The really bad ones you stare at, slack-jacked, like a grisly road accident that so distracts you it’s a wonder you don’t wind up in the ditch yourself.
“Eminence Hill” is like that, a Western so ugly, inept and endless that you marvel at the number of people who had to sign off on thinking, “This could be pretty good,” and “That fellow who made ‘Redemption?’ He knows what he’s doing.”
The whole picture can be summed up in a bit of torture, where a hammer is used to break a gunfighter’s hand. Knowing where to put the camera so that the hammer-swinger can take a full whack, and where to edit so that we believe a hand has just been crushed, is first year film school stuff.
Robert Conway slept late that day. Apparently.
It’s a meandering sagebrush saga that begins with a quartet of rogues hunting down the jury that hang the brother of the gang’s leader (Clint James). He talks a farmer’s ear off before he guns him and his wife down as he was the last juror.
Their daughter (Anna Harr)? “Unspoiled” and thus, sellable to “the savages.”
A lawman (Owen Conway, sibling to Robert, co-writer of the script) might look like a city dandy, but he’s awfully handy with a gun, and notorious. He takes a horse thief (Charlie Motley) out of jail to track down the outlaws.
And the outlaws? After run ins with Apaches and a snake oil salesmen, they stumble into the hidden town of the film’s title, a cult that dresses like Quakers and tortures like the Marquis de Sade.
Grizzled veterans of the screen Barry Corbin, in Westerns from “Lonesome Dove” to “No Country for Old Men,” and Lance Henriksen, whose first screen credit was the Western “Emperor of the North” back in the ’70s (better known for “Alien 3″”and “The Quick and the Dead”), are top billed. But that’s just to get our interest up and lend legitimacy, as they aren’t the stars and are blameless.
Dominique Swain shows where you end up when you start your career making a sordid “Lolita” for Adrian Lyne. Nude scenes pushing 40, out in the Arizona desert in the dead of night. Roughing it.
The rest of the players you won’t know unless you spend your Netflix time perusing the C-Westerns of recent vintage.
There are endless stumblings across other folks gathered round a campfire out on the trail, which begin with “We don’t want no trouble” begging for coffee, maybe, and “a simple passage of words.”
Almost all of these leaden, cement-footed scenes talk us to death before they resolve themselves in bloodshed.
The talking reaches a sort of peak with Henricksen’s cameo, showing up in a worn Confederate sergeant’s uniform, recognizing the “marshal” as “a child killer.”
“Some things need to be said,” he speechifies, in the manner of pretty much everybody else in this thing. “In a hundred years, only a time or two has Hell has spat out such a man as this.”
The picture waddles here and there, spills lots of blood, reaches its climax, and then goes on and on past it.
Too much of a good thing? Don’t be ridiculous.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, sex, profanity, drinking, spitting
Cast: Clint James, Anna Harr, Owen Conway, Charlie Motley, Dominque Swain, Barry Corbin and Lance Henriksen
Credits: Directed by Robert Conway, written by Robert Conway and Owen Conway. An Uncork’d release.
Running time: 1:40