Today's Pick: Laid to Rest (2009)
The basic premise of the story is actually pretty inventive as well. A woman wakes up in a funeral home with no memory of who she is (or other things, which we'll get to). It turns out she's been abducted by a serial killer who likes to chase his prey before torturing and disposing of them. This murderer also has a sense of style, dressing in an all black suit and wearing a chrome-plated skull mask, giving him the slasher-y moniker of Chromeskull. His most interesting feature is that he has a shoulder-mounted camera on him at all times, filming the pursuit and slaughter of his victims.
Being a horror fan means learning to manage your expectations. The majority of horror cinema is either derivative, shoddily made, or worst of all, boring. However, horror fans are able to accept certain flaws in a film if other aspects strongly shine through. Laid to Rest is a textbook example of this. The movie is nowhere near perfect, but the things it does right are so right that it makes up for most of its weaker elements. And if there's one thing it deftly succeeds at, it's feeding the viewer's juvenile bloodlust.
Chromeskull is perfectly molded from the 80's slasher genre, but given just the right amount of 21st century updates. He doesn't speak, he has a defining weapon (two huge hunting knives) but he's given enough unique traits to stop him from being just another Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees ripoff. The filming angle is great, but also the fact that he seems to be an incredibly affluent individual. He drives around in a luxury car and has plenty of expensive tools to help him out. He also has a sadistically playful attitude, making him one of those monsters you can't help but like. The actor who plays Chromeskull, Nick Principe, does what all good actors made to play these characters should do, and that's give Chromeskull a body language that stands out. At times, he moves with watery grace, and then can turn in an instant into a barreling locomotive of death. It's a great physical performance that makes the character that much more memorable.
But, like the opening paragraph made clear, this movie is all about the kills, and there are copious amounts of the red stuff to be had. It's pretty fantastic that the movie is able to do so much with so little at their disposal, but they make it work like gangbusters. If a body count with oodles of practical effects work is what scratches your itch, you need to seek this movie out pronto. The amount of damage done to peoples' heads in this movie has to set some kind of record. It's a blood-lover's blast.
As I said, it's not perfect. Our lead heroine not only can't remember who she is, but can't remember the names of things, or even that 911 is the number you have to call in an emergency! It doesn't help that the actress playing the role leaves a lot to be desired. And her payoff at the end doesn't do anything. There are some great supporting characters, but we don't get quite enough time with them. And Chromeskull's origins and motivations are mostly left in the dark, or presented in such a way that the viewer is left to make up their own theories. While some may not enjoy that mysterious angle, I kind of dig it. It leaves you wanting more (of which you get in the pretty excellent sequel, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2) and keeps the villain from becoming too familiar.
If some good ol' hack-and-slash mayhem is something you need in your diet, shove a handful of Laid to Rest down your throat. Its taste may not be out of this world, but you'll walk away from the table full and satisfied, and maybe even craving seconds. Tomorrow, we'll look at another modern movie, but this one will feed your head instead of your guts. See you then!