Yep, it’s a slasher movie alright…
As it’s almost Halloween, it must be time to talk horror flicks, masked maniacs, supernatural weirdness and things which go “Wooaarrgghh!!” in the night. With that in mind, I’ve taken the plunge back into the icy, bone-chilling waters of the slasher flick – a horror sub-genre which is near and dear to my heart – with the 2009 feature by Robert Hall, “Laid to Rest“.
Set in the sleepy back roads of Texas, “LtR” ignores the torture porn antics of Jigsaw and co and goes back to basics, pitting implacable, Chrome skull mask-wearing villain Chrome Skull against The Girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) in a pitched battle for survival during one hellish night. And as far as plot goes, that really is the crux of it – faceless mass murderer hunts down Final Girl and slices, dices and pummels anybody who has the misfortune to stand between him and his quarry.
There’s nothing particularly ironic about this entry in the genre – in fact, after a decade or so of horror movies more than eager to point out their grasp of genre tropes, the lunk-headed, rough-around-the-edges, low-budget style of this flick seems like, if not a breath of fresh air, a somewhat welcome change from post-modern horror treatises just dying to share their fancy book learning with you.
“Laid to Rest” has not a brain in its head and wouldn’t know originality if it brandished a ludicrous knife and chased after it for a few hours – this is horror of the kind that flourished in the 1980’s when low-budget scares were all the rage and laserdisc was the viewing media of choice for the discerning nerd and when fright flicks first got my attention. This is very much the kind of stalking, slashing fare that you’d expect to see late night on cable – minimal locations, actors who you might know from other stuff, low-key synth soundtrack and claret by the score.
The small cast of characters in this story behave like absolute cretins because that gives the make-up department a chance to go crazy with the gore effects when the boogeyman catches up with them and administers the proper punishment for their lack of smarts, because that’s what the maniacs in this kind of movie do – act as a kind of roving Darwin Awards inspector, removing the terminally dim-witted from the gene pool so that their stupidity can’t be passed onto the next generation of
cannon fodder…horror movie protagonists.
The performances are…variable? Kevin Gage, who you might remember from his role as Waingro in Michael Mann’s “Heat”, plays a teddy bear truck driver who goes on the lam with Luther’s somewhat blank heroine when she escapes Chrome Skull’s grasp. He’s the best thing in the movie, for my money – a likeable archetype who you do root for despite the fact that he’s in the company of characters so bereft of wit that you fear for them safely making breakfast of a morning, let alone escaping the machinations of a movie serial killer.
The likes of Thomas Dekker, Jonathan Schaech and Lena Headey also turn up in cameos and meet the kind of fate which one might reasonably expect from appearing in a film titled “Laid to Rest” (don’t expect to see any of them in the sequel). As a Klingon warrior might say – ‘They died with honour (and a great big knife sticking out of their noggin)’.
Can I recommend this movie? Probably not – if you’re a student of horror, this is going to seem awfully familiar, and only the presence of some familiar faces distinguishes it from ten dozen similar gore fests doing hard time on the shelves of your local video store. If you don’t really dig the hard stuff, this is one gory horror flick – director Hall started out as a make-up specialist and his expertise in creating very convincing and credibly repugnant effects is likely to gross you out for the next couple of weeks.
I don’t have a rating system, but let’s say that this one is more “Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddie’s Revenge” than John Carpenter‘s “Halloween”, but it’s not without…charm isn’t the word. It’s not unenjoyable. “Laid to Rest” is low-fi, slash-em-up action for the spooky season – just be aware that the gore might make your pumpkin candy return unexpectedly…