Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Red Velvet (2008)

When was the last time you saw an original killer in a horror film? The standard stoic Leatherface, the unflinching Jason, the wise-cracking Freddy, the cold and unyielding Michael, along with their many successors/imitators are all well and good, but sometimes you just wish for a killer with a little more quirk along with his or her bloodthirstiness.

Meet Aaron, a writer who has a bickering couple living next door to his apartment. The paper-thin walls do little to mask the volume of their frequent fights. He runs into his neighbor Linda at a nearby laundromat early one morning, and the two proceed to infuriate each other. Pretty soon, though, Aaron has convinced Linda to grab a bite to eat and they end up at a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Linda confesses her boyfriend is a “dumbass” and the cause of most of their fights. The previous night the two got into an argument because her boyfriend was supposed to drive her up to a lakeside cabin, where Linda’s sister and friends were having a birthday party for their friend Frank. The dumbass didn’t want to miss a “big game,” so Linda didn’t go.

Aaron confesses he is a writer and Linda urges him to tell her a story. He proceeds to tell her tales of their Asian hostess’ head ending up in the fish soup and another story about a lazy-eyed, psycho mother who meets her demise at the hands of her family. Linda isn’t fazed, though, and asks for something a little more extreme. Aaron then crafts a tale about her friends up at the cabin being stalked and killed off.

Pretty soon the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred when Aaron gives Linda a ride up to the isolated cabin and certain elements of his story seem to be coming true…

Red Velvet is one of the goriest and wittiest horror movies not just of this year, but EVER! Its highly original script, penned by Anthony Burns from his own story with help from Joe Moe (also a producer), gives the genre of horror hope amid all the PG-13 films made for tweens and wretched remakes clogging the video shelves.

The film was screened to a packed house (standing room only!) at this year’s Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors in Los Angeles and no one in the audience left disappointed. The script is uproarious in all the right places while still maintaining its horror sensibilities and having some truly splatterific set pieces. From the opening scenes in the laundromat where Aaron and Linda are trading jabs to the hilarious scene where they come up with the “perfect killer,” the film is blackly comedic. And then there’s the gore…the amazingly bloody gore! Like one scene where an unfortunate dude gets sawed in half. Or the scene in which a couple tries to climb out of a deep hole…but the end of the rope is attached to an alligator that keeps getting steadily and steadily closer to falling in the hole every time the couple climbs a few more feet…how’s that for original?

The acting is superb with Henry Thomas giving a manic, off-kilter performance as writer Aaron. Kelli Garner as Linda holds her own as well and proves that she won’t be bullied by Aaron’s snide remarks ‘cause she dishes ‘em right back! It was nice to see her character wasn’t the stereotypical “helpless” female victim, but one who fights back. The supporting cast holds its own through the ever-changing characters’ as Aaron molds his story to fit the personalities and looks of Linda’s friends. Despite the many character incarnations, all of the actors held their own, among them Eric Jungmann (Killer Pad), Michele Nordin and Carlie Westerman (An American Crime).

Heightening the atmosphere is the direction by first-time director Bruce Dickson. The shots are engaging and beautifully bathed in unnatural reds, purples, yellows and oranges (especially for the story-telling scenes). The uniquely disconcerting score also gives the audience the impression that they are entering the “Twilight Zone” and that we are in for something truly special and weird.

My only complaint with the film was the ending, which lacked the punch of the rest of the film. The return of Aaron to his apartment felt a little tacked on and didn’t really add anything to the story, which should have ended five minutes before. Other than that, I am aglow with high praise for Red Velvet. It is truly one of the most memorable and unique horror films I’ve ever experienced.

Available from Amazon!

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