Though there may be similar movies predating it, the first movie I remember seeing that featured psychos in cheap, creepy plastic animal masks was FORTRESS (1985), an underrated Aussie thriller featuring kidnappers decked out like "Dabby Duck," "Pussy Cat" and "Mac the Mouse" (as well as "Father Christmas") going after a schoolteacher and the students in her charge. That movie scared the hell out of me as a little kid and perhaps left a lasting impression on others because I've seen several films since featuring killers in identical get-ups. This is another one. It's even plausible the filmmakers are attempting to pay direct homage to that earlier film by casting an Australian leading lady in an otherwise very American film, but it's hard to tell. Unlike FORTRESS, which is more of a suspense thriller than an all out horror film, this one mashes up slasher-gore, home invasion flick, mystery and black comedy. The results are extremely uneven.
Paul (Rob Moran), a millionaire, now-retired marketing director for a defense contractor, and his wife Aubrey (Barbara Crampton), decide to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary by having all four of their children and their spouses / significant others over for a weekend visit. Little do most of them know, but their next-door neighbor down the road (Larry Fessenden in his usual one-scene cameo) and his girlfriend have already been slaughtered by a trio of nuts whose identities are concealed with fox, tiger and lamb masks. While having dinner and emotions are already running high because of some bickering between a few of the brothers, one of the guests is shot through the head with an crossbow arrow through the window. From then on out it's a fight for survival for the rest as the intruders stalk the grounds and some of the family members are (rather predictably) exposed as having ties with the masked killers.
Filmed back in early 2011, this somehow managed to garner a belated wide theatrical release (2000+ cinemas) in late 2013. As with nearly all major genre films to come down the pike in the 2000s, a good deal of hype was generated for it by both the distributor and most of the better-known genre websites doing their usual cheerleading routine (considering the latter are little more than paid hype-generating shills posing as unbiased "genre critics" I'm surprised *anyone* cares what they have to say). Despite all of that, audiences rejected this one and it was quickly yanked from theaters after grossing only 18 million dollars. It's quite easy to understand why: There's nothing unique, inventive or all that good about this film and it was hardly deserving of ANY "critical" attention bestowed upon it. The acting is mostly terrible, the script is abysmal (with a silly, predictable, hole- filled plot and characters doing the most moronic things imaginable to get themselves killed), the picture quality is flat, ugly and murky and the film slavishly relies on loud sound cues, jump cuts and jittery camera- work to provide its "scares."
Thankfully, there are two elements that keep the film (just barely) watchable. The first is the high amount of splatter. Axes, knives and machetes are sunk into heads, eyes are gouged out with ice picks, a head is literally blended, nails are driven through feet, throats are slashed open and spew blood, etc. The film provides plenty of blood and utilizes old school makeup effects, so it works OK as a brainless gore-fest. The second successful element is lead actress Sharni Vinson, who starts out as your typically sweet, supportive girlfriend type before her survivalist instincts kick in and she transforms into an crotch-kicking, head-bashing bad ass who can take a lick and keep on ticking. Not even a knife through the shoulder, a leap through a second story window, a shard of glass through the leg or a gunshot to the chest can slow this chick down! Though the character isn't the least bit believable, Vinson has fun with the part and is the only even remotely likable person in the movie. I also enjoyed seeing Crampton in her small role, though the filmmakers don't really give her anything to do. The rest of cast - consisting mostly of a clique of filmmakers / actors who frequently work with one another - is awful.
If you're gonna see this one, I'd keep expectations low. Aside from the bloodshed and the leading lady, there's nothing special or unique or exceptional about this one. There's zero depth, no atmosphere and it's not the least bit scary, suspenseful, original OR clever. I've seen a lot of the defenders claim this is a comedy, but aside from a few mildly amusing moments, most of the attempts at "humor" ("I want to f*** you on this bed next to your dead mom!") are pretty pathetic.
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