Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Blood Widow (2014)

Blood Widow (2014)

Blood Widow is exactly what I predicted it would be the moment I saw it on Redbox. It's a low-budget, by-the-numbers slasher flick that doesn't do anything particularly groundbreaking outside of (spoiler warning) killing off the "final girl" at the end and having the titular villain win. The characters are breathtakingly stupid, the acting is all over the map from merely passable to downright wretched, the sound design is amateurish, and while the killer clearly had some thought put into her by the makers of this film (female slasher villains are rare), they proceeded to do absolutely nothing with her legitimately interesting backstory afterwards. The abundant bloodshed and a halfway-decent sense of tension made the 82-minute run time passable, and I can't hate on a film so clearly low-budget for very long, but I still cannot recommend this to anyone but the most desperate aficionados of '80s-style slashers.

I probably don't need to recount the plot for a film like this, but if you must: fifteen years ago, a boarding school for girls was shut down after one of the students, a mentally disabled girl named Tiffany, was molested by the headmaster and murdered him as revenge. Now, a young couple, Hugh and Laurie (ha ha, real funny), have moved into the house next door, and Hugh has invited some of his friends -- the meathead Mark, the effete shy guy Kenneth, the kooky granola girl Harmony, and the slut Amber -- over to have a party. The dumbasses decide to break into the long-abandoned boarding school and smash up the place, causing Tiffany (who's been living there all this time) to come after them, and you can probably tell where the film is gonna go from there. Oh, and Hugh and Laurie are fighting because, while Hugh loves to party, Laurie wants to settle down, though that subplot is dropped almost immediately after it's brought up. And near the end, Tiffany kidnaps and tortures Laurie instead of killing her for some reason, only to kill her later anyway. Yeah, this film cares about characters and plot even less than the Transformers movies do, viewing them as, respectively, blood bags and an excuse to get to spilling them. We get a big hint early on that the home's previous owners were connected to the boarding school, and Tiffany's backstory is given to us in detail, but once the third act rolls around all of that is abandoned. Pretty much every moment of character development and story adds up to absolutely nothing, which wouldn't have bothered me if this film didn't spend so much time trying to pretend that it did matter.

Granted, it's not that hard for a slasher movie to get away with having a cookie-cutter story and wafer-thin characters if the "meat" of the film holds up. This film wears its '80s throwback nature proudly and flagrantly, and to its credit it pulls it off a lot better than, say, Sorority Party Massacre did. It delivers its bloodshed in quantities that are more than sufficient to sate any gorehound's thirst, with only the opening kill cutting away before the death blow, and while most of the gore was quite clearly fake, it was only glaringly obvious in one scene. One scene towards the end was quite legitimately brutal. Also, the buildups to the kills at least try to be suspenseful, and they pull it off more often than they miss. However, in the crowded world of direct-to-video slashers, it takes a lot more than just gore and an interesting-on-paper killer to stand out from the pack. Of the actors, the only one who stood out was Gabrielle Henry, who played the killer, and that was probably more due to her costume and her not having any lines to say than any particular talent on her part. The actors playing the victims are all-around subpar, with some giving slightly better performances than the others (particularly Danielle Lilley, who played Laurie) but none of them rising above the film they're in, and all of them having at least one chuckle-worthy moment of under- or over-acting. And while, like I said, the kills aren't shy about giving us the goods, none of them are all that creative, with at least two of them -- a swift, one-blow decapitation with a sickle, and the chopping off of someone's hands -- being recycled later in the film. Even the genre's critics will tell you that a slasher film is made or broken by the quality and creativity of the kills, and while this film arguably met the first half of that equation, it belly-flopped on the second.

Oh, and one last word of wisdom: if you're making a serious movie, no matter how cheap your budget is, invest in a boom mic. Don't rely on the microphone built into your camera. Otherwise, you'll get this film's most unforgivable problem, poor sound design that renders the dialogue muddled and often changing volume between, or even within, scenes. In at least one scene, an actress' dialogue was completely inaudible. This is basic filmmaking 101 that the director goofed on, and it showcased just how little effort went into this.

Score: 2 out of 5

Bloody kills and an interesting villain can't make up for this film's overall amateur-hour production values and cookie-cutter feel. Unless you're truly desperate for a new slasher flick, you have little reason to watch this.

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