Now this was a pleasant surprise. Most straight-to-video horror movies with generic titles like Killer Movie end up bringing absolutely nothing new to the table, but writer/director Jeff Fisher apparently snuck one past the straight-to-video goalies, delivering an above-average slasher that is genuinely entertaining. It's about a down-on-his-luck director that takes a gig shooting a reality show in a small town in North Dakota. He think he's making a series about the local high school's underdog hockey team, but when he arrives in town he learns that the producer has another angle in mind.
The day before the director arrived, a gal whose murderous father was just released from jail is found dead under suspicious circumstances (apparently being decapitated while riding a four-wheeler isn't the norm in North Dakota). Tension is running high with the locals, some believing the killer father has returned, others believing it was a genuine accident, but before long it's pretty clear that someone is killing not only the locals, but the film crew as well.
It's not the most unique premise in the world, but it's well paced, well acted by some familiar faces (Nestor Carbonell!), avoids the usual pitfalls associated with making a movie within a movie, and has the right balance of levity and arterial spray to appeal to anyone willing to give something called Killer Movie a chance.
Tormented, directed by Jon Wright, 2009
The Brits have been kicking ass and taking names on the horror front the last few years, so I was eager to check out Tormented, a new slasher hailing from the UK, available in the States thanks to IFC's On-Demand platform. I'll watch any horror movie from across the pond, but I was particularly looking forward to Tormented after coming across a wicked little clip from the movie showcasing a nice twist on typical killer-in-the-locker-room scenes. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn't live up to the standard of quality set in that scene.
It features a familiar storyline about a group of high school kids who are, presumably, being picked off one by one by the kid in school everyone else used to bully. Except Tormented gives the material a bit of a unique approach by opening the film with the death of said kid. That being the case, there is a bit of welcome mystery as to who is killing them (the revenge-seeking best friend? a revenge-seeking loved one? is the kid killing from beyond the grave?), but sadly director Jon Wright spends too much time exploring the whodunit and not enough time, well, doing it. There are a few kills that really stand out as twisted bits of inspiration, but they're rare, which ultimately makes Tormented not slashery enough to be a good slasher.
Orphan, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, 2009
I'm one of the few horror writers that missed out on Orphan in theaters. The trailers didn't particularly appeal to me and the opening weekend buzz was less than flattering. However there were enough people whose opinions I trusted that genuinely liked the movie that I was eager to give it a shot when it came out on Blu-ray. Now having seen it, I kind of regret missing it on the big screen. Sure, it's not a flawless movie, but by Hollywood's walk-on-eggshells standards, I'd say it's an audacious spin on the killer-kid formula. Vera Farmiga is excellent as the adoptive mother who begins to doubt the intentions of the newest member of her family, but even she is outshone by Isabelle Fuhrman, a 12-year old actress who shows more range and screen domination than starlets twice her age.
It's a beautifully shot film, which should be no surprise to anyone whose seen Jaume Collet-Serra's surprisingly solid House of Wax remake, that has all the visual sensibilities of films like the original Omen. Things may never get particularly scary, but it is bold and shocking in all the right places. If you're one of my fellow avoided-it-at-theaters brethren, you'd do well to bump Orphan toward the top of your rental queue.