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Saw III (2006)


According to the Scream series, horror movie installments follow certain conventions. The third movie, for example, tends to be bigger, more shocking, and more over the top than its predecessors, winding up to a climax that will leave you gasping for breath. Saw III is no exception, as torture masterminds Wan and Whannell wanted to wind up the series and end it with a bang. (It didn’t work, incidentally, but the thought was there.)

Saw III is the third movie in the Saw series, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by James Wan and Leigh Wannell. It stars Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFayden, Bahar Soomekh, and Donnie Wahlberg.

Three interweaving storylines unfold during the course of this movie. In one, the police investigate the latest string of Jigsaw-style traps, discovering that these have been rigged in various ways to be inescapable. In another, Jeff Denlon, eaten up by grief over the death of his son, who was hit and killed by a drunk driver, is kidnapped by Jigsaw and forced to perform a series of tests to face his feelings of vengeance against those he sees as responsible for the driver escaping justice with a slap on the wrist. In a third, Dr. Lynn Denlon has also been kidnapped by Jigsaw – actually, his apprentice Amanda. Denlon’s task is to keep Jigsaw, now bedridden from advanced brain cancer, alive until Jeff completes his gauntlet of tests. If Jigsaw dies before then, a trapped collar around her neck will fire shotgun shells into her head, effectively erasing same. However, Amanda has become increasingly unstable since becoming Jiggy’s apprentice, believing that people cannot be redeemed and thus setting up in escapable traps. As Jeff is forced to confront his own demons and Jigsaw’s condition deteriorates, the question of who will survive this twisted game becomes less and less clear with every passing minute…

When I went to see this movie in the theaters, I already know what sort of movie I was getting into. You can imagine my surprise when, while I was waiting for the movie to start, I saw two theoretically responsible adults enter the theater with an eleven-year-old girl. WTF? Thinking that maybe they’d wandered into the wrong theater, I warned them that this movie wasn’t really for kids, but they said they were fine. Okay, I think, your therapy bill. And I was right – this movie is brutal. I’ve seen my share of gory slashers and other horror movies before, but Saw III went for the guts in a way few horror movies have before. Not only are the traps gut-wrenching and physically traumatic, but the story that unfolds with Jeff’s journey makes the audience understand him and sympathize with him, even if they don’t agree with him. He is forced to choose between his vengeful grief, which he has been holding onto for so long that he’s forgotten how to live otherwise, and forgiving those he believes has wronged them. The choices that each room gives him kick him repeatedly in the nuts – he wants vengeance at all costs, but you get the idea that he’s a good man underneath, warts and all. Lynn’s subplot is also hard to watch – kidnapped by a pair of psychopaths, forced to keep one alive even as he’s dying from cancer, while the other one seems to be growing more unstable by the minute. And the climax where everything crashes together in a giant pileup to rival the opening sequence of Final Destination 2, based on the fateful decisions of two of the players in this game, nearly had me on my feet screaming at the screen.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Saw without the deathtraps, and they are accordingly efficient and diabolical. The simplest one would have to be the Meat Locker, in which a witness to the hit and run is chained up naked in a giant freezer and periodically sprayed with water, while the most nauseating is the one where the judge is locked to the floor of a collection vat, slowly filling as rotting pig carcasses are liquefied and the soup poured in. This is obviously not a movie for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The torture happens to so many levels – physical, psychological, and emotional, and would have made an effective ending for the series had the studio execs not decided keep the franchise going for the sake of profits.

Saw III is a brutal film that will leave you feeling queasy and wrung out, and emotional roller-coaster that goes for the guts in ways few modern horror movies have. If you think you can handle it, though, check it out, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)


In 2002, Eli Roth directed a red-splattered gorefest called Cabin Fever as a throwback to the “tits and blood” style of slasher horror. It was messy, grotesque, and subversive; horror fans praised it for its daring, and it has grown to be a cult hit. In 2009, Ti West directed a sequel, picking up at the obvious hook set up by the previous film, hoping (as always) to achieve the same level of black comedy as the first. Did it work? Let’s find out.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is a horror film directed by Ti West, following the path of a strain of necrotizing fasciitis to a high school senior prom. It stars Noah Segan, Rusty Kelley, Alexi Wasser, and Guiseppe Andrews.

Cabin Fever 2 picks up in the woods from the first Cabin Fever, where we see that Paul, well into the advanced stages of a flesh-eating virus, as survived long enough to try like hell to escape from the woods – leaving bits of flesh behind on various obstacles – only to become a large red splash on the front of a school bus almost as soon as he reaches a road. Deputy Winston (a minor character from the first film) is called to the scene of the very gory collision (final score: Bus – 1, Paul – 0), and while he initially decides that the bus had hit one of the rare species of moose that are filled with red Kool-Aid, he soon finds evidence that the large splatter had once been human. Seeing a truck filled with Down Home brand bottled water (filled in the nearby lake, because sterilization and filtration processes are for pussies) headed for a larger down, he gives chase, hoping to stop disaster from spreading further. Turns out the bottled water is headed to a small high school, which is getting ready for its senior prom. After we meet a few principal characters at the high school (the Hero, the Hero’s Loser Best Friend, the two Token Geeks, the Douchebag, the Douchebag’s Girlfriend, the Conceited Blonde Prom Queen, and the Asshat School Principal), things soon ramp up as the contaminated water is distributed to just about every named character and several unnamed characters, and the prom spirals downward into an episode of Happy Tree Friends. Meanwhile, a random group of faceless containment guys from the CDC show up to contain the infection, even if it means killing everyone who isn’t already projectile vomiting their own liquefied organs all over everyone else. So… yeah.

Whereas the previous film was gory but also tense and laced with black humor, Cabin Fever 2 was just messy and gross. There were a few blackly humorous moments, like when the truck driver starts choking at the diner and squirting blood out of his tracheostomy (made more absurd by the fact that one waitress was attempting to perform an exorcism on him when the red stuff started spraying), and the last several scenes in the movie where Douchebag’s Girlfriend (by the name of Cassie) is running around in a prom gown soaked with blood, in a clear nod to Carrie. Unfortunately, though, most of the movie is just a mess, and not even in a way that made the original a good mess. All the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes from every high school slasher movie ever, with absolutely none of the usual instinctive aversion to things like sores and errant bodily fluids that might at least have delayed a few of the deaths. Even in the core cluster of protagonists, I didn’t really see anyone to root for, just people I was waiting to die horrible, gory deaths. At least the first one offered a bit of tension as the disease slowly developed (rather than blossoming all at once into bloody vomit) and had a couple of people I was interested in; of the two characters that survived the first movie, one died right away, and the other was an annoying twit.

While I occasionally enjoy a gory film, I cannot in good conscience recommend Cabin Fever 2, even to people who enjoyed the first one It rides too heavily on gore rather than on a well-paced, intelligent escalation of the plot, and in the end you’re just left wading ankle-deep in red mess. Avoid this one at all costs.

The Thing (1982)

03/26/2011 2 comments

When you’re stuck in an Antarctic research base over the winter, the only people you can really trust to help you if there’s trouble are your fellow researchers. But what if there’s something there that can imitate anything perfectly? If that happens, you can’t trust anyone… even yourself.

The Thing is a science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, ostensibly a remake of The Thing from Another World but actually a more faithful adaptation of the original novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., and serves at the first part of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (followed by The Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness). It stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Charles Hallahan, Donald Moffat, and some stomach-churning monster effects by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston.

The Year: 1982. The Location: an American Antarctic research station, manned by a small team of scientists. As the researchers are getting ready to batten down the hatches for the coming winter, they are accosted by a scientist from a nearby Norwegian station, trying frantically to kill a fleeing dog. The Norwegian is hysterical and disoriented, shooting wildly, and the Americans are forced to kill him for their own safety, and adopt the dog. When they investigate the Norwegian camp looking for an explanation, they discover the place is trashed, its personnel variously missing or dead, with evidence that the Norwegians had found something bizarre under the ice. Analyzing the uncovered remains, the research station’s medical examiner comes up blank, except that the hideous, inhuman creature possessed a complete set of humanlike internal organs. It is not long, though, before the researchers discover that the creature is not completely dead, and possesses the ability to assimilate and imitate any living creature it encounters. Remember the dog? Yeah. It soon becomes clear that with this shapeshifting alien on the loose in their station, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell who is an ally, as the harsh Antarctic winter closes in on all of them…

Paranoia fuel FTW! This tale of unknown malevolence closing in on an isolated group of individuals is further proof that John Carpenter is a genius of horror. The story is tight and nerve-wracking, building the tension as the hours of increasing uncertainly creep by, until you can’t even be sure if MacReady (through whose eyes we largely view the story) is not the Thing. The idea that close friends, family, or even colleagues might have been seamlessly replaced by this malevolent creature whose motives are impossible to guess is the ultimate in paranoia, used in movies ranging from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Terminator 2, but The Thing offers a claustrophobic twist: you are trapped there with this creature, and it is trapped here with you. Such unrelenting uncertainty leads to desperate reactions to flush out the traitor, the imposter, the Thing pretending to be your friend, until ultimately you reach a “nuke it from orbit” solution: destroy everything and hope it is destroyed too.

The creature effects in this movie are striking and well-done. Created in an age long before CGI was even plausible, the animatronics and puppetry required to bring the Thing to life were designed by Rob Bottin, celebrated master of body horror, with the dog-Thing created by Stan Winston, celebrated master of just about every other kind of monster. The effects are visceral, meaty, and cheerfully gooey, nauseating and terrifying audiences with the mishmash of barely-recognizeable shapes forming in an amorphous pile of Thing – maybe this head reminds you of a dog, or that face reminds you of one of your colleagues, while this limb might almost be a batlike wing. On the other side of the coin, three effects that really stand out are the chest-mouth, the spider-head, and the exploding blood (which is likely to make even the most jaded horror-hound dump his popcorn in a neighbor’s lap). The acting is exemplary as well, considering how many key plot points are dependent on in-universe uncertainty, and a number of scares and twists were kept hidden from the cast until the “boo” moment to allow them to react genuinely.

If you like your horror movies paranoid, your settings claustrophobic, and your aliens weird and pissed off, absolutely grab a copy of The Thing. Watch it with friends and with the lights off.

Poltergeist (1982)


For the longest time, haunted house movies took place in old, well-worn edifices – places with a long history of Bad Things happening, and generally places that looked haunted. You don’t expect your brand new house, built last summer, to have any sort of supernatural wonkiness going on. Then Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg got together and made a little movie and scared the crap out of people with a new brand of daylight terror.

They’re heeeere…

Poltergeist is a horror film directed by Tobe Hooper (the guy who made people afraid of chainsaws in 1974) and produced and written by Steven Spielberg (the guy who made people afraid of the beach in 1975). It stars Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Heather O’Rourke, and Zelda Rubenstein.

When the Freelings moved into their new home in the recently-built neighborhood of Cuesta Verde, they thought they’d found their dream home, the place where they would raise their family. When five-year-old Carol Anne begins conversing with the static on the TV after the end of the broadcast day, Steven and Diane think their daughter might just be sleepwalking, until one night an earthquake shakes the house during one such nocturnal conversation, prompting Carol Anne to spookily announce, “They’re here.” “They” start to manifest as strange phenomena, such as objects moving around in their own, or unattended items bending or breaking. The activity seems to be centering on little Carol Anne, and at first the Freelings think their spectral visitors or benign and sort of cute, until one night the spooky tree in the back yard attempts to eat middle child Robbie, and in the confusion Carol Anne disappears, sucked into another reality through her bedroom closet. Desperate to get her back, the Freelings enlist some unconventional help to unravel the terrifying secrets of their new home.

Drawing upon elements from real-world investigations, Poltergeist was one of the first haunted house movies to use paranormal investigative techniques as a significant plot point. A group of secondary characters brought in to help find Carol Anne use techniques still used today by ghost hunters, including the capturing of electronic interference on special devices, the videotaping of visual phenomena, and listening for supernatural communications through white noise. The investigators also make the distinction between a poltergeist and a haunting clear, such as the tendency for a poltergeist to focus on a single individual (in this case, Carol Anne). This, combined with the decision to use unknown actors, helped to root the film in “our” world, even when things start really going to hell.

Both the acting and directing in this film are exemplary. As with many effects-heavy films, the primary difficulty comes when live actors are reacting to special effects that will be added later – particularly when one of your principal actors is only five years old. Everyone did very well here, portraying both the initial excitement at their new “invisible friends” (even when they do alarming but harmless things like stacking chairs just off camera) as well as the growing terror as they learn about the evil presence Tangina identifies as the Beast, and the parental desperation and determination Steve and Diane find within themselves as the Beast goes after Carol Anne and tries to snatch her away from them again and again. While Spielberg was nominally the producer, he happily got his hands dirty in the filmmaking process, comforting Heather O’Rourke after she was frightened by an effects sequence and jumping into the half-completed pool surrounded by film equipment to demonstrate to JoBeth Williams that if it was not safe, then he was willing to take that risk. In the end, the mutual genius of Hooper and Spielberg combined to make a very tight, enjoyable little haunted house movie.

If you’re looking for a good, scary horror movie that doesn’t rely on people getting horribly murdered for its scares, absolutely watch Poltergeist. While it doesn’t feature scenes littered with slashed-up victims, it will take you just far enough outside your “safe” zones to have you checking your closets before you go to bed.

The Matrix (1999)

02/12/2011 1 comment

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world´╗┐ that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

The Matrix is a sci fi action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski. I stars Keanu “Whoa” Reeves, Laurence “Event Horizon” Fishburne, Carrie-Anne “Memento” Moss, Joe “The Goonies” Pantoliano, and Hugo “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” Weaving.

Computer programmer Thomas A. Anderon (Reeves), a.k.a. “Neo”, leads a double life, using his hacking skills to try to learn the answer to the question “What is the Matrix?” Strange messages popping up on his computer screen lead him first to a run-in with mysterious MIB-like figures called Agents, led by Agent Smith (Weaving), and then to a group led by the enigmatic underground hacker Morpheus (Fishburne), who offers him the opportunity to learn about the Matrix. After locating and removing a tracking device inserted during what Neo had thought was a horrible nightmare, several members of Morpheus’ inner circle take Neo to meet their leader in secret. Neo is offered two pills: a blue one that would send him back to his old life, and a red one that would allow him to finish his quest. He chooses the red pill, and his perception of reality turns completely upside-down.

He finds himself in a liquid-filled pod – one of countless thousands – attached with tubes and cables to a massive mechanical structure. He is rescued by Morpheus’ team in the hovership Nebuchadnezzar and nursed into physical functionality, whereupon he learns the sickening truth: The year is closer to 2199 than 1999, and humanity has been enslaved by intelligent machines created in the early 21st century, locked away to be used as living batteries; the Matrix is a Lotus Eater program designed by the machines to keep their batteries docile. Morpheus is a member of a group whose mission it is to “unplug” people from the Matrix, freeing them from this dream world and recuiting them to fight the machines. Fortunately, his awareness of the Matrix allows him to learn how to hack the simulated reality, bending the accepted laws of physics and using the jack in the back of his head to instantly download the information he needs to take down the Matrix from within. His mission is not without hazards, however, not least of which are the Agents, sentient security programs who hunt down and eliminate redpills like Neo, and of these, the most dangerous seems to be one Agent Smith…

I admit – I was impressed by this movie, from the concept of OMG NOTHING’S REAL to HOLY SHIT I CAN HACK REALITY. The bullet time effects were effective in showing events that in real time would go by too quickly to really perceive, and the CGI helped to enhance the pseudoreality effect rather than detract from it. All the “Matrix” scenes have a slight greenish tinge to subconsciously let the viewer know that something is Ever So Slightly Not Right, but in a way that you can’t specifically put your finger on it. And the homogenous, identical Agents were effectively menacing in their anonymity and their little talent of taking over “human” programs pretty much at will, as demonstrated by the “woman in the red dress” simulation. It tries to be philosophical at times about the perception of reality, the nature of reality, and transcending mental limits, but really, you watch a movie like this to see reality stretched to its logical limits.

However, the acting at times was… meh. I’m not just talking about Keanu’s performance (though everybody does), but most of the main cast. There just didn’t seem to be enough there to make me sympathize with Morpheus’ team of reality hackers, not even “digital pimp” Mouse. Only Fishburne seemed to realize that emoting = good, and that was mainly in the scenes where he was having his brain hacked by Agents. That said, the particular brand of non-acting utilized by the Agents did help to highlight their inhumanity, and made Smith’s first steps into glitchiness subtly discernible. Weaving’s drawling American accent was menacingly artificial, and reminded me of the G-Man in the Half-Life games (probably the exact same character archetype, but anyway). In fact, it was not for a long time that I learned that Weaving was actually Australian. Props to you, Hugo.

As a philosophical discussion of the nature of reality and fate, The Matrix falls eversoslightly short, but as a flashy action movie with reality-bending and innovative (for the day) effects and stunts, this movie wins. Switch off your brain and enjoy the ride.

Saw II (2005)


This is the story of eight strangers… picked to be trapped in a house that is slowly filling with nerve gas… forced to work with each other to escape and have their experience taped… to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start freaking the hell out.

Sounds like the premise for a new reality TV show, right? Wrong.

Saw II is a horror film and (obviously) the first sequel to Saw. It was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Bousman and Leigh Whannell (writer of the first movie). It starts Tobin “I want to play a game” Bell, Shawnee “Didn’t you already escape one of his traps?” Smith, Donnie “The Sixth Sense” Wahlberg, Frankie “The Italian Job” G, Glenn E. “Speed” Plummer, Beverley “7th Heaven” Mitchell, Dina “Starship Troopers” Meyer, Emmanuelle “Secondhand Lions” Vaugier, and Erik “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” Knudsen.

A police informant wakes with an iron maiden-like device around his head; a videotape informs him that the key to unlock the trap has been surgically implanted behind his left eye, and he is given a scalpel with which he must retrieve the key before time runs out. Naturally, he can’t, and his head gets crunched when the traps springs shut. Detective Eric Matthews (Wahlberg) is called to the scene after police find a message addressed to him. He follows a SWAT team to an abandoned steel factory, where they find John Kramer (Bell), a.k.a. Jigsaw, waiting for them, weakened by cancer. Nearby, monitors show a group of eight people trapped in a large house – and among them is Daniel (Knudsen), Eric’s son, and Amanda (Smith), the only known survivor of a Jigsaw trap. The victims have two hours to figure out how to escape the house before the nerve gas slowly filling the structure kills them, but Jigsaw assures Eric that he will see his son “in a safe, secure state” if Eric just talks to Jigsaw for a while. Eric reluctantly agrees, hoping to buy time for the tech guys to trace where the video signal is coming from.

Inside the house, the prisoners are told that there are antidotes scattered throughout the place to save them from the nerve gas, but each one is in a deadly puzzle-trap that must be solved to retrieve the prize within. As the people in the house race to find and unlock these precious antidotes, we learn that they have a connection: they are all people that Detective Matthews has had jailed, meaning Daniel could be in real danger if this detail were uncovered. Meanwhile, Jigsaw engages the detective in apparently meaningless small-talk, during the course of which we learn about his backstory and how he came to test people’s will to survive. And all the while, traps and betrayals are whittling down the number of players in his sadistic game…

I found Saw II to be a worthy follow-up to the original Saw, and Jigsaw’s brief biography was engaging as a study of the making of a madman. The main story within the trapped house also had me on the edge of my seat, knowing from the first movie that not everyone would get out alive, despite Jigsaw’s reassurances. Rather than keeping Jigsaw as a faceless entity, here he is established as a real person, with real motivations beyond being a sadistic bastard, and while I don’t agree with his methods, I could see how he can to settle on them. The ending gave me whiplash, as it had in the first movie, and only provides further proof of Jigsaw’s status as the ultimate chessmaster – he plans for every eventuality.

The traps were as diabolical as those in the first, but some of the house victims seemed mainly to get snared by their own stupidity, like in the razorblade trap. A few of them could be chalked up to desperation and a keep knowledge of human nature, though, like the peephole trap, but many of them appeared to be pure sadism, knowing that people wouldn’t be thinking straight with the threat of death by nerve gas hanging over their heads. One trap that is definitely worth noting for the sheer cringe factor, though – the needle pit. I don’t like needles anyway, even in a safe, sterile environment at the doctor’s office – and here Amanda gets shoved into a pit FILLED with used syringes! ARGHHHHHJJHYMNQMBDTRD…

In total, Saw II continues in the tradition of its predecessor, with a decently engaging story coupled with diabolical traps. Fans of the first will not be disappointed.

Cabin Fever (2002)


Gorehounds rejoice, for you have a new god in Hollywood, and his name is Eli Roth, here to bring you another reason not to go into the woods. You might know the rules for dealing with cannibal rednecks, angry spirits, and hockey-masked psychos, but what do you do when the killer is a billionth your size?

Roth’s first movie, Cabin Fever is an American horror movie inspired by Roth’s real-life experience with a skin infection he contracted on a trip to Iceland (but of course taken to its gory upper limit). It draws upon elements of many of Roth’s favorite horror movies like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It stars Rider “Boy Meets World” Strong, James “Scary Movie 2” DeBello, Jordan, “Never Been Kissed” Ladd, Cerina “Not Another Teen Movie” Ladd, Joey “Super Troopers” Kern, and Matthew ” PANCAAAAAAAAKES” Helms. The movie was shot on a relatively small budget of $1.5 million.

A man walking in the woods encounters the rotted corpse of a dead dog. He turns it over and is sprayed in the face with blood. Sometime later, five college friends, Jeff (Kern), Marcy (Vincent), Paul (Strong), Karen (Ladd), and Bert (DeBello) have rented a cabin in the woods. On their way to the site, they stop at a local convenience store to stock up, and Paul has an encounter with Dennis, a mentally handicapped boy with three apparent interests: Pancakes, kung fu, and biting people, as Paul discovers. At the cabin, Jeff and Marcy have sex, Paul and Karen swim in the nearby lake, and Bert goes squirrel hunting. Instead of squirrels, Bert encounters the man who found the rotted dog, whose condition has deteriorated. Like, a lot. Terrified and disgusted, Bert shoots him to try to drive him off and runs back to the cabin. The man follows him back to the cabin, begging for help, and tries driving off him their car but vomits blood inside it. Ultimately, he exits the car and Paul sets him on fire, whereupon the diseased man runs off, dying in the lake. A local deputy offers to call them a tow truck. After that, things start going rapidly downhill for our intrepid heroes…

Karen drinks a glass of lake water and starts feeling ill. That night Paul discovers rotten spots on her thighs, and the other quarantine her in a nearby tool shed. Fearing that they are also infected, the others argue about what to do. The next day, Bert realizes that he is infected but does not tell anyone. When Paul and Marcy insist on helping Karen, Jeff bails on them, taking all the beer (currently the only reliable drinking source), while Bert drives off to try to find a doctor. In revenge for Jeff abandoning her and because she figures they’re both doomed to die anyway, Marcy has sex with Paul, assuring him that she is healthy but later finding red patches where he touched her. Paul, rightfully worried about the disease going around, tries to disinfect himself with Listerine. Bloody medical carnage lies in both their futures, though, and once the townsfolk catch wind of things it looks like nobody’s going to make it out of the woods alive…

Cabin Fever is a unique twist on the “slasher in the woods” premise, and in my opinion it was done well. In overall ambience the plot feels like both a zombie movie (who’s infected? How long before the infection gets us?) and a slasher movie (merciless quantities of blood), in an affectionate throwback to the gory, tit-filled horror movies of the 80s. I’ve alway enjoyed the idea of a slasher movie without a concrete antagonist, somebody specific that you could try to escape, and the breakdown of the protagonists’ friendship added a lot to the paranoia of OMG FLESH EATING BACTERIA. The main characters were not well-defined, but here they didn’t need to be. I did get the impression that the locals had battled this disease (or similar ones) before, which made me wonder why they didn’t insist that the kids pick up lots of bottled water.

The disease FX were wonderfully nauseating. In addition to Roth’s own experience with skin-eating diseases, one of the sound mixers had also survived a bout with flesh-eating bacteria, and maintains that the makeup is 100% accurate. I actually found myself writhing in discomfort during the leg-shaving scene (scraaaaaaaaaape… EUGH!), even after seeing other characters with decomposing sores. It was possibly the best justification for death by sex ever, too – I mean, you shag someone with a highly contagious case of the rot, of COURSE you’re going to die too!

In all, Roth’s premier movie is a delightfully stomach-turning addition to the horror genre. I would recommend it to all gore fans and those with strong stomachs who enjoy a nice scary romp in the woods.