“A terrible moth-take.”
Veteran B-movie director Nick Cole (Laisne) wakes up to find himself tied to a chair in a warehouse. The perpetrator of his abduction is Laney Darrow (Kreisher), who is clearly familiar with Cole’s body of work, and wants to show him some of her own productions. This starts with a film depicting the abduction and killing of a young man, which turns out to be a snuff film. That genre is Laney’s specialty, and her victims are not taken at random. They are all people with whom the director has worked in the past, and it gradually becomes clear that Laney has a very specific personal agenda, both in the kidnapping of Cole, and the creation of her filmography.
It’s a premise with potential. Yet it’s entirely squandered, and that’s painfully clear by the end of the first “film within a film,” which lasts far too long. I will admit to a particularly derisive snort after it, when Cole praised the special effects – for they were particularly terrible. If you’re going to make a faux snuff movie, you can’t be cutting away with a tablespoon of blood. That ship sailed, as far as any well-informed horror fan goes, with the Japanese Guinea Pig series, in the mid-eighties. It doesn’t help there’s no consistency in style there either. Is Laney holding the camera herself? Using a tripod? Got an accomplice? At times, it seems like it’s all of these.
But the main problem, I think, is likely the structure. The film keeps all the most relevant information away from the viewer until right at the end. As a result, you’ve got to sit through about 80 minutes of wondering “Why should I care about any of this?”, alternating with “Whose side am I supposed to be on?”, before the movie allows you to take an informed stance. This kind of moral ambiguity can work, though it takes a lot of skill. Hard Candy would be the example which comes first to mind; it’s not dissimilar, like this, being largely a two-hander between a young woman and her captive. But the gulf in quality between the two features only becomes increasingly obvious the longer this goes on, and it’s no coincidence Candy also explained the situation much earlier in proceedings.
As a result, I simply gave up on this, because it failed to give me any reason to care about the fate of either of the participants. Kreisher does have a certain edge to her performance; you certainly get the sense that Laney is a loose cannon, easily capable of going off the edge – if she isn’t there already. But watching Laney and her captive flapping their lips at each other, interrupted with bad home invasion footage, is hardly going to be anyone’s idea of entertainment. This is micro-budget horror [no possible way was the budget for this the claimed $250K], which aims low and still manages to miss its targets.
Dir: Edward E. Romero
Star: Mandi Kreisher, Jay Laisne, Sky Kelley, Garrett Penwel