December 12, 2022 Heartland of Darkness (Movie Review)
Back in the 1980s home video viewing was born and with that came a plethora of material that may have never been seen or made before. A golden era in many ways, you would head out to the video store on a Friday night, perhaps bump into a neighbor while there, pick a few video tapes for the weekend, a pizza, and we’re all set. This in mind, during this time arguably the most compelling rack at the video store was always the one displaying the Horror films.
Of course, there were your standard selections, but there were also more bizarre Horror titles than your brain could process. Sometimes extremely low budget, oftentimes beyond absurd, whatever it might be it was a fun time to be a Horror fan. Fast forward 15 years or so, DVDs arrived, then Blu-rays, and in the winds of time thousands of titles never made the jump to new formats, thus becoming lost in obscurity forever. Then there were titles which never actually even saw the light of day on VHS… like Heartland of Darkness.
Sometimes referred to as Blood Church, the forgotten movie was shot in 1989 by Eric Swelstad (Lucky 13 2005, Frankenstein Rising 2010) on 16mm film. The director’s debut feature film, apparently a 35-minutes long print, was produced to send out to potential investors in order to gather additional funding. Well, that never happened and up until November 22, 2022, it never has been seen in full anywhere. Over thirty years of being shelved, it is often referred to as the ‘lost’ Linnea Quigley movie; a factor that alone should strike the curiosity of any dedicated Horror fan.
Well, thankfully there are companies like Visual Vengeance, a Blu-ray label who work hard to bring vintage ‘Shot on Video’ and micro budget genre independents to fans. Not only do they do that with Heartland of Darkness, they also manage to conjure up a slew of special features for the release including a documentary, commentaries, and some really fun promotional extras like a ‘stick your’ own VHS sticker set, a folded mini-poster of Linnea Quigley, and more! In all, they really go the extra mile to present this long-lost film in the best way possible. Now the question is, how is the film itself?
Well, chances are if you are even curious about a straight-to-video Horror film that was made on a micro budget in 1989 and never even released until 2022, you are probably not expecting an academy award winner. These expectations in mind, Heartland of Darkness is extremely low budget, and as a whole, the acting is pretty amateur. However, the story is pretty well thought out and given what Swelstad had to work with at the time, it is really not unwatchable, and for a Horror fan is potentially a lot of fun.
Of course, your selling point here is that Linnea Quigley stars in the film, and she is perhaps one of the biggest actresses from this era in Horror. Quigley of course stole the show in 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead, was fantastic in 1988’s Night of the Demons, gave a memorable performance in 1984’s Savage Streets, but also with lesser roles such as in 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night. In Heartland of Darkness you get vintage Linnea Quigley, again grabbing the audience’s attention with her unmistakable delivery and presence.
The only negative is that Quigley’s role is not bigger in Heartland of Darkness. Here, her character is a minion to the satanic Reverend Donovan (Nick Baldasare: Beyond Dream’s Door 1989, They Bite 1996) doing his evil bidding. Donovan, posing as a Christian, has an entire small Ohio town under a spell as he orchestrates ritualistic murders. Unfortunately for the unholy leader of black masses a big city journalist named Paul Henson (Dino Tripodis: Criminal Minds 1998, Goodnight Cleveland 2008) is new in town and hot on his trail. And this pretty much sums up the story.
So, is this enough to pique your interest to purchase this Visual Vengeance Collector’s Edition Blu-ray? That is up to you, but in truth it is worth it because you get a piece of ’80s Horror movie history never seen before, and that is something most real Horror lovers want. Sure, some of the dialogue is funny, as well as some of the action scenes, but that is part of the film’s enduring quality. All this in mind, Cryptic Rock splits the difference between the actual movie Heartland of Darkness and the going beyond expectations Blu-ray package released by Visual Vengeance to give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.