Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DVD Review: Laid To Rest - Unrated Director's Cut (2009)

LAID TO REST - Unrated Director's Cut  (2009)
Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: Unrated
RUN TIME: 90 Min.
DIRECTOR: Robert Hall
CAST: Bobbie Sue Luther, Kevin Cage, Sean Whalen, Jonathon Schaech, Thomas Dekker, Nick Principe, Richard Lynch, Lena Headey

SUMMARY: A young woman wakes up in a coffin with a traumatic head-injury. She quickly realizes she has been abducted and is being stalked by the masked serial killer ChromeSkull, a knife wielding maniac in a skull mask that brutally slays anyone who tries to come between him and her.

THE FILM: The film opens as an unnamed woman we'll call The Girl wakes-up inside a casket in the funeral parlor of a mortuary. Mr. Jones, the funeral director walks into the parlor and takes notice of the commotion inside the casket and leaves the room, seemingly startled, we find out more later. He is played by actor Richard Lynch, creepy-ass Harris from the film BAD DREAMS (1988). The woman rocks the casket until it tips  off the table spilling her onto the floor. She tries to leave the parlor but Mr. Jones has locked it. He returns momentarily, and while fumbling for the keys he is run-though by a length of rebar by our masked killer ChromeSkull. Leaving through another door the woman escapes the mortuary runs down the road barefoot, confused and frightened.

The Girl does not know where she is, who she is, or what is happening to her. She is picked-up by Tucker (Kevin Gage, MAY), a nice enough fellow with a gruff voice and a kind demeanor. He's on his way home, runnin' on fumes. He tries to figure out who she is and what's happened to her but it's just not happening, her head is pounding, she's out of it and has trouble stringing words together, she barely musters the vocabulary to inform him that someone trying killing her. Low on gas and nowhere else to go he takes her home, and his wife Cindy (Lena Headey, Queen Gorgo from 300) is none too pleased by this. Nonetheless, she takes a hand at helping the girl recall what's happened to her, with no success. In a scenario typical of the slasher genre there's no phone available to call for help, the phone's been disconnected and no cell phone, of course. This is always a hurdle for genre films, to establish a reason no one can call for help, and it's a but clunky here, too. They offer The Girl the use of the shower and she accepts. While in the shower she takes notice of a nasty head-wound that's been hidden by the length of her hair, explaining her memory loss and disorientation. Afterwards she sits on the couch and chats with Tucker, his wife having gone to bed for the night. The Girl recalls  playing with a princess doll and Tucker begins calling her Princess. With that modicum of success he calls it a night and goes to the bedroom, the doors locked, he calls out for his wife, no answer. Concerned he breaks through the door and discovers ChromeSkull has followed them there and has taken his wife through the window. He bolts outside where his wife is being held by the skulled-masked killer, garbed completely in black,  there is a shoulder-harnessed video recorder filming the event from his POV. he wants The Girl, Tucker tried to strike a bargain which displeases ChromeSkull, he plunges the largest most heinous knife I've ever seen through Cindy's temple driving it clear through to the other side and impaling her to the side of the house, he then twist the knife around breaking bone and pulping her brain. Quite a kill, ultra-graphic and grotesque. Tucker and The Girl run to his truck and speed off to find the ea rest home with a  phone. That house belongs to Steven (Sean Whalen, Roach from THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS), a nerdy lil' man who's mother has just recently passed away, like yesterday. Guess what, no phone, but he's got an internet connection and they decide to email the police on his decade old computer. They decide to take Steven's car as Tucker's is out of gas, and drive to the local Sheriff's department, once there it is painfully obvious that the sheriff, the inmates, and deputy have  fallen victim to ChromeSkull, in fact, he's still there and after the girl. I won't get into too much more detail as this is a film worth watching, especially this time of the year, so get on it.

I really enjoyed this film quite a bit. Bobbie Sue Luther as The Girl is great in the role, very likable, though there are revelations in the film that darken her image. Kevin Cage as Tucker was my favorite character. I was just rooting for this guy throughout the film, so damn likable. The addition of Sean "Roach" Whalen was so great, you see him and immediately think "That's Roach! I like this guy!". The SFX of the film are top notch and bloody as hell, this film is steeped in gore, both practical and CGI, both components are used fantastically. This is the bloodiest film I've seen in a while, great stuff. Director Robert Hall has done make-up and special effects for dozens of films including THE CRAZIES (2010), QUARANTINE (2008) and the X-FILES (1998) though he gave those duties to Erik Porn for LAID TO REST and it's just a home run from the start. Great character design for ChromeSkull, very basic, no frills, and memorable. Something that didn't work for me was the killers MO of recording the killings, it served to get some back story out of the way and put forth some expository plot points, but I just didn't care for it Also, the final third of the film takes place in a road-side market and it just didn't work for me, particularly the handling of ChromeSkull's character and some truly mystifying shit that transpires.

CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2  is set to begin filming this November with director Robert Hall returning  as well as actor Thomas Dekker and Nick Principe as ChromeSkull and will feature a new line-up of character including Brian Austin Green (TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES), Christopher Nelson (KILL BILL VOL. 1), Daniell Harris (HALLOWEEN, HATCHET 2) and Jennifer Blanc (THE VICTIM).  That's a pretty great cast. In the meantime I'll be checking out Hall's previous film LIGHTNING BUG (2004).

DVD: LAID TO REST comes to us by the way of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film is presented in the original 1.78:1 anamorphic wide screen aspect ratio. The film is shot almost entirely at night and the black levels were deep, and the image was crisp and clean. The 5.1 Dolby Surround mix is very active and has decent depth to it. Special Features include an Audio Commentary with writer/director Robert Hall and Actor/Producer Bobbie Sue Luther, whom I believe is Hall's wife. A couple of decent featurettes are included: Postmortem: The Making of LAID TO REST is a 30 min. behind the scenes look at the film, looks like a lot of fun was had on the set. There is also the Torture Porn: The SFX of LAID TO REST, a fun 15 min. look at the fantastic gore effects of the film. Plus we get Deleted Scenes, Bloopers and a trailer. A very good overall package from Anchor Bay, good on 'em.
 VERDICT: A really enjoyable modern take on the 80's slasher genre. ChromeSkull is a  strong entry to the masked killer pantheon, the character are well rounded and likable, which is a switch. In the past 10 years few films provide us with likable character with any depth to 'em. The highlight of the film for me were the amazing gore effects, a good mixture of both practical and CGI, totally brutal and well executed. ** * (3 out of 5 stars)