Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Directed by Robert Hall

I was lucky enough to grow up during the 80's and 90's when slasher films were at the top of their game. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out a few years before I was born (1974) and Leatherface was the first real slasher icon. During the years to follow, young horror fans like myself were introduced to Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers, the "Holy Trinity" of slasher characters, often imitated but never duplicated. Hollywood has tried to reinvent the slasher role many times since, but the modern characters just don't have the same substance as their predecessors. Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) tried to pay homage by creating a new serial slasher with a twist, shot in documentary style from the POV of Vernon himself. The film, while a great concept, failed to match the terror evoked by the Holy Trinity. It was not until this year's Laid to Rest that Hollywood finally got it right . . .

Truth be told, we needed a new horror icon. It seems the genre has turned into a pissing contest where directors try to out-do one another by having the most over-the-top death scenes and quick scares in their films. Less focus is placed on the development of the character who is actually doing the killing. This is where Laid To Rest really shines. Popular effects artist turned director, Robert Hall, introduces us to "Chromeskull," a slick, polished murderer armed with two hunting knives, wearing a black suit, and of course, a chrome-dipped skull mask, who drives a fancy black car (with a personalized Chromeskull license plate). Unlike most killers, he sports the latest technology -- a video camera mounted on his shoulder like a parrot and a sleek cell phone to communicate with his victims. A far cry from the ax-wielding maniacs we're used to . . . but it's refreshing!

The film cuts right to the chase -- Bobbi Sue Luther plays The Girl, our lead, whose acting is so terrible one can only hope that Hall did this on purpose. He creates a shallow, one-dimensional character that embodies all the bad acting from every horror film ever made. She is so uninteresting and disposable that we don't even know her name, hence "The Girl" moniker. Luther's performance is painful to watch, especially when she stumbles over her dialogue in an attempt to appear nervous, scared, or confused. She awakes in a coffin in a funeral home, with no recollection of how she got there, and finds a phone within minutes to call the police for help. However, she walks too far away from the phone and the cord snaps. We decide right away that she is a complete idiot and we don't mind if she happens to get killed. By choosing not to connect the audience with the lead, Hall creates an uncomfortable environment where anything goes. Once again, it's refreshing. In the opening scene of the film we catch a glimpse of Chromeskull - no character development, no tension - he jumps onto the screen and the film kicks right into gear.

After a brief encounter with Chromeskull, The Girl escapes on foot and a pick-up truck driven by an older man named Tucker (played by Kevin Gage) spots her on the highway. He takes her home where his wife, Cindy (Lina Headey), comforts her and offers a fresh shower & place to rest for the night, until she can remember her name and they can get her to a phone. Now I don't care what kind of neighborhood you live in -- in 2009, everyone has a phone. I've seen homeless men in NYC that have no foot but they're talking on a cell phone. I could understand if the story took place in some backwoods town in the 70's or 80's, but the setting is present day. This is just one of the many aspects of the film that is so unbelievable and transparent. But somehow that doesn't take away from the film as it normally would. Laid To Rest is fun, and there is humor in the way Hall makes use of all the slasher cliches and stereotypical genre formulas.

Chromeskull finds The Girl at Tucker's house, and proceeds to jam one of his knives through Cindy's skull, twisting and turning it inside her head while slamming her against the side of the house, right in front of Tucker and The Girl. They flee the scene and decide to stop at the first house they come across, in hopes of finding a phone. At the same time a young couple pulls up at Tucker's house, after having seen Tucker & The Girl driving together earlier that evening. Turns out the man is Cindy's brother, and he suspects Tucker is cheating on his sister, and decides to drop by in the middle of the night to tell her. He catches a hunting knife through the head in a very unexpected, gore filled moment where Hall's make-up experience really makes the grade. The girl meets her doom with a slice to the stomach, and tries to stop her intestines from spilling out by pushing them back inside herself. Some really awesome gore effects here!

Tucker & The Girl arrive at a house and a man named Steven answers the door (played by Sean Whalen, who looked so familiar to me that I had to pause the film and sift through all the cobwebs in my brain before finally realizing he played "Roach" in The People Under The Stairs (1991)). Of course, he doesn't have a phone, but he has the internet! Tucker suggests he send an email to the local police, asking them to send "all the cops." Again, totally ridiculous but hysterical. The Girl even comments that the killer wants to "make her dead." Wow.

What follows is an endless chase that takes place over the course of one evening, eventually climaxing at a gas station where The Girl, Tucker, Steven, and two random ravers face-off with Chromeskull. The plot elements are loosely pieced together, through use of The Girl's flashbacks and found footage from Chromeskull's camera. We learn that The Girl was a hooker, and was bashed over the head with a baseball bat and taken captive. On one of the videotapes, the funeral director tells Chromeskull to clean up his land and dispose of all the people on it that night, which exposes our killer's motive but doesn't exactly tell us why. The storyline is weak and rather unimportant -- it is obvious that Hall's goal here was to create a cool character and shed some blood to show off his talents as an effects artist. Bravo! In that case, Laid To Rest is a smashing success.

With that said, there are some really inventive death scenes and stunning use of gore effects throughout the film. Steven is killed with a glue gun, filling his head with pressure and fluids until it explodes. The local sheriff and his deputy are butchered to a bloody pulp. Chromeskull places a decapitated head in the gas station refridgerator, and loses his own head while trying to re-attach his mask using a powerful chemical (which he thought was glue) that melts his flesh and eats away at his face. The Girl finishes him off with a baseball bat to the face, which made me cringe just as much as the fire extinguisher scene in Irreversible (2002). It's kind of cheesy that the killer ends up killing himself, but the baseball bat is a nice touch!

While it might seem like this is a negative review, Laid To Rest is actually one of my favorite slasher films to come out since Friday The 13th (1980). I'm a die-hard fan of Jason, and the chrome-dipped skull mask is just as cool as the infamous hockey mask in my opinion. The film itself does very little to break new ground or reinvent genre constants, but by sticking to traditional slasher format and introducing a classy new killer, Hall has created a masterpiece. His intentions are clear, and we get exactly what we'd hoped to get -- a gory, fast-paced ride on the slasher coaster!

Check out Laid To Rest here:

They have some really great wallpapers and icons. The site design is really cool too - you have to cut a girl's throat using your mouse to enter the site!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


MARTYRS (2008)

WOW . . . still trying to wrap my head around this one . . .
just finished watching this, review to follow . . .