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9th May 09
Crazy masked vengeance-seeking dude or dudette finds imaginatively horrible things to do to horrible people in a bowling alley. Makes you wonder if your own local bowling alley might be worth a visit if a customer were found with a sharpened bowling pin up his anus.
A deliberately offensive and mean-spirited retro-slasher movie from the director of the crude Hostel-wannabe Live Feed, complete with 80’s style electronic synth score and a whole lot of nudity from both genders. Given that there’s a bare camel-toe close up in the first two minutes, few viewers will be in doubt as to the subtlety levels they can expect during what follows. And those that do stick around and find themselves offended by the dubious portrayal of whorish female characters should note that this is arguably balanced by the predominance of one-note, leery / callous / comically homophobic / just plain dumb men. The overall feel is that of a misanthrope’s idea of a fun splatter movie.
A brutal pre-titles fight sequence within the bowling alley where the whole movie unfolds establishes the tensions between rival bowling teams in a small town where old high school grudges still linger. A central loathsome quintet of queer-bashing, women-raping thugs immediately call to mind the character types of the rape gangs from 70’s fare like : one feels a semblance of conscience, one is gawky with a crazy laugh, one is a remorseless wide-eyed psycho bastard. The plotting and use of a mystery helmeted, black gloved killer suggest that the hilarious mid-80’s cheapie Nail Gun Massacre was perhaps an even greater influence.
Said gang subject a sluttily dressed hottie (Candice Lewald) to a long, graphic group rape that successfully captures the nasty, sleazy spirit of harder-edged 70’s/80’s exploitation pictures. It also immediately kills dead the film’s chances of being a crowd-pleasing retro-styled horror movie festival favourite. Only the hardiest of horror-loving souls will fail to wince when the gruelling set piece culminates with Lewald being gruesomely penetrated with the thick end of a bowling pin, accompanied by a shot of her bloody pussy. Many genre fans have already expressed their distaste at the movie, largely based on this single sequence - though since when did horror have to be inoffensive and easy on the eye? In the wake of this horrific violation, those responsible (and several who were not involved) get graphically bumped off by a killer with a close connection to the victim.
Nicholson’s foul-mouthed script is hard to take at times (as are the exaggerated cartoonish sound FX apparent for some of the death scenes), but it probably breaks some kind of record for the number of odious, deserving victims in a single horror movie. One guy in particular, who cant say a sentence without the word “fuck”, arguably wins the 21st century award for most hateful horror movie character and, if any scene in the film is likely to get an audience whoop of approval, it’s the anal penetration with a sharpened bowling pin that helps send him to his doom.
With such an obnoxious bunch of protagonists, the movie stands and falls on the strength of its kills - and these, luckily, are gory, finely executed and consistently inventive, with special kudos reserved for the bravura splashy old-time gore FX. A pre-op tranny suffers an especially unpleasant cock-splitting / choking demise. An airhead blonde is brained by a pair of bowling balls. There’s a great face-tearing ball-waxer death, along with a very bloody dual-eye gouging bit with a sharpened bowling pin. A topless girl is throttled with laces from her bowling shoes. And the least bloody fatality is just as grim: a couple engaged in a 69 (with hardcore insert shots appropriate given the porno-level acting and production values) both wind up suffocating on each other’s respective genitalia. Coincidentally, this reviewer’s prime death fantasy involves a very similar set-up, though the other party involved is Scarlett Johansson rather than the trampy non-actress featured here.
It’s a tough movie to love and Nicholson is hardly a major talent rising to prominence, but it is satisfyingly nasty and it certainly has the courage of its own convictions - delivering in the splatter stakes more than most straight to DVD horror fare these days. The recurring homage to 80’s slasher fare climaxes with at least two surprise revelations during the final act unmasking, a sequence capped by an awesome The Prowler-esque shotgun-induced decapitation.
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