Thursday, July 7, 2011

REVIEW: Red Hook (2009)

Director: Elizabeth Lucas
Starring: Terrence Mann, Christina Brucato, Tate Ellington

Slasher horror movies are so silly. They all seem to follow the exact same tropes – hot girls and guys acting like morons with no redeeming character traits being stalked by masked killers who are revealed in usually disappointing climaxes, compared to what we were expecting. And I love ‘em. I absolutely love ‘em. Well, OK, I don’t love ALL of them, but I love the idea of the genre. It’s like candy to me. I enjoy the suspense, I enjoy the cheesy gore and kills, I enjoy the goofy urban-legend-esque backstories that they get saddled with…they’re pretty much great when done well, even if 99% of them aren’t artistically viable at all. Why am I bringing this up now? Well, if you really need it spelled out for you…I’m reviewing Red Hook, a slasher movie made after the 80s that actually manages to be decent.

This is a slasher per the norm. You have your stereotypical main character with a haunting past, which we see in the first few minutes – her sister was murdered by some guy pretending to be a cop right before her eyes. Now she’s at college, quite introverted and shy, and interacting with a bunch of over-sexed and hyperactive kids. They all get together one weekend for a special scavenger hunt to win tickets to a concert, but slowly start getting picked off by a mysterious killer…DUN DUN DUN, and the suspense builds!

Basically there are a few reasons this is better than the normal slasher movie. One is the setting, which is a very modern, urban city-setting, which you don’t see very often in these kinds of movies. You get a lot of tight, packed in buildings and noisy streets and crowded places, which is different than the usual ‘bunch of kids go to a deserted cabin in the woods’ movie, or the ‘bunch of kids mess around with vague voodoo forces in Louisiana’ story, or the ‘bunch of black people defy the laws of space and time’ story…but I digress. It’s an original setting and I liked it. It had a nice atmosphere.

Another is the characters, who are annoying as most slasher characters are, but in a funny way this time. I don’t know; maybe it’s just because I know people just like all of them (that is to say, college kids), but these characters were actually kind of entertaining to watch. Some of them are pretty much jerks – like the drama-major roommate and the black girl – but overall, they’re decent actors and I actually found them pretty fun to watch. You know these people. The goofy, kind-of-assholeish upperclassman who can be mean but you just like anyway. The high-strung, bubbly drama major who talks way too much. The dumb white jock who gets way too jealous. Et cetera…and the boyfriend character was pretty good, too, in the beginning. There’s one scene where he and the lead girl are in a gas station when it gets shot up by some crazy guy – it seems a bit pointless, but it actually does serve to set the atmosphere better and show us a surprisingly somber scene with these two characters, and I liked it. Shame they didn't expound upon it more.

The kills are pretty decent and bloody, and the main suspense comes from the fact that all the kids aren’t sure whether it’s part of the game or not. “He’s just a drama major, he always does this,” they say. Now, they ARE pretty frigging stupid to think such a thing…but as they keep getting picked off and isolated, it does work pretty effectively to set some atmosphere and fear in you. And I’m not entirely sure how the guy set up a new account specifically for this scavenger hunt game, or why he chose the name Red Hook…but I can overlook all that. I wanted a slasher, and that's pretty much what I got. So this was decent for a predictable but goofy slasher.