Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Review : Needle (2010)

A college student, Ben,  inherits a 18 Century French antique box after his Father dies. The box is said to have been used during the french 'Grand Giognol' Theatre and is worth a great deal of money, but not long after Ben receives it, the antique goes missing, and his close friends begin to die, in gruesome and mysterious circumstances..

NEEDLE opens with a pretty effective coda which sets up the supernatural elements of the story. It opens strong, with some decidedly creepy music and a satisfyingly gory kill. Excellent, thought I. This looks pretty good. I always appreciate an opening that sets up a mystery. If something can grab my attention in the first five minutes, its a good bet my ass will be remaining on the couch for the next ninety minutes or what have you. Then, just as quickly as this original little intro has come; its gone. And BOOM, we're hit with a soft pop rock track playing as the camera slowly pans down into a college campus. Fuck! For the briefest of moments I had high hopes that I may have discovered a hidden gem. Sure as shit we're quickly introduced to the beautiful young cast, (no one ugly or even average looking is allowed anywhere fucking NEAR higher education, apparently), and get bombarded with the usual cliched nonsense that's come knocking on our door so many thousands of time before.

They're all here, the sex obsessed sports fanatic, the nerdy guy who's desperate to fuck the unattainable blond, the quiet and reserved hottie who wants to bang the lead actor, the lead actor who seems oblivious to what the rest of the male species can clearly see, (that she's fucking hot), the token black guy who has two lines in total, the lesbian couple who dry hump every chance they get, (why does this never happen in real life?).  All here vying for their three minutes of screen time and a chance to get slaughtered, both literally and figuratively. By the time this little GAP gang was introduced, I was ready to hit the bottle. It was gonna be a long morning. Twenty minutes into this Australian flick and I felt like I was watching an episode of Neighbours. Nothing happened, outside family drama, some partying and a whole lot of fuck all else. The only thing in the opening section of the film, (minus the coda), was the cameo by V's very own lizard queen herself, Jane Badler. That was a nice touch. Good to see her on the screen again, and she still looks pretty fine. So, we're twenty or so minutes more into our short life on the planet and things are looking bleak.

Then, all of a sudden, the,(seemingly forgotten), mystery that kicked the whole thing off comes back into play, and the film, despite all the signs, gets interesting. And it manages to hold that interest for almost the entirety of the run time. As soon as the mystery becomes central to the movie, the film switches to a mode that can best be describes as somewhere between a slasher film, an occult film and a whodunit, and it all works quite well. I'm a sucker for anything related to black magic, and the history behind the artifact causing all the mayhem is fascinating stuff. Not to mention the artifact itself makes for a pretty gruesome instrument of bloodletting. There are some nice kills to be found here. One in particular is very well shot and makes good use of the (praise Jeebus!), in camera gore effects. Add these kills to a solid whodunit and you have a fun little movie on your hands. The film I was most reminded of was the admittedly superior URBAN LEGEND. They have a similar vibe despite having very different plots.

Acting wise, its all over the place, though there are a number of decent performances. The films lead, Micheal Dorman, (TRIANGLE, DAYBREAKERS), plays decent bloke and inheritor of the death device known as, 'Le Vaudou Mort, does okay with what he has, although the character seems to become more and more of a pussy as events unfold, aren't we supposed to be rooting for this guy. Second in command, and giving a far finer performance that I expected to find here, is Travis Fimmel, ( THE EXPERIMENT), who, as the leads older brother, brings a nervous energy to his character that lends very well to the tension between the two. It was a wise choice on Director, John V. Soto's part in putting these two center stage. Most of the rest of the cast are wallpaper, frankly, and barely manage two dimensions, never mind three. Also of note, its nice to see John Jarrett here, even if he is underused. The man became an instant legend playing sadistic lunatic, Mick Taylor is the far superior Australian shocker, WOLF CREEK. He's great here as always and his touch of class is always welcome.

Direction wise, its very workmanlike. The films only directorial flourish comes from the kills scenes, which take a leaf out of Dario Argento's book, down to the black gloved hand of the killer. They work and help punctuate the tale when it hits its slow spots.

NEEDLE is a reasonably slick looking low budget horror that manages to hold the interest and tease the brain a little as you bounce from suspect to suspect. Its far from Sherlock Holmes, or even SCREAM, but its a fun diversion with a strong soundtrack, some nice kills and a cool concept. The finale lets it down a little, but overall, low budget fans could do worse than to rent this humble supernatural slasher. Its generic is its style, cinematography and setting, but manages to entertain thanks to a couple of good performances and an attention grabbing plot.

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