Not-so-cold Prey

manhuntdvdMANHUNT

2 Stars  2008/18/76m

“This year…it’s open season.”

Director: Patrik Syversen / Writers: Patrik Syversen & Nini Bull Robsahm / Cast: Henriette Bruusgaard, Jorn-Bjorn Fuller-Gee, Nini Bull Robsahm, Lasse Valdal, Janne Starup Bones, Helge Sween, Jeppe Laursen, Erlend Vetleseter.

Body Count: 9


I like mystery plots, whodunits and complex conspiracy thrillers but sometimes filmmakers take this a little too far. In the case of Norwegian Wrong Turn rip-off Manhunt, the mystery is why the hell any of what’s happening is happening?

Inexplicably set in that golden year for teen death, 1974 (so…that tagline should probably be “that year…it was open season” right?), for no other reason than to rob the characters of cellphones, I suppose, a quartet of teens in a VW Camper drive into the woods for some hiking. They stop at a diner, quarrel about picking up a traumatised young woman, pick her up, argue again, lose their keys and then get ambushed by a trio of backwoods hunters who want to kill them. Why? Shrug. No, really…why?

Perhaps the writers thought the true horror lay in the absence of motive but this factor doesn’t impress much when coupled with the less than likeable characters, all of whom have no particular story of their own save for obvious final girl Camilla, who’s going to go to a good school. It’s like I’ve known her forever.

Manhunt does succeed in creating some sub-Haute Tension style, uh… tension when Camilla is wandering alone through the dense forest while her buddies drop like flies. Strangely, she’s the only one who even attempts to fight back and offs all three psychos before staggering away. Notably, the whole film takes place in the daylight for a change, enabling us to witness some amateur pathology and hear some squishy cutting sounds.

Ultimately, it’s not a film you’d remember and, even at a mere 76 minutes, seems to drag. Cold Prey it ain’t, Texas Chain Saw it wants to be.

Harper’s Island: Episodes 10 & 11

harpersCumilative body count so far: 25

Dire-logue: “Of all the weddings I’ve been to, this one ranks…near the bottom.”

As we head towards the climax of the CBS slasherama-drama, things take a more serious tone; with everybody convinced Abby’s dad is the killer, the group tries to leave the island, thwarted by an explosion and the discovery that the cops sent to rescue them have also beed murdered. Holed up in The Cannery, suspicions and conjecture take over and Maggie’s insistence that the locals are immune to the death train is provded fatally wrong (for her, at least).

Escape attempts ensue as they split to try and find another boat around the back of the island and Jimmy’s bizarre survival of the dock explosion poses some new questions, all of which are shadowed when Abby comes face to face with the real John Wakefield (played by BSG‘s Callum Keith Rennie – who I love).

In Episode 11, with Sheriff Mills permanently out of the way, Wakefield steps it up a gear and assaults those hiding out in the bar, offing Nikki and Shane quicksmart and chasing the others out. So is he the killer, then? It’s a bit of a rubbish outcome if so… Rest assured, CBS said one of the final eight characters is also involved – but who? Madison just might have the answer to that – or does she? Meanwhile, two of my favourite characters are eliminated in an uncharacteristically sad scene of self-sacrifice followed by self-sacrifice, shrinking the number of surviving cast members (Wakefield excluded) down to ‘The Final Eight’.

July 11th sees the final two instalments back to back and, hopefully, a surprising and satisfying resolve.

VALENTINE by Tom Savage

valentine

What’s this? A book!?

Yes, it has been known that I once learned to read and even sometimes do so for pleasure! OK, so I went to Mallorca for a week and took this and a couple of others with me and came around to thinking, “hmm, Vegan Voorhees could stretch to reviewing a slasher book once in a while…” As there are a few around, or, such as this, novels that slasher films were based on.

Well, there’s almost nothing in common with the 2001 Jamie Blanks film of the same name beyond the very basic outline of the plot: pissed-off psycho offs girls who humiliated him years earlier. We don’t learn this for a while in the novel, instead, after an opening murder in a chapter named ‘Fire’, we meet our heroine Jill, a famous mystery writer who is receiving creepy Valentine’s cards, creepy calls, creepy everything really. Her friend Tara convinces her to hire a private detective and her artist-boyfriend Nate dotes on her between card deliveries and such.

We later discover that Jill was part of a college clique known as The Elements who played a particularly cruel prank on geeky classmate Victor Dimorta (‘victory over death’ – cool, huh?), which ended in one broken nose, some scratches and the boy’s expulsion. Some digging on Dimorta reveals that soon afterwards, he murdered his abusive parents and was sent to prison for 12 years, released and then disappeared. Jill stresses over everything, her shrink is murdered and her every move is observed from across the street by her stalker, who also bugs her phone and dons disguises to get close to her.

Flashback chapters paint us a picture of Dimorta’s preoccupation with killing The Elements. He got plastic surgery and entered each woman’s life shortly before Valentine’s Day on consecutive years, impressing her with his natural charisma before executing them on the anniversary of their ‘joke’, telling each who is before the kill, which is based around which ‘element’ she is (earth, wind, fire, water). Back in the present, Jill decides to skip town and goes to…summer camp. Well, sort of. A writer’s colony in an old summer camp and, as V-Day looms, it seems the killer is in her midst – or is he?

Valentine is, for the most part, a straight forward mystery opus, similar to James Patterson’s less detailed work (Savage doesn’t play nearly as much on the thoughts and feelings of his killer, his hatred for his quarry or the grislier details of their deaths), but once the identity of the killer is revealed and something that’s been staring us in the face since the first few pages becomes clear, the reason the book was chosen for a film is obvious, even if the two most powerful twists are all but ignored. It leaves you with the feeling that Savage sold Valentine on the power of his unveiling and the rest of story kind of fell into place around it, buying time with some red herrings and protracted details on Jill’s life when we’d rather read about Victor Dimorta’s evil plan.

An easy read, competently written, a little light on artistic flair but with an absolute killer twist!

Is it a game or is it their combined IQ?

7eventy5ive

7EVENTY 5IVE

3.5 Stars  2007/18/95m

“Play the game. Obey the rules. Pray for mercy.”

Directors/Writers: Brian Hooks & Deon Taylor / Additional Writer: Vashon Nutt / Cast: Brian Hooks, Jud Tylor, Wil Horneff, Antwon Tanner, Jonathan Chase, Cherie Johnson, Aimee Garcia, German Lagarreta, Rutger Hauer, Gwendoline Yeo, Josh Hammond.

Body Count: 29

Dire-logue: “Does it really matter whose fault it is? There’s a fucking psycho with an axe in this house – how about we blame him?”


The title could be 6ixty 2wo, 4orty 9ine or 8ighty 3hree for all its relevance to this back to basics students n’ slaughter flick, which I’m generously giving an extra star for its impressive midriff – more on that later. Things begin retro stylee with a group of kids at a sleepover making prank calls while their parents party in the lounge. They pick the wrong victim and an axe wielding maniac turns up at the house and chops up all the adults.

Ten years later (or twelve, depending on who’s talking), grown-up ringleader Marcus and his gaggle of friends – known as ‘The Crew’ – vacate campus for an end-of-finals party at rich boy Brandon’s house – which, of course, is in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, the other kids who survived the decade old massacre are being murdered and Rutger Hauer’s one-note detective is investigating the slayings with help from sexy chick Yeo.

Go on...you know YOU want to hang with 'The Crew'. Girl.

Go on…you know YOU want to hang with ‘The Crew’. Girl.

Apparently having learnt nothing from what happened before, Marcus gathers the party guests together for a game of ’75’, a crank call contest where the object is to dial a random number and keep whomever answers on the end of the line for 75 seconds, without them hanging up or realising it’s a joke. The golden rule is to conceal the number before dialling, an error Marcus’s dense friend Scott makes when they happen to ring up another psycho…

743Some time later in the evening, the door bell chimes and in steps a Parka-concealed killer, complete with massive axe and bloodlust. Yes, it’s a total rip off of Urban Legend at that very moment. However, this is forgiven as the massacre goes into overdrive and non-essential background teens are lined up and taken down in quick succession before the main group lock themselves away and argue about who’s fault it all is (see Dire-logue). More deaths ensue and the killer is revealed, but nothing is quite what we expected, despite some fairly big clues, flashed back to when the requisite exposition/buying-time scene occurs and, of course, Hauer (evidently waiting for the cheque to clear) and Yeo arrive right when it matters… Strangely, when faced with the killer’s explanation, Marcus still doesn’t admit that, y’know, maaaybe he should have learned that playing 75 results in D E A T H and should be left well enough alone.

744The twist, and what is alluded to from earlier in the film, is, along with the massacre supreme, what elevates 7eventy 5ive above the usual straight to DVD fare. Further stars may have been applied to the rating were it not for the characterisations. With no central female figure as the heroine – whiter-than-white girl Karina comes closest – main character shoes are filled by director/writer Hooks as Marcus and his short-fused pal Kareem, both of whom cave to fulfill the stereotypical ‘black guy’ role, expanded from the “brothers don’t last long” role of yesteryear, they may be the nearest thing to heroes here, but they’re just not likeable. Nor, it seems, are any of their friends. Karina is the indecisive and easily won-over girlfriend of cheater Brandon, while the other girls do ‘sassy’ and say ‘girl’ a lot, the token gay boy is camper than a row of pink tents and still manages to bag a burly cowboy for the night and the chubby guy is seen as a gross parody of himself. We want all of their I’m-33-playing-a-21-year-old-asses to DIE! …Girl!

"I pass for a college student...really I do!"

“I pass for a college student…really I do!”

Unfortunately, awful characters are a bacterial disease in modern horror, it’s just easier than making any of them worth two shits. Mercifully, 7eventy 5ive gets by on a well-written mystery element and evident respect for making the genre fast and fun. The only certainty is that as many people who say it’s better than the norm will call it wretched crap, but those people have probably only seen two dozen slasher flicks anyway.

745Blurbs-of-interest: Aimee Garcia was in Cruel World; Josh Hammond was in Dead Above Ground and Jeepers Creepers II. Deon Taylor later directed the confusing (but gory) Chain Letter.

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