‘Berkshire County’ is pure boilerplate home invasion horror. The film by first-time director Audrey Cummings is well crafted and clearly made with affection for the genre. Unfortunately, the script is little more than a Xerox of horrors past that adds nothing new to its borrowed ideas.
Alysa King stars as a teen girl who opens the film in a millennial bullying bind. She made the boneheaded mistake of hooking up with a jock douchebag at a party, which his even douchier friends filmed and posted on the internet. So now she’s getting bullied all over school. To make matters worse, it’s Halloween and she has agreed to babysit some brats in a house deep in the woods. (See where this is going?) After a fairly uneventful night, a trick-or- treater in a pig mask knocks on her door. He also has a few grown buddies with their own pig masks and knives. Soon, King is hiding around the house with only a 911 operator for company – one who seems suspiciously calm about the whole scenario. Hmmm…
Yep, it’s your usual home invasion shocker, and it’s pretty hard to take seriously after Adam Wingard made mocking mincemeat of the genre’s clichés in his brilliant flick ‘You’re Next‘. It’s impossible not to compare the two films given that the villains of Berkshire County even wear similar masks and costumes.
To be fair to Audrey Cummings and her filmmaking team, ‘Berkshire County’ is rather well made on a technical level. The cinematography is slick, the editing is timed right, and the sets are richly evocative. For a low budget debut, the movie looks and moves quite well. There was clearly plenty of burgeoning talent involved in mounting the production, and they may well prove themselves more effectively in the future.
Unfortunately, the screenplay that everyone signed onto and put all of that hard work into really wasn’t worth their efforts. It’s as if screenwriter Chris Gamble had never seen a home invasion movie before. As a result, he thought he’d somehow invented something that the audience wouldn’t be two steps ahead of at all times. There’s not a beat to the screenplay that isn’t tediously predictable. From the stale fake-scares in the opening half to the tiresome third act twists that are visible from a mile away, the film’ script doesn’t bother to add a single thing to its dusty premise. Perhaps the movie will work for Netflix scrollers next Halloween, if they’ve never experienced this genre before. However, anyone who’s been down this road will likely turn the movie off within 30 minutes because they’ll be able to imagine a better ending than the person who actually wrote it.
It’s tough to be too hard on a film like this. Chances are that the financing came from a horror production company that chooses its projects based on popularity over ingenuity. Horror is a rare genre with a fan base so passionate that they’re willing to watch just about anything, even if they’re fickle and snobby enough to dismiss most of it after falling for the easy marketing tricks.
Even a movie as tiresomely repetitive as ‘Berkshire County’ will find an audience, especially since it’s so slickly produced. Sadly, that’s just how the genre works, but that’s a real shame. Horror fans deserve at least a few twists. It’s hard to imagine that someone capable of crafting a suspense set-piece as well as Cummings isn’t acutely aware of the failings of the barrel-scraping B-movie script that she was stuck with. Hopefully, the movie at least gets enough eyeballs on it for Cummings to get another chance to direct a far better screenplay. The gal clearly has talent; now she needs to find material worthy of it.