First off, I just want to say thank you to Chris Gamble the writer and Audrey Cummings the director for allowing me an early access viewing to their low-budget home invasion film “Berkshire County”. You guys are the reason I get to review these really cool and impressive indie films that otherwise wouldn’t be seen by people like me on the other side of the world. Berkshire County is a film about, bullied and insecure teen Kylie Winters (played by Alysa King), who reluctantly agrees to babysit two children on Halloween. The family lives in an isolated mansion in the hills and what starts out as just a normal night quickly turns into a nightmare. Shortly after Kylie puts the kids to bed she gets a knock at the door and it’s not trick or treaters. Put in an impossible situation she must stand up and fight back if she and the children are to survive the night. The film also stars Madison Ferguson, Cristophe Gallander, Samora Smallwood and Aaaron Chartrand.
Now most of you are probably thinking if you have seen one of these home invasion type slasher films you have seen them all right?? “The Strangers”, “You’re Next”, “Madison County” and so on and so on. In most cases I’d say that’s true but then again most people I know who watch these types of films know exactly what they are in for so don’t complain when it just ends up being more of the same stuff! I can say from a personal point of view I’m never going to get sick of armed intruders in masks holding people hostage and trying to get in their homes and if you’re not either Berkshire County might just be for you!
Let’s talk about director Audrey Cummings, like me most of you have probably never heard of her but I guarantee that after this film you will because she has quiet an eye for the finer details. The little nuances that certain directors pull off in films like this help separate them from the mass of others directing these same types of films. Berkshire County opens with a glorious suspenseful score and what I can only imagine is some beautiful camera work shot from a crane of sorts?? Any who, whatever it is it looks fantastic. I really get a great vibe when a film starts off with something simple but effective. The crew for this film make great use of minimal locations and the mansion that most of the film takes place in looks amazing inside and out. It’s got hidden rooms, spiral staircases and old style architecture that gives the entire look of the film a different feel. The editing between scenes is very smooth and the music choices pretty diverse and most of the songs work well.
Now, these types of films normally don’t live up to the hype of their trailers. Home invasion movies are mostly only a success if the suspense builds and continues to build until the tension is at an all time high. I’m happy to say Berkshire County succeeds in that department. I think the film sells itself successfully by the level of suspense it manages to maintain throughout the running time. Most of it isn’t generated in the action or chase sequences like you would think, it’s in the chilling sound effects and creepy score as the masked intruders navigate through the house, Ohh boy I loved it! Many props go out to Chris Gamble for his ideas about the character of Kylie. The opening 20 minutes becomes a great setup for the rest of the film. Chris has written a flawed but realistic character who doesn’t have much self-confidence and that’s something we can all relate with on some level or another. When Kylie finally decides to face her fears and get up and fight back you end up getting a transition reminiscent of Sidney Prescott (Scream).
Majority of the acting is pretty impressive and the film relies heavily on young and inexperienced Alysa King but she just takes it all in her strides and plods along with a pretty damn convincing portrayal of Kylie. A few inconsistent moments probably hold her back from winning an indie performance of the year or such, but none the less I was impressed.
We cannot ignore the fact that the idea has to lose points on originality regarding the entire plot but mostly the masks aspect. Like I said, it doesn’t bother me all that much I really dig the masks, but yes even though they look great it’s been done before in countless movies and I’m sure it will be done again. I saw a poster floating around online showing the comparisons between one of the “You’re Next” posters and Berkshire County as well as “The Porkchop Series” or “Madison County”, but that doesn’t make this any less of a success. I thought the audio levels could have been a little bit higher in a few scenes and early on in the film the camera shakes a little bit but that’s quickly sorted out after the first 10 or so minutes.
The two weaker parts of the film were in some of the dumb decisions made by characters in order to progress the plot. At one stage Kylie has a weapon and is basically snuck up on by one of the intruders but she isn’t actually attacked and instead winds up dropping said weapon and running away(uh duh, hold onto it). I didn’t find the police to be overly believable and they took a long time to respond. As soon as you see signs of a struggle you tend to be a little bit more cautious moving forward, but this lot of dummies were definitely not. The action sequences are few and far between and occur mostly towards the end of the film but the couple that were shown looked pretty cool. I’m a harsher judge when it comes to blood and gore because I tend to like my horror’s with plenty of the red stuff but I understand that probably wasn’t the intention here.
A couple of cool simple twists couple with a technically well made film and some nicely executed performances make Berkshire County one of the best indie low-budget films that I have seen this year. I’m not sure what the budget was but at a guess I would say in between $100,000- $200,000, but don’t quote me on that. If you know what you are in for and you enjoy a good home invasion film you can’t go wrong with this one, it deserves the highest of accolades and trust me it’s “good until the last oink” 😉
My rating for “Berkshire County” is 7.5/10