APRIL 8, 2009
If there was one film out of this year’s After Dark Festival that I was sure I would hate, it was Perkins’ 14, from the director of Dark Ride (which should sufficiently explain my prejudice). But damned if I not only liked it, but it’s actually probably my 2nd favorite of the lineup so far (after Autopsy). And I say this after being annoyed all day at jury duty (where I was eventually picked to serve on a 4 week trial - see announcement).
The funny thing about Perkins’ is that the thing that originally made me think I would dislike the movie is the very same thing that made me dig it. See, it starts off as the umpteenth Silence of the Lambs retread, with an intelligent, well-mannered serial killer facing off against a law enforcement type. I could very easily live the rest of my life without ever having to watch one of those movies again, and by the time the movie hit its 2nd “Cop and killer talk through the bars of his jail cell” scene, I was already Twittering my disdain.
But then BAM! It’s a goddamn zombie movie (and the "serial killer" hadn't killed anyone)! OK technically they are just humans that are crazed from experimental drugs, but you take any one attack scene out of context and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from a 28 Days Later or Dawn 04. So for all intents and purposes, around the halfway mark, it’s a zombie movie. It’s like From Dusk Til Dawn, except instead of suddenly becoming a horror movie, it just becomes a different subgenre of horror movie. Well played.
And as a “zombie” film, it delivers. The lack of an entire mob of zombies (there’s only, well, 14) actually works to its benefit; it allows for some actual suspense. The problem with a lot of zombie films (fast or slow) is that the sheer NUMBER of them keeps the characters on constant alert. But here the good guys occasionally let their guards down, and often pay for it. It’s a refreshing angle on well-worn story concepts.
So really, the only problem is the unfortunate production value. We’re in Romania, but it’s supposed to be Maine. Some actors (particularly the guy playing Perkins) manage a decent Maine accent, but the rest just sound like Romanians. It’s very distracting, and it makes me wonder why they couldn’t just say they were in Romania in the first place (it would add to the originality). And the town is supposedly going completely to hell, but we never see any of it (even before bad things occur, the town seems strangely under-populated). There are also some dubious acting choices, such as a cross-eyed guy playing a cop (it’s not played for laughs - this movie’s especially downbeat and grim, which is another thing I liked).
Craig Singer has also improved as a director since Dark Ride. He still has some problems with letting the audience understand where people are in relation to one another (there’s a part where the hero finds his daughter, who is about to be harmed by an approaching zombie, and yet for the life of me I can’t understand how he even sees her or where the hell she is), but he has weaned off of his gonzo time stretch/squeeze fascination, and has improved in structure/pace as well. Sure, it starts slow, but that is a full blown creative decision, not just lame padding (i.e. the “prank” sequence in DR).
The DVD’s only extra (besides the Miss Horrorfest videos that accompany all After Dark releases) are a collection of webisodes about the film’s production. They’re a bit long when combined, and focus far too much on the actors as opposed to the more technical aspects of things, but they’re still worth a look (apart from learning spoilers, they would probably be a lot more exciting to watch as they were originally presented, likely one episode a week over a couple of months, as opposed to all jumbled together). I would have liked to have learned more about the initial internet contest that birthed the film (actors, the story, and even the poster were all chosen via the internet, not entirely unlike Project Greenlight), but yet again, there is no commentary track, which would be a damn good vehicle for such discussion. The first year, Christ, the AD DVDs pretty much all had tracks (Gravedancers even had commentary tracks for the extras!). Now none of them have them at all. It’s weird. Then again, since jury duty will be eating up nearly half my day, I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, as it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed with HMAD “responsibilities.”
Anyway, I hate that I had to spoil the 2nd half of the movie, as it does come as something of a surprise, but I assume that knowing it won’t really affect your enjoyment. Hell, if you’re like me, and are sick of "genius serial killer" movies, it might even HELP, knowing that you only have to deal with that plot for the first 40 minutes.
What say you?