Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 71 Minutes
It's been a while since I've written a post for an "Indie Horror Spotlight". But thanks to MORBID, an independent film directed and written by Chuck Conry, this section has returned. Some of you may know Mr. Conry, who runs a very popular horror review website called ZombiesDon'tRun.net. Being friends, Chuck allowed me the privilege to see an online screener for his first film. And having watched it, I have a few things to say about MORBID.
MORBID is a throwback to slasher films. There's a killer on the loose in some Midwestern town where football players breaking records mean more than two people getting murdered. After some big football game, the star quarterback named Sky Walker throws a party that only seems to attract the killer. As the killer begins to have bloody fun at this party, some cop is on his trail to stop the massacre once and for all.
For a very low budget film [I read the cost was about $500], MORBID is a lot better than one would probably expect. For a newbie, Chuck Conry does a pretty good job in somewhat capturing that 1980s' feel of the slasher movie, giving fans what they would normally expect.
I think what helps MORBID greatly is Conry's witty and pretty humorous script, in which characters have pop culture debates that tend to make the film somewhat self-aware. In particular, I loved the opening sequence in which two friends debate about John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, and how it may-or-may-not be overrated. They discuss films that came before or after HALLOWEEN, such as FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and BLACK CHRISTMAS - arguing whether HALLOWEEN was really all that original or as good as those other classic horror films to gain the notoriety it has received since. The funny part is that the things that HALLOWEEN is being criticized for - pretty much the first person POV shots that BLACK CHRISTMAS led the way for HALLOWEEN to use [although I'm sure other horror films did this before BLACK CHRISTMAS] - are also used by Conry as he reveals the killer for the first time. So in a way, Conry is poking fun at himself for being influenced by these films as to use their templates for MORBID. There are also conversations involving G.I. Joe, Thundercats, comparing the status of a relationship with Rob Thomas' relationship with Matchbox Twenty, Ric Flair, Mortal Kombat, and other pop culture items. Those who are not really into this information may not love the screenplay here. But I'm a pop culture nut, so it suited me just fine. I laughed more than once during MORBID, so it's all good from that standpoint.
The characters are pretty stereotypical. You have the Final Girl. You have the Douchey Jock. You have the Nerd. You have the Cop who is hunting down the Killer. None of them are given any real character development, but slasher films weren't really known for that anyway. I wish I cared about the characters more than I did, which hurts MORBID quite a bit. But I thought the Killer looked pretty cool, especially the smiley face on the mask. And the gag at the end with the Killer and the Final Girl came out of nowhere and had me dying. But yeah, don't expect to get too attached to these characters at all.
If I had any major issue with the screenplay, it's that most of the scenes are WAY too long. It's something that usually occurs with us screenwriters - we write really long scenes because we want people to get the joke, or because we're so dialogue heavy that anything on our minds gets put on paper. In reality, we can get what we want to say in a much shorter time span, making the film much shorter and the story a lot tighter. MORBID has this issue and it's too bad. I liked the dialogue and I would speak to my friends like these characters do. But it just goes on and on, when it could have been edited down and gotten the same point across. Plus, it kind of hurts that the whole Kevin Smith/self-aware geek approach in these kind of films feels old hat by 2013. While people act this way, it doesn't mean it's original and/or people want to watch others behave this way. There were so many scenes that I had wished Conry would have cut down, especially those Grundy TV scenes that never seemed to end. I admire the 70 minute runtime on a short budget, but MORBID probably would have been a stronger film if it were maybe 20-25 minutes shorter. Just sayin'.
MORBID has blood and gore, although it's fairly cheap looking. But for a low budget flick, it's actually better than I would have believed prior to watching MORBID. We get eyeballs being popped out of sockets. We get a head crushed by a moving car. We get decapitations. We get sliced throats. We get an armed sawed off. We get a penis being chopped in half. There's other stuff as well that you'll have to see for yourself. The way things were edited and presented make these effects work for the most part. While I don't think every horror film needs to have gore to make it enjoyable, it does enhance MORBID. So I appreciated the attempt and didn't think it looked all that bad.
The direction by Chuck Conry is quite good. While the film does have its share of editing issues, lighting issues, and even sound effect timing issues, Conry manages to visual his screenplay pretty well. Some of the shots look quite nice and framed beautifully. The pacing was good, although the long scenes tended to ruin the film's flow at times. MORBID looked like a low budget slasher film, which I'm sure was Conry's intention. Plus I could tell he, and the cast and crew, were having fun making this, which is always a plus in my book.
The acting is pretty amateur, but no one is really THAT bad. Even so, the lesser actors had me laughing at their delivery at times. The actor who played the killer was very good though. And Chuck Conry even plays a character in the film, in what I thought was a funny scene. This is a film probably composed of Conry's friends, so I didn't mind that it wasn't "professional" enough.
All in all, MORBID isn't a perfect movie. It has its share of issues that can't be overlooked. But hey, I respect anyone who takes the time to write a movie and actually gets the opportunity to visualize it to entertain himself and others. I've seen other indie filmmakers do the same and pretty much bomb. But Chuck Conry definitely has something here and I think if he continues to make films, he'll grow more confident and get a lot better. Honestly, with more tension and better flow and editing, MORBID could have been pretty great. Instead, it's just pretty good and definitely above average. But hey, we all have to start somewhere and I'm sure Conry will get better in his next ventures. It's not easy making a full length movie like this [I know from personal experience], so kudos for Conry for managing to make MORBID happen to begin with. There's potential here. Let's hope it blossoms in the next one.