Sunday, June 21, 2009

“I should’ve stayed in the dead box!”

I’m not big on the horror genre in general. It, along with the sports movie genre, is not an area I feel compelled to frequent with any, er, frequency. However, I am always willing to give things a shot, and genre movie nights are always fun evenings. Laid to Rest (2009) is a new movie, a straight-to-video 90 minute indie slasher flick.

An attractive young woman wakes up in a coffin in a funeral home. After getting herself free, she escapes from a mute murderer who wears a silver skull mask before being helped out by a guy and his wife. Blood and guts ensue.

The Girl/Princess: Our heroine, she’s had a nasty bump on the head and can’t remember her identity or the names of things/places too well. Sadly, this makes her sound like a student of the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good. Like many heroines in slasher flicks, she goes from being a terrified victim to the last one standing and having to face the killer alone. Really though, she swings from terrified victim to determined to face him, back to helplessly terrified to grim determination. Its jarring, and her survival through most of the film feels really, really, really, really forced because she, like the rest of the characters, is too dumb to live.

Tucker: The kindly redneck who picks up The Girl in his truck, which is without any fuel whatsoever. Walks with a serious limp, is devoted to his wife (300’s Lena Heady who only sticks around for a little bit) and didn’t really annoy me that much. Has a pickup truck in the deep south, but shockingly doesn’t have a gun rack.
Steven: A nerd who’s mother died very recently. Dragged into things against his will, has a couple bright ideas but mostly whines a lot.
ChromeSkull: The mysterious, masked killer. Has a number of odd quirks. Let’s explore! 1) Bald. 2) A serial killer of attractive young women with a weird OCD complex about filming them with an 8mm camera. 3) Has an 8mm camera that needs frequent tape changes, but also has a sophisticated cell phone and GPS system. Why doesn’t he have a digital camera?? 4) His name is also his license plate. Yes really. He has a nasty/odd looking bowie knife that has a serrated side and a normal side. He saws peoples’ heads off using the normal side. Let that sink in. 5) Has a weird obsession with gluing his mask back on at various points in the film, which comes in handy by the end. 6) That mask looks like a vac-metallized piece of plastic, but it happens to be able to deflect bullets. 7) He wears a sport coat. The lighting was mostly dim, but that’s what it looked like. 8) Likes putting his camera on his shoulder so he can look like the Predator aliens, but it also leads to choppy/bouncy picture quality. Of course, Chromey is the silent type, so we get no explanation of who he is or why he does it. He just kills women and anybody who gets in his way just because. I suppose you could infer that he’s “an artist” type, obsessed with setting up the shots, but that damn shoulder cam is not an effective way of handling things. He’s just there, kills people with a silly gimmick and is a pretty boring villain.

Visuals (Direction/Effects)
The director of this film is Robert Hall, a man who has previously cut his teeth on special effects. The good news is that he’s very, very good at special effects. Blood, gore, making fatal injuries look realistic, that sort of thing. For the slasher genre, that’s pretty much the primary draw of this film. People are killed in graphic, graphic ways. What this says about the target audience’s sanity is neither here nor there, but the movie certainly kills lots of characters. If you do happen to read this and get your cinematic jollies on gory death scenes that bend/outright break the laws of physics/anatomy/bone density, I won’t spoil your fun. This movie has them, and for what it is, it does them well.
The bad news is that the lighting, editing and so on are frequently confusing. There were points where I missed something or didn’t know what was going on exactly. The pacing was also rather…off. After The Girl escapes from the funeral home she’s running through the woods/side of the road/wherever at night, understandably panicked, but clearly having bought herself some safety and then the title pops up out of nowhere. While I may not be well versed in the horror genre, I thought the title popped up at a generally tense/suspenseful/payoff moment. This one just felt…random. I didn’t feel much suspense and/or tension for most of the film.
Robert Hall wears many hats for this film, serving as writer as well. As I said above, he’s very good at special effects. Characterization and pacing, not so much. ChromeSkull is a non-entity with no personality whatsoever, and the three “heroes” that most of the movie focuses on don’t really have anything to really make you like them. They might get a little bit more meat than your average Jason victim, but they’re too bland to make you want to follow them the whole movie. Its not so much that you're sitting there wanting to see them butchered for your entertainment, but that you'd rather leave them alone and find more interesting characters to follow for 90 minutes. Sadly, this does not happen.
The sound was all right. Some industrial/techno music would blare during the intense scenes to hammer home the “this is action-packed!!” idea. There was a point where Chromey used his cell phone to “speak” by having it speak text in the sounds of his various previous female victims. It had potential, but wasn’t followed up on.

It was a very long 90 minutes. A bad movie will do that. I had no expectations going in and they were not met. My horror-movie loving friends were sorely disappointed with it as well, so it wasn’t just me in the room unable to recommend it.

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