Victim, The (UK DVD)
Directed by Michael Biehn
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Legendary cult actor Michael Biehn takes his much-delayed first stab behind the camera with The Victim, a low budget shocker high in sleaze but ultimately low on surprises. Here, Biehn takes centre stage as reclusive loner Kyle. Distancing himself from civilisation, Kyle lives alone in his woodland cabin until one evening his seemingly peaceful existence is intruded upon by the hysterical Annie (Biehn’s real-life wife, Blanc). Seems stripper Annie and her friend Mary (Harris) had taken the day to relax nearby with a couple of local cops, Harrison (Honey) and Cooger (Kirkwood), snort blow and have sex. The burly Harrison, however, likes things rough, and when his sexual behaviour leads to Mary’s sudden death, he decides the only course of action is to enlist his buddy Cooger and take the “no witnesses” route.
Overhearing their plans, Annie takes off into the woods, where she comes across Kyle’s home. From there The Victim sets up a cat and mouse game punctuated by flashbacks expanding Annie’s relationship with her ill-fated friend, a palpable undercurrent of malevolence interspersed with spurts of violence and, unfortunately, a disappointing lack of tension.
Considering the low budget, and Biehn’s lack of experience behind the camera, The Victim is actually a visually admirable first attempt. Clean, crisp visuals demonstrate a keen eye for lighting and depth and a skilful hand when it comes to unfolding a story on screen. Less successful, though, is the inclusion of what appear to be intended as erotic scenes. Gratuitous and out of place, Biehn’s leering camera translates these over-extended sequences in a much more uncomfortable manner than one might expect. Kudos, however, to a strong cast throughout – all of whom seem to be giving the material their best efforts. It’s hard to find a weak link amongst them, and while Biehn is as good as would normally be expected, special mention has to go to Ryan Honey for his sneering, animalistic portrayal of the corrupt Harrison – splendidly teetering the line between intimidating maliciousness and knowing B-movie excess.
What lets The Victim down enormously on the other hand is the script. The story is as straightforward as they come, with very little in there to surprise, or challenge, ardent genre fans. In this kind of situation it really has to be about the characters, and while The Victim does try to do this via repeated flashbacks, Annie and Mary just aren’t particularly likable, fascinating or worthy of much empathy. So while Biehn wears his exploitative intentions on his sleeve, the film struggles to truly stand out in any meaningful way. A late twist at the finale provides a neat little sting in the tail; yet, while it’s perfectly played by Biehn, attentive viewers will see it coming at least thirty minutes before it does.
In the end The Victim is certainly worth a watch and should hopefully make a solid calling card for Biehn to further his career behind the scenes. Just don’t expect anything particularly memorable.
Anchor Bay’s UK DVD release sports a well-presented featurette including cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, made an essential watch if only for a rather startling occurrence, caught on camera, in which Biehn instructs co-star Honey to put a full-force choke hold on him to add authenticity to a climactic fight scene. It doesn’t go well for Biehn, who, much to the dismay (and anger) of his stunt coordinator, fails to tap out in time and is reduced to a groaning, quivering state of semi-consciousness. Now that’s indie filmmaking!
2 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5