Monday, April 6, 2009

Perkins 14 (2009)

Out of all the new After Dark Horrorfest DVD’s released this April, I was actually looking forward to Perkins 14. Perkins 14 is a collaborative effort from the horror community and Writers submitted ideas, audition tapes were submitted and fans could pick what they thought was the best of the best. Eventually, a winning story and cast were chosen. This community effort is something I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of and it is a very interesting concept. As for how well it works, well, that may be another story…

Ten years ago, 14 kids from Stone Cove disappeared, including police office Dwayne Hopper’s (Patrick O’Kane) young son. When Ronald Perkins (Richard Brake) is locked up in jail for a traffic violation, Hopper begins to suspect he is the “Stone Cove Killer” that abducted his son and 13 others. After investigating and searching Perkins’ property, Hopper is certain he is the perpetrator and in a fit of rage kills him…but Hopper doesn’t realize that the children are still alive or that Perkins brainwashed the children and pumped them full of drugs, turning them into slathering, fast and bloodthirsty monsters that swarm upon the town and begin killing anyone in sight.

You have to admit, the story of brainwashed kids descending upon a town like locusts and killing every single last person as revenge for their “master” sounds pretty awesome! Unfortunately, Perkins 14 approaches this story all wrong. Instead of focusing on Perkins and his brood, it focuses on Officer Hopper and his family, including his wife who is cheating on him and his teenage daughter who is trying to get with a much older rocker (ewwww) played by ex-Misfits vocalist Michale Graves. I really could have cared less about the dysfunctional Hoppers – I wanted to see just how Perkins brainwashed the kids and trained them to kill, especially since he did it all from the confines of his basement.

Unfortunately, Perkins gets offed in the first part of the movie. He is inherently more interesting than any of the other characters and played brilliantly by Richard Brake (as probably the best performance in the film), yet we have to watch the boring Hoppers as they hole themselves up in the police station as the 14 kids wreak havoc in Stone Cove. We get a small glimpse of Perkins’ motivations (which are also interesting) for brainwashing the kids, but it certainly wasn’t enough for me! I wanted more explanation and actually wanted to see Perkins’ past and how he brainwashed the kids.

As you can see, the real problem with the film is the screenplay, written by Lane Shadgett who has no other screenwriting experience listed on (though it looks like he’ll be adapting Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park for the screen…yikes!). The story has plenty of plot holes and things that need clearing up, but its whole focus on the Hoppers is just too narrow of a scope when there are so many other more interesting things that are going on. Also, the dialogue is atrocious! When a group of teenagers were speaking, my mouth was agape in shock at the clichéd and fake way they were speaking! Most of the dialogue is awkward and comes across as stilted or out of place. For example, in one of the most inopportune moments, Hopper’s wife tries to bring up the matter of her infidelity. Lady, your husband probably doesn’t want to talk about it when there are PHP-pumped kids, one of them that used to be your son, that could break through the door any minute!

Things get a bit more fun and bloody when the 14 are let loose and begin to kill anyone in sight, but their movements and flesh-eating were a bit too zombie-like for my liking. They are supposed to kill because that is what they are trained to do, but not sit there and munch on someone’s arm! It’s not like Perkins could have trained them to like the taste of human flesh and by the looks of their strong, muscular frames they certainly weren’t starving! Despite this, I thought the gore was very well done. We get a nice scene of ocular horror that pays homage to Fulci’s Zombi 2 movie and the kids look absolutely amazing in their filthy rags and pale, sore-infested faces.

I also thought the direction by Craig Singer (who previously did After Dark’s Dark Ride) was decent, though some scenes were so dark you couldn’t really tell what was going on. By looking at the wicked cool poster I thought the direction would be a bit more stylish, but it’s pretty bland point-and-shoot with no fancy tricks. Still, overall it works for the film, I just wish some of the darker scenes were lit a bit better.

With a better script (and better screenwriter) I think Perkins 14 could have been a much more entertaining story, but as it stands it is a pretty messy attempt at a horror movie. I believe that collaborations like this from horror fans can work, but only if the right professionals are chosen to adapt it to the screen. It’s not a horrible movie by any means, but nonetheless it is more disappointing and frustrating than it is entertaining.

Available from Amazon!

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