Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura.

 Starring Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch, Jesse Kinser, Gigi Zumbado, Vernon Wells, Tyler Sanders, Erika Ervin.

USA 2022 85 mins Certificate: 18


Released on Digital by 101 Films on October 16th, 2023.


Since his eye-catching feature debut with the inventive VERSUS back in 2000, filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura has excelled in his native Japan with (among others) GODZILLA: FINAL WARS and in America with splashy, imaginative Clive Barker adaptation THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN- still officially the best film role for Vinnie Jones. He’s adept at energising potentially routine B-movies like NO ONE LIVES and DOWNRANGE with stylish bursts of ultra-violence, hyperkinetic camera manoeuvres and intense pacing. Here, an unremarkable script by British screenwriter Christopher Jolley (SCARE ATTRACTION, REMEMBER ME) gets the brisk, brutal, unpretentious Kitamura treatment.


It follows a familiar path of misdirection, starting out as a heist-gone-wrong thriller (a la FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) before winding up as a wilfully outrageous gore fest. At the outset, a sex worker is abandoned by her trick in some remote location and encounters an ominous, tranquiliser dart-wielding stranger in a suitably grungy rest room. The action shifts to earlier that same day, as the paths of attractive but desperate Gigi Zumbado and a trio of sleazebag small-time criminals cross at the pawn shop where she has dropped by in a last-ditch effort to raise some needed cash. Their intended robbery is badly bungled, leaving them wounded and hastily taking her hostage before hot-footing it to a seemingly abandoned farmhouse.


Unlike Kitamura’s earlier U.S. splatter flicks, there’s a lack of people to root for here: the script gives Zumbado short shrift, and the nearest we have to a sympathetic character is helpful young farmhand Danny, portrayed by Tyler Sanders, who died at just 18 prior to this film’s 2022 Frightfest premiere. Emile Hirsch brings an entertaining sense of barely contained mania to Alex, but Jesse Kinser and a not-really-trying Stephen Dorff (who similarly sleepwalked through 2017’s LEATHERFACE) barely register as his partners in crime.


Fortunately, Kitamura keeps it moving and benefits from the sleek, inventive cinematography of Matthias Schubert, who shot DOWNRANGE. The director relishes grisly detail again, with early lingering cringe-inducers involving bullet removals and wound cauterising before the plot goes into overdrive in the final half-hour. It latterly transitions into a combination of WRONG TURN (complete with an imposing gimp played by Erika Ervin) and an old 1940s Lionel Atwill mad scientist picture. Vernon Wells, whose 200+ TV and film credits include his endless quotable portrayal of Bennett in COMMANDO and recently seen in a key role in Michael Hurst’s excellent TRANSMISSION, proves to be the man of the match as “The Doctor”. Wells relishes his character’s climactic exposition-filled monologues at the point where things have gone enjoyably over the line.


It’s a breezy genre mishmash, paying off with a barrage of surgical gore, a spectacular fire extinguisher beheading and a genuine show stopper involving barbed wire. Though not nearly as suspenseful as NO ONE LIVES or engaging as Kitamura’s home grown work, it’s a slick and grisly Friday night rental.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans