The Mill is a really weird slasher film that was directed by actor Grainger Hines in his only directorial role, and written by Harry L. Welch Jr. The weirdness whether on purpose or not is what at the very least makes this indie horror memorable. It takes a heck of a long time to get going but there were a few standout actors mixed in with all the non adventure.
Six friends, Shawn, Amber, Whitney, Jesse, Madison and Kyle have organised a private party at an abandoned mill. They plan to have plenty of sex and alcohol while there. As part of their plan they have befriended weird rich kid Nick (Robert Rainbolt) who can get keys to the mill as his father owns it, they also invite the geeky Cari along so that there isn't an odd number of boys and girls. As the party progresses the eight all separate into couples and head off to various parts of the mill, and it is here that each pair begins to run into trouble due to the animal infested building. Unknown to them all there is a hidden killer, someone who may well have a hand in the misery each of them are discovering.
The prologue takes place in the present with police and ambulance crews all over the mill, as a reporter explains that bodies of various high schoolers have been found after a massacre. The rest of the movie then skips back to the previous day to show how the friends all ended up dead. I do like that way of telling a story as it cements the fact that bad stuff is going to occur. My issue was how darn long it takes for anything to happen, I was clock watching and it was pretty much exactly halfway into the film that the first moment of horror occurs, that's 45 minutes into a 90 minute film. I guess it is good The Mill wasn't boring up to that point, but it sure didn't really do much to explain why the set-up took so long.
The eight main cast members are mostly middling actors, this made Rainbolt's performance all the more interesting. At first the character of Nick just seems like a bit of an oddball, he insists on messing around with a hand puppet much to the bemusement of his friends. As The Mill progresses it seems more and more that there is something psychologically wrong with the guy, even when he is on his own he is having conversations with the puppet. Rainbolt was fantastic at bringing this puppet to life, a fantastic deranged performance that even goes down to the movements of the thing. There was one scene where he was looking around, each direction he looked the puppet would turn and be looking in the opposite direction, really quite clever how much thought went into the physical motions of this. He was so good that it made the actual slasher fade into the background more than they already were doing, the slasher character felt like they were part of a subplot, especially when a lot of the kills don't even appear to have anything to do with them at all.
The tagline for the movie is 'Eight kids will enter. None will leave.' so it was no surprise that when the kills finally started there would be a fair few of them. In a strange twist many come from animals; dogs, spiders, snakes and rats all play a part, and when the killer does get involved you often just see their boots and occasionally a gloved hand. The kills were varied but they didn't display well on screen, often down to the editing that doesn't show much of anything. One character is even straight up killed off screen, one scene they are there and fine, then a few scenes later it is insinuated they have been offed off-screen. It would have been nice to see that actually happen. I think it is down to story reasons, and to give The Mill some credit there is a potentially neat little twist as to what is going on, however the editing is at times terrible. There are several flashback montages used to try and explain twists and revelations but the footage reused never seemed to be very relevant. It was often a case of guessing what the reveal was, rather than the confusing montages that seemed to use irrelevant bits of footage.
The Mill isn't a perfect film by any means, there are issues with how it was put together, and there was far too much build up to the meat of the horror. The motivations for the killer may make a vague kind of sense, but it was pure unbelievable luck how it all played out. Stopping to think about it there are no end of potential plot holes. The Mill is memorable however, helped no end by the bizarre character of Nick and his puppet, an atmospheric location, and the unique methods of animal inflicted death. The Mill will be available from Bayview Entertainment everywhere from May 11th, and can currently be pre-ordered at Amazon.