JULY 24, 2011
I had passed over Pelt a few times now on the Netflix instant lineup, because it sounded like the sort of thing I had seen about a thousand times already (hey, I’m coming up on that being a literal statement!), what with kids in the woods being stranded and being picked off by a killer who lived there. But as I was still quite tired from Comic Con, I figured it would be perfect, not requiring much of my brain (if any), and if I dozed for a few minutes, I’d be able to easily tell what I missed.
Well on a story level I was correct – this is pretty much by the numbers. Our group gets to the woods, fucks around for a while, some go off alone to fuck and die, the others look for them, etc, etc. It toed the line between slasher and survival horror fairly nicely, with the killer chaining a couple of them up but never dipping into full torture territory, but otherwise didn’t really offer much new to the genre.
However, it was pretty enjoyable all the same, thanks to the weirdest group of jerks ever assembled for one of these things. Seemingly taking a cue from Hatchet (not unlike the movie I used to START Comic Con, oddly enough), the hero isn’t really an alpha male type, but sort of a schmuck – the closest I could compare him to would be the James DeBello character from Cabin Fever. And like in Hatchet, his best pal is the black guy, who lasts a lot longer than many of his predecessors and is also a bit of a loser; the ducky pajamas that he wears for most of the movie are a pretty hilarious touch. There’s also a douche who, when he wants one, will only say “Beer” until he gets one. It’s actually kind of hilarious, at least to my half-asleep brain.
The women are even more memorable. There’s a generic blonde, but she makes out with her best friend in order to fuck with the requisite “old guy at the gas station”, and that best friend is possibly my favorite. Not only is actress Amber Bollinger one of those women you’re just instantly smitten with, but her character is a confessed nymphomaniac who keeps complaining that her vagina (she uses a more colorful word) is numb, professes her love of roofies, and, in a highlight, watches the blonde and her boyfriend screw around, then convinces the blonde’s boyfriend to take her up the “delivery entrance” while the blonde runs off to get a beer. Awesome. I also enjoyed the final girl character played by Ashley Watkins, who is a bit smarter than some of her peers (pointing out a few logic holes in the other survivors’ plans, though hers are often as horror-movie-stupid), and also smokes and swears like the rest of them. At times it seems like they are attempting to make us wonder if Watkins or Bollinger is going to be the final girl, but come on. You can’t be Laurie Strode once you’ve been cornholed.
Where it falls short of “win” is in the killer department. Not only do we not get much of a back-story (which isn’t the end of the world, though a bit of an odd omission for this sort of slasher, when they’re supposed to be a local legend of sorts), but we never get much of a good look at him either. I just watched the damn thing and if someone were to make a Movie Maniacs figure of him, I wouldn’t be able to recognize him. Though he does have overalls, so I’d probably guess Madman or something. For the most part the movie is much more professionally shot than I was expecting (someone on the IMDb thought it was shot with an iPhone – it actually looked better than stuff like 28 Days Later if you ask me), and I was a big fan of the lens flare drenched early scenes, so this oversight was a bit unforgivable – they seemingly knew what they were doing, why didn’t they give us a bunch of hero shots? Hell, in the last kill you don’t even see him at all.
Back to what they got right, I liked that it was set in 1991, which was a nice way around the cell phone issue, but didn’t go overboard with it. Maybe they just didn’t have the dough to do much else to nail down the time period, but if this was a studio movie, you can be sure that they’d be playing, I dunno, Will Smith’s “Summertime” or maybe Alice Cooper’s “Hey Stoopid” on the soundtrack and other obnoxious shit like that. Whenever a movie goes overboard trying to prove what time period it is, it just comes off as even more of a forgery – having just the printed date and a lack of modern devices actually worked better.
I also liked that they didn’t have an opening kill scene, something that is sort of standard in these sort of Wrong Turn-esque films. We get a few close up shots of scattered paper (foreshadowing later events) and then meet our weird, should-be-hated group. After I watched the movie I read someone complaining that “nothing happens until the 28 minute mark” (the movie is 86 minutes long) – I feel bad for that poor bastard if he ever finds himself watching Demonic Toys 2, which is much shorter and takes much longer to get to the first kill. 28 minutes is actually pretty fair, I think. And they make up for this “lack” with a bit of a surprise at the end, which I won’t spoil but made me smile – writer/director Richard Swindell, purposely or not, lived up to one of slasher cinema’s golden rules.
The generic plot and potentially hateful characters may turn some off (on another day I might have hated them myself), but for whatever reason I found them largely charming, and the movie was doused with just enough intentional humor (love the “I’ve seen worse” bit) to keep me entertained. And hot chicks acting crass are just too appealing to me – I could have watched Bollinger’s character do her thing for 90 minutes sans any horror whatsoever and ended up liking it even more. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to the average horror fan, but if you share my sensibilities and have seen enough amateur productions to have a deep appreciation for professional competence on the independent level, I think you’ll find Pelt is pretty enjoyable.
What say you?