun watch that feels like a modern, extended episode of The Twilight Zone.  I can imagine that some viewers would find cause to complain regarding the predictability of the movie but the story (written by Dimaria) and the way it was presented was done in a way that didn’t feel like it was rushed or churned out to be just another thriller.

The pacing (coming in at 1hr 48min) is a bit noticeable but never in a bad way; it only helps accentuate the sense of unease that you feel as you’re waiting on the big reveal because you know it’s coming, and you know what it probably is, but you don’t know when it’s all going to go down.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some brooding, dark thriller (it’s creepy, for sure), there are plenty of moments that felt lighter than others.  Perhaps they were a way of keeping you from fully figuring it all out too early on – in any case, it all just worked.

On the subject of the cast, the two female leads were a good choice but Norman’s character, Kris, was pretty much unlikeable the entire time, but I think that might have been how they wrote her in.  Her actual acting felt a tad over-the-top at times, but it’s largely forgivable because Dimaria as Shannon held it up just fine.  Paul Soter’s main work in comedy might have actually helped the role more than expected.  Of course, we all know him as the “meow guy” from Super Troopers, so to see him in a “bad guy” role was definitely different and it showed he’s capable of diverse characters other than the goofy, likeable dude (he still was a little likeable in Kain).  The supporting characters, including Terry’s brother, Mack (Jordan Belfi), all had something to lend to the movie and none really felt unnecessary.

Badlands of Kain probably won’t be your favorite movie of the year, but it’s one I won’t feel bad about telling you that you should watch this week.

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