GORE IN THE STORE
FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS ****
Directed by Gabriel Carrer & Reese Eveneshen.
Starring Lora Burke, Colin Paradine, Nick Smyth, James Fler.
Horror Thriller, Canada, 81 minutes, certificate 18.
Reviewed as part of Arrow Video FrightFest Digital Edition 2
Already tired and exhausted after a long shift, nurse Romina is all set for a Halloween night with her young son. Instead she returns home to find a hammer wielding man standing over another unconscious figure demanding her help. Confused and in the dark about who these two strangers are she finds herself smack bang in the middle of a violent confrontation between the two men which will soon bring a cavalcade of extreme violence upon her own home.
This debut film from directors Gabriel Carrer and Reese Evenshen is a compact and smart film of two halves. The first is a tense, simmering stand off between Romina and the two men; the hammer wielding, wild eyed Chris and smart businessman Alan, who finds himself tied to a chair in Romina’s kitchen. The viewer learns along with Romina why Chris is so hellbent on inflicting pain to gain information from Alan, who desperately proclaims his innocence. Like Romina our sympathies and suspicions pinball from one side to the other as the shocking history between the two men is gradually revealed.
After the tension has been wound tighter and tighter the films second half explodes into an eruption of brilliantly conceived and executed violence. Turning suddenly into a home invasion the film builds on the promise of its title and then some. A sinister gang of motorcyclists provide the opportunity to expand the film into something even more intense and exciting and with a healthy sense of black humour to go with its extreme violence. As well as hammers, knives and guns, every other household object is used in a battle for survival on both sides. Chairs, tables and toilet cistern lids are thrown into the bloody mix which reaches an epic level in the blink of an eye.
By withholding the action for as long as possible and keeping the viewers interest until then Carrer and Eveneshen, who also co-wrote the script, prove their skills at keeping the viewers interest throughout. The smart, compressed storytelling is complemented by its trio of main performances. As Romina, Lora Burke makes for an identifiable heroine caught in an increasingly nightmarish situation while Nick Smyth as the angry and vengeful Chris makes for a compelling figure who keeps the audience on edge with the possibility of his characters sense of justice as unreliable, warped by his bloodthirsty quest for justice.
The choreography and filming of the action packed second half is as exciting as anything on screen in recent memory. Reminiscent of John Carpenter, especially ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. With its mysterious villains laying siege and its great electronic score that underlines the constant tension this is an impressive calling card for its directing duo. They resist the temptation to go for the easy laugh or unnecessary humour that is found in the majority of action films. After an exhausting yet lean running time they cap off the film with a quiet, haunting coda to all the previous mayhem, allowing whatever survivors left on screen and the audience to catch their breath. It caps off this debut feature nicely in such a fashion that allows the whole film to linger in the memory and not just the kinetic extended set piece of its second half.