Like a down-home Bermuda Triangle, an abandoned patch of land outside a small town in rural Tennessee becomes the site of several unexplained disappearances. Will an intrepid crew of low-budget filmmakers solve the mysteries, or be the next to vanish?
Title: Howard’s Mill
Cast and Crew
Director: Shannon Houchins
Writers: Shannon Houchins, Kathryn Lyn
Josefina M Boneo as Kaiser Whitmire
Mark Cabus as Kenneth Fischer
Jeremy Childs as Wayne Richie
Reegus Flenory as Dwight Nixon
Katie Groshong as Terra Edwards
Mark Haining as Stan Edwards
Shira Lacy as Emily Nixon
Santiago Cirilo as Daniel Lopez
Bob Daniel as Bart Houchins
Rodger D. Eldridge as Pastor Kilgore
Mykie Fisher as Edward Baker
Emerson Lane as Sarah Winston
Jessejames Locorriere as Roger Winston
Tiffany Montgomery as Heather Cole
Justin Prince Moy as Charlie Burris
Joseph P. Scott as Mike Shamban
Ashley Shelton as Glynis Williams
Carey Van Driest as Mandy Allen
Danny Vinson as Detective Dan Thompson
Steve Wedan as Bobby Latta
Some documentary filmmakers head to a small town to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a woman. She’s not the only mystery in town, however, and soon our protagonists find themselves part of sinister happenings.
A little girl once vanished here. She turned up years later, still young and freshly drowned, in a pond put in after her disappearance. On another occasion, a different little girl turned up near the property, her origin unknown.
Increasingly, the explanation for the mystery seems to lie with otherworldly powers. On cue, a local insists on the existence of mysterious figures who haunt the area. This tracks: everyone knows that extra-terrestrials and spectres are drawn like tornadoes to hick towns and trailer parks.
The mysteries are disturbing, and the discoveries in the basement room play as genuinely creepy.
The film features a moment where three people are searching the area where the mysterious disappearances took place and the voice-over says, “we decided to split up in order to cover more ground.” I know the line is a bit of misdirection but they wouldn’t say or do this, and it makes the characters sound eye-rollingly stupid.
Apparently, they have never seen a horror movie. Heck, they’ve never even watched an episode of Scooby-Doo.
Effects: 3/6 Low budget, but generally effective.
Production: 4/6 The filmmakers make the most of limited resources.
Acting: 4/6 Howard’s Mill is no Oscar-winner, but it features some decent performances. Reegus Flenory does well as a man haunted by events he cannot explain and which have put him under suspicion. Other performances might be charitably describe as uneven.
Story: 4/6 The story builds suspense in the first half. Fans of SF/horror/fantasy/comics will see the implied explanation coming a country mile off.
Emotional Response: 4/6
Overall: 4/6 You know, Blair Witch was a long time ago, as pop culture sees things. I grant these filmmakers have found a newish take on fake documentary/found footage horror, and grafted their story onto an actual location. They work hard to make it all seem real. Ultimately, the numerous planted references online indicating this all really happened are all very silly. The story, by the end, feels about as believable as The Amityville Horror or Vladimir Putin’s smile. The credits clearly indicate we’re watching actors perform in a scripted film.
It’s a passable horror movie. It’s the 2020s. Let it stand on its own merits, separate of its dated advertising strategy. On those grounds, Howard’s Mill is…. okay.
In total, Howard’s Mill receives 26/42