Savaged is a low-budget, rape-revenge exploitation throwback that shows the likes of last year’s horrendous I Spit on Your Grave 2 how it’s done. When Zoe, a deaf girl driving through the desert to meet her boyfriend, is picked up by a bunch of horrible rednecks to be gang-raped, Savaged is able to convey the brutality of the act without simply lingering on it for minutes on end. Similar to The Crow, the murdered Zoe is then brought back to life via an old Native American ritual that instils the spirit of an Apache warrior in her to seek vengeance. From there, the ‘revenge’ portion of Savaged becomes more of a fast-paced action film, as Zoe dispatches her rapists in a series of gleefully gory and inventive kills, coupled with some thrilling action set-pieces.
Vincenzo Natali’s first film since Splice is a disappointingly slight supernatural thriller about a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) who, frustrated with her repetitive days, comes to realise that she and her family are actually ghosts haunting their house after having been murdered. It’s not a bad idea for a horror movie but Haunter is never particularly inventive or scary with its premise as Breslin sets out to solve the mystery of their murder. The fact that he had no hand in writing it, coupled with him currently taking on TV work, worryingly suggest that Natali’s becoming less of an auteur and more of a director for hire at this stage in his career.
Cheap Thrills is more of a black comedy than a horror film, but should hold a strong appeal for horror fans. Pat Healy (The Innkeepers, Compliance) is down-on-his luck, having just received an eviction notice and lost his job. Drowning his sorrows in a bar, he first runs into an old friend, then a wealthy couple (Anchorman’s David Koechner and Healy’s Innkeepers co-star Sara Paxton). Throwing his money around, Koechner, in a deviation from his usual persona, begins by offering the two friends simple challenges, like taking shots fastest, for financial rewards. Then, as they’re invited to leave with the couple, the challenges keep coming, and the stakes get higher as he pits the two against each other. Cheap Thrills successfully ups itself on the contests the duo face without ever simply devolving into ‘gross-out’ gags or wildly implausible ones. It has some satirical reality-TV subtext concerning just what people will do for money and what those with the money will enjoy making them do, but is primarily concerned with maintaining a high level of tense entertainment, with a nasty sense of humour.
Wolf Creek 2
Greg McClean’s follow-up to his 2005 breakthrough has been a long time coming, he’s only managed one film in between (the little-seen but actually rather good giant crocodile movie Rogue). John Jarratt returns as Mick, the serial killer who’s happy to play-up every Aussie outback stereotype, he even whistles Waltzing Matilda. Unlike the first film which spent most of its slow first half introducing its backpacker characters, Wolf Creek 2 doesn’t waste any time. Mick is there from the start, murdering a couple of cops who mock him in a splendidly gory fashion. As this opening establishes, it’s also a lot more comedic than its darker predecessor. Wolf Creek 2 runs into a bit of trouble with this decision, as it tries to have it both ways, to possess the uncomfortable chills of sadistic torture movies and also the humour of campier, self-aware slashers without fully nailing either. Jarrett gives an amusing performance and the film defies tradition a little in changing up Mick’s victims, but ending with cold, true crime fact cards, pertaining the film to be inspired by real events after having the killer and victim enjoy a sing-along of Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport is an uneasy blend McClean can’t quite justify.