Wes Craven. Beloved by so many, adorned with the “master of horror” title that also goes to the likes of Hooper, Romero, Carpenter, etc and yet there’s just something about Wes Craven’s moves that have always shown up something lacking within the man, in my opinion.
I have often argued the case that while I consider Craven to be a master craftsman at times I would never bestow any title upon him that classes him as any kind of artist. He has some great ideas, he can create some great moments of horror and tension but he also often overdoes things by either cowing to studio pressure or simply not holding himself in check (I have often bemoaned the fact that Craven would be carried away by his penchant for booby-traps but I’ll try not to dredge all that up here and now).
But the man gave us The Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Serpent And The Rainbow and Scream. Okay, he also gave us The People Under The Stairs, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Cursed (which I actually really enjoyed) and Scream 3 but the point I’m making is that the man deserves to at least be given the benefit of the doubt, especially when he’s on more solid horror genre territory.
With that in mind, it’s a bit of a shame that Craven scored such a success with the safe and implausible thrills of Red Eye while this movie seemed to underperform while providing the goods that should have seen it do just as well in the same teen-oriented market.
It may have been mis-marketed (I remember thinking that the thing looked just awful when I saw the trailers), it may have been mishandled in that terrible 3D conversion in post production (at this point in time it holds the dubious honour of having the lowest opening of a 3D movie and I could not see any moments that looked as if the third dimension would have added any fun whatsoever) or perhaps my undemanding taste is simply contrary to every other, sensible moviegoer.
Things open with a great opening sequence, as a man realises that he is actually “The Riverton Ripper” and battles with his killer personality to keep his family safe and get himself taken in by the authorities. Things get a bit OTT at times but, hey, this is a horror movie and at least it’s a punchy, relentless start to the proceedings. Then we move forward sixteen years and meet The Riverton Seven, a group of teens all born on the day that the crazed killer was apparently killed. But was he? Or will he return, as persistent rumours/gossip go, to claim the souls of the seven kids. We focus on Bug (Max Thieriot, a young actor I have now enjoyed in a few movies and who comes across as very likeable) but there are no shortage of tense moments and red herrings en route to a finale that will show whether or not The Riverton Ripper really died on that fateful night.
Okay, so it’s certainly horror-lite but it’s also certainly horror in a way that the well-received Red Eye wasn’t so it’s a shame that all those who rave about Craven’s directorial skills didn’t actually put their money where their mouths were. The script is okay, the acting is actually pretty good from all involved (Thieriot, obviously, is great and so is John Magaro and Emily Meade while Jessica Hecht does okay in the standard “adult sheltering kids from harmful past” role and everyone else does just fine, even if their roles are a little “undercooked”) and the only real weakness would appear to be the tame treatment of any actual death scenes. Okay, reading that last sentence back to myself makes me realise where I may have been a bit naïve and too forgiving.
But while we may not get a bucketload of blood and guts, we do get some wonderfully off-kilter moments that unsettle as much as they entertain, a reminder of the kind of thing that Craven can really excel at. One scene in particular, Bug and his friend suddenly realising that they’re mirroring one another, stands out as something very impressive and out of the ordinary. I’d also say that the finale was a lot more enjoyable than anything I had expected, thanks to the twists and turns taken by the material (which, admittedly, has as much a chance of irking viewers as it does of entertaining them).
Don’t pay any extra to see it in 3D, don’t set your expectations high and don’t necessarily plan your whole evening around the film and you may just end up finding that it’s a mildly enjoyable teen horror with some interesting moments. Like I did.
DIRECTOR: WES CRAVEN
STARS: MAX THIERIOT, JOHN MAGARO, EMILY MEADE, JESSICA HECHT
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX