Written by Patti Pauley
If you’re a resident of Las Vegas, around the Halloween season you’ve probably explored the many haunts the city has to offer. And chances are you’ve stumbled into JT Mollner’s family owned Trilogy Of Terror that rests in a desolate desert lot off the 215. Tourists may be easily fooled by so-called “haunts” that lay near conveniently near the infamous Las Vegas Strip, but locals (like myself) know where to go to get a GOOD scare, and that my friends is Freakling Bros. all the way. However, Master of fright Mollner doesn’t just dabble in Halloween haunts. He’s also an accredited filmmaker with such short films under his belt as, The Red Room, Flowers In December (starring horror icon Dee Wallace), and now a full-length western-horror-thriller- Outlaws and Angels.
Francesca Eastwood as Flo Tilden
Before my viewing of the Sundance Festival hit, I was already concerned about how I was going into it regarding my feelings about “westerns” in general. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the genre. It’s honestly just not my type of my movie, and there’s very few I can actually swallow. However beyond that, I really didn’t know a WHOLE lot about it, other than it was made by my favorite haunt entrepreneur; and going in blind is exactly how you want to approach this film. So I want to avoid a ton of plot details for future viewers, as I put this this into the same audience-mindset category as 10 Cloverfield Lane. The less you know, the more you’re going to love and appreciate all the WTFs this movie has in store.
The film is set in the wild days of the Frontier in the late 1800s, where you were either a good law-abiding Christian that works night and day, or an outlaw on the run. Was there really ever an in-between in those days? As I sat down with my bowl of popcorn and pushed the play button, I almost choked on a kernel in a seriously epic WTF moment within the first two minutes of this film. That’s when I knew this wasn’t some ordinary Western thriller. This was a film that qualifies for the Western-Horror sub-genre. Much like last year’s Bone Tomahawk, this film has a lot of gore and scenes that WILL make you squeamish. Commonly, the use of gore is a substitute for good storytelling. However, Outlaws and Angels doesn’t overcompensate for anything here. The balance of a unique plot, a haunting score behind it, and beautiful visuals through the camera lens make this sub-genre Horror-Western a piece of art that any true lover of movies will absolutely appreciate in all its glory.
This film kept me glued to the screen from start to finish with plenty of plot twists to keep me interested in how things were going to play out with the characters involved. Without spoiling TOO much, the story revolves around a home-invasion led by outlaw on the run Henry played by Chad Michael Murray (House Of Wax) and his obedient band of thugs who force their way into the town preacher’s (Ben Bowder) home, where he resides with his wife (Teri Polo) and two daughters (Francesca Eastwood- daughter of infamous Clint Eastwood, and Madison Beaty). Luke Wilson (Old School) acts as Josiah, a bounty hunter on the trail of Henry and his gang along with his own set of comrades which includes Steven Michael Quezada (Breaking Bad). The home-invasion plot fuels a back-story for one unlikely character and births a new beginning of merciless revenge against those who really have it coming. It all comes together quite nicely when all the pieces of the puzzle finally fit and ending on a satisfying note for me as a viewer.
Now, I can’t leave this review without talking about Chad Michael Murray for a split-hair second. I was absolutely blown away by the former One Tree Hill star’s acting chops regarding his gritty role as Henry. He is a joy to watch as a scumbag outlaw (with a few moral exceptions), not overly dramatic as some actors tend to overdo the whole western accent going full John Wayne when it isn’t necessary. It felt more like Kurt Russell was his spirit animal. And I have to acknowledge it was a breath of fresh air to see him in a role one normally wouldn’t think to see him in.
You can currently rent or buy Outlaws and Angels over at Amazon by clicking here, and I would urge any lovers of Western, psychological thrillers, or gore-hounds to immediately give this film a look-see.