Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dead in 3 Days (2009)

I am a sucker for foreign horror. What makes horror films from other countries interesting is their own unique perspective on what is “scary”. They can also offer a new way of looking at the genre as well as new “horrors” we as Americans may not be familiar with. I am always eager to check out horror movies from different countries because of their intriguing concepts and “twists” on our beloved genre.

Sometimes, though, I am left severely disappointed when foreign films just try to copy other horror films without a thread of their own creativity. Such is the case with Austria’s Dead in 3 Days. The problem with Austria’s Dead in 3 Days is that it doesn’t try to offer any new insight on horror. Instead, it is just a by-the-numbers slasher flick that will make you die from sheer boredom!

The day of their high school graduation, a group of friends each receive a text stating “you’ll be dead in three days.” None of them take it seriously until one of them goes missing that night. They go to the police, but they only tell them their friend is shacking up with some other girl and not to worry. The next morning, they find their friend…at the bottom of a lake, his body weighed down by a cement block. Now that the police’s interest is roused, the remaining friends are all asked if there is some dark secret in their past that would want to make someone kill them. Of course the friends all share a horrifying experience from their childhood, and as the killer continues killing them one-by-one, the remaining survivors try to figure out who the killer is.

Yawn! Sound familiar? It should, because the film follows the basic premise of almost any slasher film. It actually started off pretty strong, with shades of Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call and Ringu coloring the script at the beginning. I liked both concepts of receiving a threatening message via cell phone (like in One Missed Call) as well as the aspect of “you’ll be dead in ____ days” (like in Ringu or The Ring). Unfortunately, the film pretty much went downhill from there and felt more of like a cheap knock-off of I Know What You Did Last Summer or any other slasher flick.

I think a cement block has more personality than this generic chunk of celluloid. The script was written by Thomas Baum and Andreas Prochaska (who also directed) and they seemingly cribbed the story from the cookie-cutter slasher formula, without any attempts to give it originality or heart. It was seriously by the book – introduce the young, happy-go-lucky protagonists, threaten them, throw in some foreshadowing, have the first kill where the hooded/masked killer is introduced, throw in some obvious red herrings, get the bumbling, clueless police involved, have more of the protagonists die, reveal a disturbing secret from the protagonists’ past, have the last few protagonists fight to the death against the killer, reveal the killer’s identity and leave the final girl as the only survivor. The writers seriously could have thrown in some sort of surprise or twist (that wasn’t as predictable as the one used in the film) to keep things interesting, but I guess they just decided to keep things dull and uninspired.

As for the positives, at least the characters weren’t terribly unlikable and the acting was decent. The direction was also solid, especially combined with the beautiful setting of a small, lakeside Austrian town nestled at the foot of snowcapped mountains. Unfortunately, I don’t watch horror films to be wowed by their settings and neither the acting nor the direction could save the pitiful script. I understand that sometimes you just want to turn your brain off and watch a fun flick, but Dead in 3 Days was so damn predictable and joyless that it was a chore sitting through it. There isn’t even any gore to perk things up a bit and only one memorable death scene involving decapitation via sharp glass on a fish tank.

Dead in 3 Days is a decidedly disappointing entry into horror and mainly feels like a rip-off of American slashers. While it had potential in the beginning, any hope of an entertaining flick was squandered with the writers’ decision to “play it safe” and stick to a by-the-numbers slasher film. Even if you enjoy slasher films (as I do) I wouldn’t recommend this one! Dead in 3 Days is just a flat, undeveloped and boring film that doesn’t offer anything new and lacks any and all “horror.”

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