Paddy Breathnach, UK, 2008, 85 mins
Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Carter, Stephen Dillane, Andrew Lee Potts
Review by Dave Hall
This is a bit of a curiosity; a US-set horror movie, filmed in Northern Ireland with a mix of US, Brit and Irish actors all speaking American, y'all. Like director Breathnach's previous film ‘Shrooms, it's basically a slasher movie with a drug-infused twist, but despite one or two visual flourishes, it mostly follows a disappointingly hackneyed path through some 30-year old genre clichés.
As so often in the slasher film, it's about an outsider, who visits summary justice on those who have wronged/bullied/tormented him - here, it's shuffling, stuttering morgue attendant Kenneth Chisholm (Potts, on nervous twitch overdrive). When he's not taking mobile phone shots of corpses or cutting himself for kicks, our Ken is trying to ingratiate himself with chipmunk-cheeked medical student Catherine (Kebbel). Catherine's fellow trainees are uniformly beastly to this “freakdog” (the film's US title), so when a drink-fuelled prank goes wrong and leaves Kenneth in a coma, guilt-ridden Catherine takes it on herself to inject him with a cocktail of as yet untested drugs. Who knew that this particular brew would enable Kenneth to leave his comatose body and possess those of others, the better to take revenge on his tormentors.
This seems like a fertile horror idea with echoes of both the Denzel Washington vehicle Fallen and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but some wobbly performances from a mostly young cast along with some risible dialogue, particularly in the opening scenes, lets the air out of the balloon early on and the film struggles to recover. Worse for a slasher movie the slayings are mostly pretty dull; surely a whack over the head with a blunt instrument fails the entry test for this kind of thing, yet it's used twice here. The only occasion when there's the promise of something more transgressive is when Kenneth possesses a female nurse who chief bully Sean (Martin Compston) has got the hots for, and lures him into a store room. Just as it seems that Breathnach is going to take things into darker waters, he drops the tension with a thud, and another pointlessly unpleasant murder ensues.
There are some compensations including Stephen Dillane as a coma doctor wound so tight that it's a surprise his eyeballs aren't popping, cartoon-like, out of their sockets, and one disorientating scene in the woods that has the quality of nightmare. But the whole film is patchy with some scenes over too quickly, others going on way too long and many feeling under-rehearsed. There's enough going on to make it likely that Breathnach will get access to a bigger budget next time (the American accents are a bit of a giveaway), but this plays it too safe to get the pulse really racing.