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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Van of the Dead Movie Review: Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2

Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2
2011 Image Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

What do you say about the slasher film that hasn't been said since 1978 when John Carpenter first sprang Michael Myers upon us? Or, for that matter, Alfred Hitchcock with Norman Bates long before that in 1960?

The fact of the matter is slasher films have been beaten to death even since the mid-to-late eighties when they invaded theaters every other week, it seemed. A gorehound's feeding frenzy if you grew up in that period as I did. Still, as I've grown older and have had to stomach seeing virtually every memorable horror movie of the day either remade or rebooted, I've just about given up hope on the slasher genre.

With Friday the 13th 2 and Halloween 3-D already on the slow cooker for future release, I'm sighing out loud but know I'll be watching these goddamn sequel-reboots because I'm compelled to as a horror fan. Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and Michael have made their producers a little reinvestment coin with new players under their masks. Ultimately, though, it's the same ol' situation realized by younger eyes who know the rules and break them in ways they think are fresh, when in the end, they're corporate. It's just that corporate has been forced to man up a bit ever since Eli Roth's Hostel changed the game.

Director Robert Hall struck indie gold in 2009 with Laid to Rest, a nasty, nasty, nasty send-up of the left-for-dead slasher realm. For most viewers, the amped-up kill scenes in Laid to Rest were all the rage. Granted, it was indeed a sanguinary spectacle only outdone by Adam Green's two maul-erific Hatchet films. What was even more interesting about Laid to Rest was the fact it had an interesting cast, a creepy little plot and a claustrophobic opening that socked you right in the gut from first frame.

Like Hatchet, it also introduced a new badass villain, Chromeskull. Whereas Adam Green's Victor Crowley is a 2nd gen Jason Voorhees type of murdering mutant, Chromeskull is a calculating tech dweeb with a vicious penchant for torture and slaughter. The fact Chromeskull wears a video cam on his shoulder to film his dirty work and a silver plated mask that he glues to his face instead of strapping on is pretty wicked stuff. Especially if you saw the pulpy finale to Laid to Rest.

Which is right where the inevitable sequel, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 picks up. As far as sequels go, there's something to be said about this one and the majority of it is positive.

If you thought the first Laid to Rest was a splashy endeavor, well, you're not even going to believe the splatter Robert Hall throws in your eyes with Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2. Seriously, that's not mere hype. The kill scenes in this film are going to rank up there amongst the best of this generation of horror--and honestly, today's horror filmmakers can't pour on enough blood. However, there's a fine line between intensity and shlock. Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 ends up being pretty freaking intense.

After a cameo by Bobbi Sue Luther, who survived the first Laid to Rest, you can pretty much guess what befalls her in this film, aside from her getting nekked (assuming that's not a body double in the shower sequence). Her end fate, considering she was the focal point of the original film, is positively nauseating. A lot of contemporary horror filmmakers have lately subjected their heroes and heroines to much bodily and emotional grief throughout their films, only to snuff them out by the credit roll. Frankly, this tactic has already become overdone and is hardly shocking anymore. This time, Bobbi Sue Luther's amnesia-plagued lead only sticks around in the sequel to tidy up between films before Chromeskull assumes its own identity. Similar to the way Friday the 13th Part 2 from 1981 had Jason take out Adrienne King before the title screen erupted.

In a way, Chromeskull borrows from the Saw franchise as we discover Chromey has a savage acolyte, Preston (Brian Austin Green) who gets so deep into his "work," he tries to usurp the Chromeskull persona unto himself. Oddly enough, Chromeskull (Nick Principe) has his own crack squad (which includes Danielle Harris, quite the busy bee in her adult horror life these days) who scouts out his locations and victims. As Chromeskull was veritably face melted at the end of the first Laid to Rest, he is restored to health by privateering for-hire surgeons. As Dee Dee Ramone yakked in "Wart Hog," it's a sick world, sick sick sick...

Thomas Dekker (now popular from the Nightmare on Elm Street remake) reprises his role of Tommy from the original film. After he discovers the chewed up remains of Bobbi Sue Luther, he is once again sucked into Chromeskull's terror zone through Preston and ultimately the big steelhead himself. Thrown into the mix is the ultra-cute Angelina Armani, whose character Holland, is scheduled to have eye surgery once it's determined she is about to lose her sight altogether.

This is a rather clever maneuver on Robert Hall's part, to jack up the fear factor for Holland's plight as Chromeskull's main target. Similar to Bobbi Sue Luther, Armani is slung into a coffin as an instrument of torture. The fact her sight keeps going in and out on her increases the jagged edge the film dances on. A lot of Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 is hell-bent to outdo the original film in the gore department and it succeeds. Yet, it's the subliminal haunts which disturb as much as Chromeskull's texted provocations.

While Preston goes on a killing spree under Chromeskull's persona, the real McCoy gets the shits of it all and takes matters into his own bloody mits. Amongst the carnage he leaves in his sinewy wrath includes Detective King's (Owain Yeoman) entire Homicide team. While Preston has Chromey's mercenaries concoct him a six-pronged knife for his personal use (Preston's constant twirling of the death blades is unnerving unto itself), the majority of the wreckage is brought about with a single monster blade which slices, dices and carves the facial skins off of victims like a holiday turkey. It's that brutal, and we'll just leave it open-ended so as not to spoil the shocks.

Best of all, the acting in Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 is rather superb. The editing is air-tight, the pacing leaves almost no room to catch your breath and it's the air of professionalism behind this movie that makes it more than just a chum bucket of crimson slop, which Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 most certainly is.

Despite the blatant hint of a story continuation at the end of this film, there's already a reported script for a prequel, Laid to Rest 3: Conception, so beware or be excited. Stevan Mena just executed a very respectable prequel to his breakout massacre film, Malevolence, with Bereavement. If Robert Hall stays as red-hot as he has through the first two Laid to Rest films, hoo-whee are we in for a franchise we'll actually welcome to stick around.


SonOfCelluloid said...

Psst...that wasn't Bobbi Sue Luther. That part was played in this one by Allison Kyler. She does look a lot like her, I was fooled for a minute there too.

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ned to say it's areally scarry movie. but metalheads will be glad to watch it, trust me said...

Very worthwhile piece of writing, thank you for your article.