Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass
by Jason Coffman
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Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass is the kind of film that raises a lot of questions— both in the film itself and in how the film was made and released to a mainstream audience— and does not bother to provide much in the way of satisfactory answers. After playing several genre film festivals, the film was picked up for a U.S. DVD release by Bloody Disgusting Selects. Most of the films released by Bloody Disgusting have been appropriately gruesome and mostly strongly genre-based, but Hellacious Acres bears virtually no resemblance to anything else they have released yet. And not necessarily in a good way.
After a brief introduction sets the stage, Hellacious Acres introduces the audience to John Glass as he awakes from a cryogenic deep-freeze in a wooden box located in an old barn. A recorded female voice explains that an apocalypse has ravaged the Earth, leaving it mostly uninhabitable, and that an ongoing war with alien creatures has wiped out much of what remained of humanity. John is being thawed out in order to carry out a mission to try to make the planet habitable again, which is an awful lot to deal with right after waking up from such a long nap.
John has no memory of his past or how he ended up in his situation, and his body is fused to the suit that he wears to protect him from the planet’s poisoned atmosphere. After he takes a minute to sit down and figure out what to do, John stumbles out of the barn and into a mostly uninhabited land that looks suspiciously like rural Canada. The few characters in the film all have a look similar to that of John: home-made outfits and weapons, frequently held together with duct tape, with not a single face or scrap of exposed flesh to be seen. Most of John’s adventures take place in and around barns and backyards, as he tries to figure out how to live in his new environment, avoid the floating aliens threatening him, and carry out his deceptively simple mission.
It’s pointed out on the cover art, so there’s no point in trying to pretend that watching Hellacious Acres isn’t a hell of a lot like watching somebody play Fallout 3 for a couple of hours. John has a forearm-mounted computer system that he uses to gain information, monitor his vital signs, and search his surroundings. He gracelessly stumbles around in order to avoid detection by aliens, and the few people he meets sound suspiciously like non-player characters planted to deliver cryptic bits of dialogue before they go on their way. Of course, Fallout is primarily located in urban locales, so perhaps it’s more accurate to say watching Hellacious Acres is like watching people LARPing a Fallout-style game in their backyards.
Which means we spend an awful lot of time watching faceless John in his full-body suit walking, standing or sitting around while spouting off angsty dialogue about how he wants his old life back and wants to remember how he got here. The film strands the viewer in the same situation, knowing as little as John himself, and the plot meanders as aimlessly as John does. This may have been interesting as a short of around 30 minutes, but at 108 minutes it wears out its welcome early and becomes a serious slog. There’s a nagging feeling that the whole thing is a joke, like another bizarre recent Canadian film, Rubber. Unfortunately, there’s not enough going on here to keep things interesting. Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass is a curious cult object, but it’s tough to imagine it finding an audience willing to sit through it repeatedly when they could just go home and play through Fallout 3 again instead.
The Collective/Bloody Disgusting Selects released Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass on DVD on 3 April 2012. Special features include 6 deleted and alternate scenes.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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