Writer-director-producer-editor-composer Stevan Mena bypassed the self-referential jokes and homages that suck the life out of many post-SCREAM (1996) horror pictures, instead crafting a straightforward throwback to old-school slasher movies that wears its influences on its bloody sleeve and delivers a solid ratio of suspense to shocks. 1989: Six-year-old Martin Bristol (David K. Guida II) is kidnapped and forced to watch his abductor murder a captive girl in a dark, cluttered basement. Ten years later: Somewhere in semi-rural Pennsylvania, Kurt (Richard Glover) and Max (Keith Chambers), who's fresh out of jail, plan to rob a small-town bank. Max's sister Marylin (Heather Magee) and her normally law-abiding boyfriend, Julian (Brandon Johnson), who's deep in debt to some bad types, complete the gang. The plan is to get in and out in two minutes, escape in two cars and meet up at an abandoned house on the outskirts of town to divide the loot and go their separate ways. But a badly wounded Max winds up in Julian and Marylin's car, losing blood at a frightening rate, while Kurt is forced to carjack single mom Samantha Harrison (Samantha Dark) and her adolescent daughter, Courtney (Courtney Bertolone) after his car blows a tire. The bank robbers may think everything that could go wrong already has, but they're very, very wrong. Kurt and his hostages get to the rendezvous first and discover that while their hideaway is indeed uninhabited, the equally abandoned-looking house behind the ramshackle abattoir down the road isn't. Mena conceived this stripped-down feature as the centerpiece of a trilogy after combining two screenplays in progress one about a heist, the other a straightforward stalk-and-slash picture produced an overlong script jammed with back story and follow-up material. His debt to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1976) is evident, as is the low budget: Mena financed much of the project out of pocket, and the 30-day shoot was spread over two years. But he successfully evokes the atmosphere of dread and anxiety that suffuses TCM and its better imitators, never letting excessive gore effects, gratuitous nudity or comic relief sequences distract from his single-minded efforts to give viewers the willies. The performances are better than one might expect from a cast of first-timers and lightly employed professionals, and Mena's characters rarely do the sort of spectacularly stupid things that provoke derisive laughter from seasoned horror-moviegoers.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer-director-producer-editor-composer Stevan Mena bypassed the self-referential jokes and homages that suck the life out of many post-SCREAM (1996) horror pictures, instead crafting a straightforward throwback to old-school slasher movies that wears its… (more)