Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Steven Brand, Jeremy Fitzgerald, Emily Hardy, Vanessa Long, Mercedes McNab
Directed by Michael A. Nickles
Distributed by Chelsea Films
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Michael A. Nickles slasher flick Twelve, as it stands head and shoulders as the embodiment of a film that is just there. For what it’s worth, the plot concerns recently released felon Leonard Karlsson (Fitzgerald), who returns to the small Arizona town where his trial was held to seek vengeance on the twelve jurors who convicted him. Simples.
Moving along at a brisk pace, but feeling more like a slightly fractured series of vignettes than a cohesive narrative, Twelve delivers occasionally but mostly frustrates. A couple of deaths are abrupt and extremely surprising. Characters who, generally, would serve to be leading figures in this type of film are introduced and swiftly offed. This serves to get your hopes up quite early that the film isn’t going to pull any punches – but it steadily drops downhill. In the latter stages the violence becomes more and more tame and infrequent with Twelve blowing its gory load in the opening sequence: a hugely impressive exploding-head-by-shotgun that unfortunately just isn’t topped by anything else offered afterwards. In fact, a lot of the kills in the third act are bloodless or, worse, entirely off screen! In a simple body count slasher/revenge flick such as this, it’s a cardinal sin.
The cast are just fine, in keeping with the pretty standard quality of the rest of the flick. Nobody lets the film down, per se, but nobody really excels either. You likely won’t particularly care about any of them, but they won’t annoy you to the point of wanting to give up watching the flick. The failing here is mainly due to the sheer lack of development of the plot. The killer’s motivations are conveyed in, quite literally, two lines of dialogue and a hastily-edited opening credit sequence. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it style, the crux of the story is all but destroyed if you aren’t paying untoward attention during the first few moments.
The frustration of this failure is compounded by the fact that Twelve’s killer, Leonard Karlsson, could quite easily have ended up as another iconic screen slasher: The costuming and character design are top notch. Horrendously scarred, Karlsson skulks about in a creepy-ass mask – skin stitched together on his face, he regularly liberates victims of theirs in order to keep his visage fresh. Like a visual mash-up of Tobe Hooper’s Coffin Baby from his remake of The Toolbox Murders and Babyface from Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red, Karlsson deserves a much better film than this. From the little that Twelve offers the audience, it seems that Karlsson was arrested and convicted of sexual relations with a minor and had his face horribly mutilated by fellow prisoners before his release. This is almost entirely left up to the confused audience to figure out, however.
Nickles has taken elements of some of the best modern slasher villains and combined them to create an all-new and ferociously impressive antagonist. One can only hope that in the future the filmmaker will find an organic way to bring him back and take him places that truly serve to do him justice, rather than the tide of mediocrity he floats around in here.
Special features on this Chelsea Films release include “Beneath the Skin”, a very good (albeit short) look at many facets from casting and effects, to the scoring of the flick and more. Next up is “A Shotgun to the Head”, which is, as it sounds, a humorously edited breakdown of the opening exploding head scene set to some funky music. Alongside that is a makeup effects gallery (with brief commentary) and trailer. The real meat comes in the form of a feature commentary with director Nickles, actress Emily Hardy and producer/composer Tim Montijo. It’s a highly entertaining and to-the-point commentary – the kind that I can truly appreciate. The group really enjoy talking about the flick and all of the trials, tribulations and successes of making a low budget horror flick. Unfortunately, it’s a slightly poorly dubbed commentary – at points, you can hear background noise where the trio are obviously watching the flick on a TV in the room (you can hear the soundtrack echoing in the background); yet, when they cease talking, the audio stops completely. Occasionally after a long pause they’ll make comments regarding lines of dialogue that you’ve been entirely unable to hear! This tends to mar an otherwise involving commentary.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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