I went into this movie with semi-high expectations. Nothing spectacular but I heard almost universal praise for it since it came out. One of the things that caught my attention was that it was distributed online only a day after it was in theaters (Which was a very limited theatrical run as well). It should be a way that movies are released as it allows people to choose how to see it without going to the movie theater if they so desire. My thoughts on the theater going experience are well documented.
As the movie began, I set down on a chilly October evening alone, in darkness ready to get a bit creeped out and scared and trying to get into the Halloween mood since I really don’t do many scary movies. I knew it wasn’t going to be 100% horror, and it is supposed to be a mashup of several genres. I knew the basic plot going in, as through osmosis of others raving about it. Cage is going to be murdering plenty and covered in blood by the end.
This movie does start out with an amazing promise and potential. It takes place in a small secluded forest town in the early 80’s. The pace and the style of the movie is trying to set the tone, and it gives off a very different vibe than what I thought it was going to be. One of the standouts was the stylization of the movie. Having location and themes pop up in graphic fonts introing the setting and characters is a rad idea and I applaud any movie that takes a different approach to make the cinematic feeling come more alive and set it apart.
This movie starts off slow. Brutally slow. And as much as I like a slow burn in movies, this movie takes too long to get to the point. It’s meandering and it’s over 30 minutes before even the first interesting thing happens. And sadly the next time the movie picks up again, is after the hour mark. So many shots go on way too long, and the entire first half of the movie is setup, but does an extremely poor job of this. Without looking at IMDB or the final credit crawl, you couldn’t name more than one person’s character.
This movie is the modern version of Easy Rider. And that is not a compliment. It’s an acid trip for over an hour and doesn’t not how to move on. As Nic Cage’s girlfriend is set ablaze before him, it spends the next several minutes showing the back and forth of him being horrifically traumatized. It’s like being beat over the head with the same joke even after we understand and have laughed. The movie just doesn’t get how to move forward after the information has been conveyed.
It’s only after Cage gets free from the barbed wire ropes (which I admit is a great idea on how to tie someone up), that the movie actually gets a kick in the pants and starts to get to the promise of Cage murdering mehnically. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the scene of Cage chugging vodka and acting as only Cage can, as a man being completely torn to bits psychologically. Screaming and laughing and crying and pouring alcohol on his wounds and in his gullet makes for a great scene that doesn’t cut away or get edited for two minutes. This is what I expected from this movie.
From here the movie basically doesn’t stop. Cage goes to his friends house and gets the only bit of information about the characters and motivation in an exposition dump. This is where I kinda lost it for a few minutes. This information should have been conveyed in the hour lead up time. Where were the shots of those truckers encountering these black hill biker monsters? Where was the other murders that set up everything? Honestly, I thought these weren’t actual people, but demons that Cage was going to be fighting against. Because the film does no favors to make it look like anything real and tangible.
This is basically two films rolled into one. It has a distinct B movie, grindhouse aesthetic to it that I can appreciate, but good grief is the entire first half of the film utterly pointless. This movie should have been re-edited and cut in half and it would be infinitely more enjoyable. I almost shut it off, just mere moments before they get captured, which I never do. But I stuck with it, and I am glad I did. Yet there is so much more potential for this movie that was either left on the cutting room floor or just never shot. Instead of having a single unknown character speak at us the backstory, SHOW IT! Spend the first hour of the film building up the characters and making the motivations of the bikers and cult mean something. Because after an hour, I had zero attachment to the leads and didn’t care about who died, but just who was going to die.
If you can’t name one character other than the titular character, it’s a poorly written script. Yet… that’s not what this movie is. It’s a modern Easy Rider with tinges of Heavy Metal 2000 and Grindhouse and B movie exploitation in it for good measure. It’s certainly what I expected and not what I expected at all.
The throbbing neon pink and red hues stand out against the modern era of filmmaking, as does the synth and metal soundtrack.This movie sets itself apart as something completely different, and I can’t fault it for that. It should be recognized. But the little indie film does show certain flaws when held up to modern cinema and tweaks to the pacing could make this movie an all time great. Instead it just ends up as a weird B movie that tried to be different and was.