Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Ashley Kay, Peyton Wetzel, Brent Himes, Malanie Donihoo, Naika Malveaux
Directed by Stacy Davidson
Like it or not, we live in the age of the PG13 horror film where good looking kids get dispatched off camera with little fanfare and even less imagination. Add a little nipple to that equation; you get your solid R. It’s rare that we see these two elements mixed together, and rarer still when infused with a bit of vintage 90’s gonzo hack and slash, unflinching camera angles and a healthy sense of humor that doesn’t segue into slapstick. Such a beast is as mythical as the Pegicorn (unicorn Pegasus, natch), bigfoot or a mega pop star who never goes to rehab. In walks a little movie called Sweatshop, the Sid Vicious of horror films…nasty, dirty, unrestrained, hysterical and bloody as all hell.
The plot is a quickie. A pack of alterna-twenty somethings invade an empty, dilapidated warehouse set on transforming it into rave central for a party they’d already advertised on that same night. This is a hard drinking, obnoxious, punk-as-all-fuck hit squad installed with only the most basic of hardcore directives; that being sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. The film makers saw fit to toss in a dash of redneck, just to spice things up. Unfortunately, their advance team has already met sticky ends at the hands of an unseen, hulking force. None the wiser, our crew split off into teams to set things up for the event, get trashed, screw each other, uncover deep, dark secrets about each other… and get destroyed by a thing called “The Beast” and his freaky hench-sisters. The Beast wields a two ton hammer seemingly designed to turn a human body into cherry Slurpee. The best part of this plot? There’s no definitive moment where someone comes screaming to warn the rest of the crew, so our lumbering behemoth can take his time and catch his prey in optimal situations for creating a veritable Play-Doh fun factory of death.
To say this lot was type-cast is an understatement and I’d go one further to say several of them probably showed up in their own clothes. This lends a level of legitimacy to the whole production, allowing the crew to focus on executing an enjoyable enough story in between kills so brutal Eli Roth will be licking his TV screen. Mohawk guy plays the quintessential horny super-punk, looking like he stepped off a Casualties album cover and behaving as if he might hump an inanimate object at any moment. Just wind him up and set him loose. Of course, he’s given the funniest moments in the film, and rightly so. He pulls it all off with ease, as if not acting at all. Goth girl seems to slither from scene to scene using her sex appeal to create or enhance drama along the way. She’s mastered the art of using her eyes to mess someone up from across the room and looks like she enjoys that power every day. Fat dude injects an essential bit of sweaty large guy into this cast of the young and the beautiful. When he appears, he’s so authentic you’d swear you can smell Monster Truck Rally through the screen. The funny thing is, he is only slightly nastier than the rest of this motley crew and yet, it’s just enough to make him the default bad guy! That takes skill..and some crackerjack comedic timing. We’ve also got mini goth who may as well be the goth industrial version of Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series. She prances around, shakes her ass and spits out lines that would make a lumberjack turn beat red…the kind of girl who is an awesome date until she talks you into doing something that causes you to shatter your leg in three places, then laughs her ass off at you until the ambulance comes, taunts you all the way to the hospital and then posts a video of it on Youtube. I think I may have dated her.
With Sweatshop, the carpet definitely matches the drapes in that the cinematography, scenery, actors and their outfits all make sense and work hand in hand to create a fully immersive, cohesive mini-universe. The run down warehouse looks as if untouched for years, containing all manor of implements on which a character might accidentally impale themselves on. To play off this “lesser” impending doom, the film is kept dark and dusty with non-obvious light sources and a high contrast finish. From room to room, this changes to gel with the feel of the scene. Again, these shifts make perfect sense to the tone of the moment and are extremely welcome.
If you were looking for a gut wrenching drama, this is not the party for you. Sweatshop is more like Gossip Girl set in Texas with a semi-psychotic Nine Inch Nails-inspired cast who smack each other before making out. When the crew isn’t trying to bone each other, they are getting slaughtered unmercifully giving you mixed feelings. On one hand, they are pretty damn funny, and you’d like to continue watching them self destruct. On the other, The Beast kills with a flair Leatherface would grin at, and we’d like to see more of that. The deciding factor comes down to the obnoxious levels you can tolerate. For me, this crew had JUST hit the redline on my “I’d like to backhand you” meter when they started dropping like flies. Good timing! This timing is not always good though, as some of the talkie-er scenes drone on and one dance scene in particular had me shifting in my seat. The film makers assure me this scene has since been trimmed a bit, so A-Men for that.
Beyond feeling slightly long and the obvious pitfalls of a low budget, I really can’t find anything more to complain about. The FX is handled in such a way that the low budget is either not evident or works with it to laughable ends, like some top notch Troma scene that has the whole room go “OHHHHHH!!! Noooooo” and wince in unison. Good good good times! I can see Sweatshop finding an audience within the punk/goth/industrial communities as they haven’t had a killer horror film since Return of the Living Dead. Die-hard horror fans will have a good time as they’ll notice where other horror films would have punked out already and appreciate the extra effort. A horror fan can tell the work of another horror fan. As far as mocro-budget horror films go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Solid story telling, good pacing, insanely gorey FX and hot ladies in tight lil outfits. Oh yes..and boobs (for those who mark that as a win win). What’s not to like? Let’s hope this one gets awesome distribution so you can see it soon and not 5 years from now.
4 out of 5
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