R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Stevan Mena
with Samantha Dark, R Brandon Johnson, Heather Magee, Richard Glover, Keith Chambers, Courtney Bertolone, John Richard Ingram, Kevin McKelvey, Lenn Gross, Pamela Marie Guida, Mia Lotringer, Jay Cohen
release US 25.Sep.04, UK tbc
04/US 1h30

Unspeakable: Dark and Johnson

dark johnson chambers

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Malevolence There's just about enough of a B-movie vibe to keep us watching this uneven and rather predictable thriller, which takes the usual slasher format and plays it out as a dramatic suspense film. With ominous chords of music.

After a brief prologue about missing children in which we see a kidnapped young boy witness a brutal murder, the film jumps ahead 10 years to a bank heist Marylin (Magee) forces her boyfriend Julian (Johnson) to carry out, to help pay their debts. It's organised by her ex-con brother (Chambers) and a friend (Glover), and it goes predictably wrong, leaving one person dead and the rest hiding in an abandoned farmhouse with two hostages (Dark and Bertolone). Where of course they're stalked by a relentless killer.

The elaborate set-up, combined with writer-director Mena's gothic score, effectively pulls us into this tale of innocents (and not-so-innocents) who find themselves in an unspeakably horrific situation. Yes, it's a complete bundle of cliches, but the combination works, simply because Mena take the time to establish the plot and characters. But as it continues, the low-budget constraints take their toll with some wobbly (although often natural) acting, awkward camera work and overwrought sound cues. It's one of those films in which you pretty much know who's going to die based on the moral choices they've made, and whether they've said or done something mean to someone else.

But the simple structure--six people and a killer--works, and Mena manages to crank up the tension effectively with eerie atmospherics and more introspective character drama. There is an odd disparity between the strong story logic and some seriously stupid bits (when was the last time a trainer just fell off your foot while you were walking down a pathway?). And it's also one of those horror movies that gets more predictable as it progresses--and as people do increasingly dumb things, while the villain just refuses to die. Basically, you begin to tick off all of the standard horror gags as they come. And they all come exactly as expected.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 5.May.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall