Reviewed by Erik Van Der Wolf
Starring Tony Doupe, Aaron Blakely, Alena Dashiell, Tasha Smith, Kellee Bradley, Don Brady
Directed by Norbert Caoili and Robert Portmann
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In 1978 film audiences witnessed the brutal murder of young Judith Meyers through the eyes of her killer. Through those portals they watched, both transfixed and horrified, as a naked and vulnerable Judith was viciously stabbed over and over again with a butcher knife the killer had retrieved from her very own kitchen. And as shocking as those images were, the murder itself was to be upstaged only moments later when it would be revealed her killer was not a rabid, salivating “Manson-esque” serial killer, but her own ten-year-old brother, Michael. A seemingly normal all-American boy from the suburbs of Haddonfield, Illinois whose eyes simply seemed… empty… devoid of soul, reason… and remorse. And thus the question was posed: Is evil the result of nature or nurture? Can evil simply be born as such? Or is evil created by event or upbringing?
Frayed, written by Kurt Svennungsen, Dana Svennungsen, Norbert Caoili, Robert Portmann and Dino Moore, and directed by Norbert Caoili and Robert Portmann, attempts to tackle the same subject matter, introducing us to eight-year-old Kurt Baker. Through the eyes of a home video circa 1994, we meet young Kurt at his little sister’s birthday party. Like all children, when it’s not their party, Kurt’s a bit sullen, unruly, wanting to be the center of attention. But when he begins to act aggressive toward his sister, blowing out her candles before she can and throwing cake at her to boot, he’s sent to his room to think about what he’s done and work on an apology.
Later, when mom goes to check on him (with the video camera still running for no explainable reason), she finds young Kurt sitting on the edge of his bed, seemingly disconnected from the world around him and simply staring into the void. And before she knows it, mom is brutally murdered via one of the most violent, amazing, and impressive bludgeoning deaths ever put on film. And it’s at this point you expect this slasher film to be one hell of a ride.
But unfortunately, and to one’s utter disappointment, that’s as good as it gets as we cut to fifteen years later when Kurt’s father, Sheriff Pat Baker (Tony Doupe), is told by Kurt’s doctor that there is no hope for his son, and, despite years of therapy, he remains completely disassociated with the real world. There is nothing left to do but transfer him to a maximum security mental hospital better suited to deal with his condition. Of course, as seems to always happen when transferring homicidal maniacs to another facility, the transfer goes awry and Kurt escapes. He kills one security guard and wounds another (Aaron Blakely) who gives chase but soon finds himself the prey, not the hunter.
Having seen this movie several times before under various other titles (such as the aforementioned Halloween and the subsequent rip-offs that have ensued since), it doesn’t take much to figure out that Kurt, now wearing a crude cell-made clown mask, is most likely heading home, leaving bodies in his wake, to finish the job of killing his family, his targets being his older sister who has gone camping with her friends and his father, the Sheriff, who has since remarried.
But, while Kurt’s path does seem to be following a jagged trajectory toward his childhood home, the immediate object of his rage seems to be the security guard who has given chase. Why? And why does the guard seem to have some type of psychic connection to Kurt, revealed in many (and I do mean many) fleeting flashbacks?
It’s at this point the film starts to go through all too familiar paces, and despite the best efforts of the writers to add a mystery element to the story, even the casual horror film viewer will figure out the plot pretty early on, and what might have been fresh and innovative maybe ten years ago comes off as stale dated here.
The film never delivers on the promise of the first fifteen minutes as all the subsequent kills happen off-screen, and what started out with a bang sadly ends with all the fury of a water pistol. There is one “surprise” (only if you aren’t paying attention) toward the end, whose point is well taken, but by then you really don’t care and aren’t really sure if enduring the first one hundred minutes was worth it.
When all is said and done, you kind of feel cheated after being teased by the opening. It’s like being invited to a party with an open bar, only for the bar to close five minutes after you get there. While the filmmakers would probably argue there was a reason of narrative for the film to play out as it does, that really doesn’t follow as there are other breaks from the account that would not support that assertion.
Performances (particularly by Tony Doupe), direction, and cinematography are all top-notch, and Tim Peirson’s special make-up effects (what little we get to see of them) are solid, the highlight of which, sadly, happens in the first five minutes.
The DVD has a standard commentary, trailer, and a “making-of” doc. But the jewel is the in-depth look at how the opening bludgeoning death was done, a definite must-see for the DVD Film School crowd.
But the film, while it gets an “A” for effort in that it’s not a remake or a sequel, ultimately disappoints.
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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