Stars:Diane Foster, David Backus and Matt Farnsworth
Marcus Miller is a serial murderer hellbent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. His lessons are taught in massive doses of vulgar and unimaginable pain. Throughout her brutal torture we learn that Marcus is not the only Miller with Killer in the bloodline as Audrey proves to be a formidable adversary.
Old school slashers. We all love em. Who can resist a masked maniac happily going about his business of hacking up some mediocre actors? I know I can't. And while I'm sometimes a little unforgiving if I have a lot invested in the slaughter, (see my COLD PREY 3 review here), I am, for the most part, very open to the many flaws to be found within the sub-genre. In fact, many of the 'flaws' can be beneficial to the work. The young kids trying (too hard usually) to make their mark in the acting world are sometimes far more endearing for their lack of experience. And, as its a sub-genre that truly belongs in the 'low' to 'seriously low' budget bracket, the creators have to work far harder, often producing surprisingly impressive results. And much like LAID TO REST seduced us with its creative kills and cooler than ice lunatic, THE ORPHAN KILLER seeks to win the slasher fan over with great visuals and an yet another instantly memorable nutcase.
As the film started I noticed two things. One very positive and one very negative. The positive was that for such a low budget work, its a damn fine looking movie. We open with aeriel shots. Yep, aeriel shots. Its automatically clear that theres some effort went into this bad boy. On the negative side, the opening music is atrocious. It takes some balls to open your film with aeriel shot while playing the opening song from THE LOST BOYS, and I admire that shit, (stand your ground and state your case, Horror Directors of the world). What I despised instantly was the fact that this version of 'Cry Little Sister' was of the 'Death Metal' variety.
Now I know that its a often stated myth that genre fans all listen to death metal, heavy metal and so on, but we don't. We are as varied and as unique as the clouds in the sky, man. I don't mind me some Thrash metal now and again but I'm a psychedelic guy first and foremost. That said, I don't wanna go see a HELLRAISER movie and have it soundtracked by Spacemen 3 or The Black Angels. Just because I love a certain type of music doesn't mean I should be forcing it on others. And in the Horror genre, music is key. Its one of the vital components. As THE ORPHAN KILLER opened, I felt the dread build in me that this sort of music would permeate the whole show. I was right.
Let me get this out of the way so I can get to the good stuff. First of all, theres a place for all types of music, but in a slasher movie, atmosphere should come before personal tastes. I remember watching Argento's OPERA for the first time, and every time a kill was happening onscreen there was an inexplicable burst of 80's metal. It hurt the scenes, basically, and even though I still adore the film as a whole, I cant quite get my head around why a director would use such completely inappropriate music for such a scene, (other than bad cocaine). The same goes here. Many kills are punctuated by thrashing guitars and/or unintelligible grunting into a microphone. The film is so tight, and so damned brutal, that it didn't spoil the experience. It just diluted each scene it featured in. I think this is a case of a directors own passion for a type of music getting the better of him. I understand it, he may feel it enhances the movie, but for many people it will only serve to alienate or irritate them. Much of the ambient music in the film is great, and helps build the tension, but next time, go easy on the thrash metal in the kill scenes. That shit belongs in an action movie or THE CROW 9, not in a slasher. I know you cant please all the people all the time, but the movies impact should always come first.
Other than sections of the soundtrack, THE ORPHAN KILLER has a lot to offer slasher fans. And director Matt Farnsworth does have a firm grasp of what makes a kill count movie work. The backstory to the killer is very intriguing and deserves a film all of its own. We're treated to some tantalising, (and very well shot) flashbacks of the killers past. Marcus, (our madman), and his relationship with his sister, is only reminiscent of Micheal and Laurie's relationship in that they're kin. Its never derivative. In fact, its one of the better genesis stories I've come across in a modern slasher. The demons driving Marcus are to some degree understandable, and it really gives the story that extra punch.
THE ORPHAN KILLER is, like any self respecting kill count movie, concerned with extreme, unnecessarily brutal, and altogether glorious violence. And Farnsworth has the intellect and savvy to understand that CG is a dirty word when it comes to gore. We don't want it. We've stamped our damn feet and let our voices be heard, but its only the little guys,(the indie filmmakers who actually love Horror), who hear our plea. Farnsworth piles on the ultra-violence like a kid let loose with a box of Halloween tricks and no parental supervision. The gore is brilliant. The kills are intense, very graphic and very satisfying. Realistic blood splatter, multiple stabbings, sawing and slicing are the order for the day. Our killer is a really pissed off kitty. Wouldn't wanna be within three states of this guy. Bad shit went down in Marcus' past, and he hasn't mellowed in the years between then and his frenzied family reunion. Not one bit.
Speaking of Marcus, he's played very well by David Backus. He uses his physicality to give his creation a powerful, dangerous and focused presence. Crazy, (and awesome), mask or not, you'd know this guy had something fucked up inside of him if he ever came stomping towards you in a nightclub. He's a hurricane with a huge fucking axe. A Terminator with one colossal damn chip on his shoulder. Whats more, adding untold layers of creepiness to his character is the fact that Marcus speaks! And his insanity is every bit as evident in his ranting and growling as it is in his menacing physique. Very rare in a masked killer film, and very welcome. I hope, if theres a sequel, we get to see more of Backus in the part. He's helped bring to life a seriously badass mass murderer.
As his counterpoint and his sister, Diane Foster is extremely likable and an actress with fine potential. Its great to have a final girl we can care about again. She's a naturalistic actress, and her believability sells the madness on display, especially during the scenes in which she's terrorised, (theres a lot of them). Not to mention the fact that she has no concerns whatsoever with getting her clothes off for a leering, brilliantly overlong shower scene. Good work, girl. The rest of the cast arrive quietly and die violently. Theres some sub-par acting, but who really gives a damn. It all works.
THE ORPHAN KILLER is a must see for those with a taste for underground Horror. Its a film so tightly woven, and so dedicated to its own internal chaos, that even with a disjointed soundtrack, the film is still one hell of a fun ride. Matt Farnsworth is one to watch. He has a deft understanding of what makes this type of movie effective, and has crafted an old school slasher film that is lowdown, dirty, cruel and tasteless. It will have you grinning from ear to ear like the sick, morally corrupt creep you truly are. See it.
8 Pissed Off Siblings out of 10
8 Pissed Off Siblings out of 10