Bobbi Sue Luther - The Girl
Kevin Gage - Tucker
Lena Headey - Cindy
Sean Whalen - Steven
Thomas Dekker - Tommy
Johnathon Schaech - Johnny
Nick Principe - Chrome Skull
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 90 Minutes
Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4
Serial killers in horror films have really evolved since the days of Norman Bates dressed like his mother and butchered Janet Leigh in that hotel shower in PSYCHO. From chainsaw wielding maniacs, to guys who wear blank Captain Kirk masks every Halloween, to a deformed man-child who enjoys hockey by a lake, and to a guy who invades your dreams with his razor-glove, we've come to an era where killers put you in traps to see how much you appreciate life or butcher you just because it's a business.
Now in the direct-to-DVD feature, LAID TO REST, we have a dude who is a mix of Patrick Bateman and Steve Jobs, being technologically advanced in his killing skills while looking spiffy and cool doing it with his tailor made black duds and shiny metal skull mask. When they said technology would lead to the fall of man, they were not kidding with this guy. Thankfully, the killer is just as cool and modern as the actual film itself, taking slasher motifs and bringing them to a new generation in a very effective way.
A horror film that's not a remake?
A horror film that doesn't involve a semblence of shaky cam?
A horror film that isn't torture porn?
And it's awesome?
Wow, I didn't know those kind of horror movies existed anymore...
Some girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) happens to wake up in a closed casket. She escapes believably frightened and traumatized, not knowing who she is or how she even got inside the casket. While she attempts to get away, she encounters some chrome skull mask wearing nutjob named...um, Chrome Skull (Nick Principe), who is stalking her directly and killing anyone in the way of getting his hands on her. With no idea who this guy is or why he is even doing this to her, the girl hitchhikes away from danger. She meets up with gruff Tucker (Kevin Gage) and his wife Cindy (Lena Headey), who take her in. Things get bloody messy quick because of Chrome Skull, leading her to meet up with Steven (Sean Whalen), a mama's boy/computer whiz whose mother just passed away and wants no part of this girl's mess. As the answers and memories come back to this mystery girl, the revelations appear to be more disturbing than she could have ever dreamed.
LAID TO REST surprised the hell out of me. I normally don't go into Direct-to-DVD horror films with an optimistic frame of mind, since more of them turn out to be very disappointing. But LAID TO REST is a huge exception to the rule, giving slasher fans everything they would want in a slasher film. From massive amounts of blood and gore, a barebones story with strong characters, and enough tension and mystery to keep you captivated, LAID TO REST is a huge success!
LAID TO REST isn't known for its highly structured plotline. As a matter of fact, what slasher film really is besides the classics? But LAID TO REST does have a great story behind it, especially when it has an actual mystery leading it along. The true identity of The Girl is what drives this film, making the viewer wonder why Chrome Skull targeted this girl and why he's messing with her so much instead of just killing her. He keeps putting her in caskets anytime he catches up to her, forces her to go into a convenience store to buy a Mini DV tape by calling her a bitch, and kills her friends in front of her. Yet he doesn't do anything to her. What gives? The fact is, even when we do find out who this girl is [and I didn't even guess it right], we still don't really know what makes her so special. From all we know, she's just a girl from Miami he wanted to add to his collection. The killer had no true motive other than to kill a certain girl from a certain city. I think that's actually an awesome plot point because I like a good mystery and I especially like a serial killer who doesn't have any visible motive other than to kill. That's why The Shape was such an awesome character until the whole brother-sister twist with Laurie Strode was revealed. It made him and the situation his victims were in scarier. Same goes to LAID TO REST, as it made The Girl and Chrome Skull both interesting characters as polar opposites of each other.
I also appreciated that the characters weren't totally stereotypical. Sure you have the Final Girl, the killer, the teens, the grown ups, the hero, the nerd/smart guy, etc. But they're actually developed and they have personality, making them all exceptionally likable. In most slasher films, these characters would be nothing but one-dimensional cannon fodder for the much charismatic killer. But LAID TO REST actually fleshes these characters out and you give a damn whether they live or die. The Girl, heroic Tucker, and cowardly Steven are all good people and help each other out even when they don't want to, knowing it could get them killed. I was actually invested in these people and that helped build a greater sense of tension that most slashers don't have. Hell, even Chrome Skull has character just by filming his killing sprees, cleaning himself whenever things get messy, and just being damn unstoppable by murdering people in awesome ways with his sweet knife. Seriously, this dude was a fuckin' badass on legs. No way would I ever want to encounter this motherfucker. And the guy doesn't even talk!! He fuckin' text messages you into peeing your pants! If that's not great character development, I don't know what is.
I also dug that the film played every thing straight and let the natural dialogue in context of the situation build character, tension, and intentional laughs. It wasn't self-aware of itself. It wasn't trying to be a horror-comedy by having the victims crack jokes at a desperate attempt to keep viewers entertained. The Steven character, in particular, was the wisecracker only because he didn't want to be involved to begin with. His humor came from the fact that we could all understand how he felt if we were ever in his shoes. Would the jokes work on a second viewing? Probably not. But at least they worked, right?
I did have a few issues with the story and the characters. Like why every damn car in this town had trouble whenever the killer was around. I mean one or two cars, maybe. But all of them? Kind of stretching it a bit too much. Also, why in the hell would you waste bullets by shooting the killer - AT HIS CHROME SKULL MASK? The shit will just bounce right off! Not like shooting him in the body did anything anyway since he just pulled bullets out of his wounds and self-stitched them. But at least it's better than shooting his METAL mask! Idiots! I was actually rooting for Chromey and his sweet blade at that point.
Out of anything, LAID TO REST will undoubtedly be known for its gore. And by God...this film was a gorgeous gorefest that made me say "Holy shit!" more than on one occasion. I mean, a knife straight into the skull? Another knife shot that started at the jaw and led to a face getting sliced off the hard way? Intestines vomiting out of someone's stomach? A shotgun blowing a head into a million pieces? A face melting? I mean, this film did not hold back the violence! For a limited budget, Almost Human did a phenomenal job with the FX in this film. It just made what Chrome Skull did that much more effective and deadlier. Gorehounds will salivate over the kills in this movie. I know I did. Also have to give credit to the look of Chrome Skull. Just an intimidating look for a villain. I really liked it.
Robert Hall, who's known for his FX work on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, does a fantastic job behind the camera. You can tell this guy is a true horror fan. He takes what he knows and uses them not only in the way they should be used, but also in new creative ways that we've haven't seen in quite a while. The murder sequences are shot beautifully without quick cuts or anything distracting to make it less effective. He feeds you the gore right in front of your face. The editing is top notch and the pacing is fantastic. The tension is there and the suspense creeps up on you. And the cinematography has just the right look for a modern slasher like this, as the film takes place in one dark night in the South. Just a great directorial job here by Hall. I was very impressed by the visuals and how they were handled here.
The acting was actually quite good here as well. Bobbie Sue Luther, who happens to be Robert Hall's hot wife, does herself well as The Girl in her first lead role. She was convincing in her fear, confusion, frustration, and sadness when the truth was revealed. She handled herself well with the more credible actors in the film. I liked her alot and would like to see her in more films. Kevin Gage as Tucker was probably the strongest in the entire film. Usually known for his work as a villain, Gage is the total opposite in creating a hero you can root for. He is very engaging and I always thought he was pretty underrated as an actor. He does a nice job here. Sean Whalen is pretty funny as Steven, being the comic relief of the film. I think his character may be the one most viewers will relate to. We also get cameos by Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles stars Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker, who do well in their limited roles. And Nick Principe as Chrome Skull was excellent. Great cast all around.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WAKING UP WITH AMNESIA FROM MY COFFIN
- The Girl complained about waking up in a box. I woke up in a box once. I may pay for it 9 months later. (bites nails)
- Lena Headey had her suspicions about The Girl. Well after dealing with misogynistic Spartans and fighting off Terminators, I don't really blame her.
- Johnathon Schaech got his face sliced off. I guess that's part of the half Christina Applegate won in their divorce!
- Some stupid chick got her abdomen sliced open while running away from Chrome Skull. Whew! I guess I won't have to worry about the next 9 months after all!
- Chrome Skull got poked in both eyes until they bled out, yet he was still able to see perfectly fine. He must go to the same eye doctor that Michael Myers goes to. I should be a horror movie villain. They get the best medical coverage.
THE FINAL HOWL
LAID TO REST is definitely an awesome time. I was not expecting this film to be this good but it slapped me in the face and showed me that American horror is still alive and kicking. It didn't have to remake a much better film. It didn't have to use cheap gimmicks to grab and keep your attention. It offered a more than competent slasher template but with a twist that was both original and refreshing. Every horror fan [and non-horror fan for that matter] should check this sucker out. Hell, I may even buy this one and add it to my collection. LAID TO REST is a keeper!