I saw two great screeners on Friday night at the TFW: SWEATSHOP and BLOOD NIGHT: THE LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY. (See my review of BLOOD HIGHT here). They are both independent films shot a few years ago and are full of naked hot chicks and have excellent gore f/x. I’m hitting indie horror GOLD here at the Texas Frightmare Weekend!!
Let’s jump into SWEATSHOP. SWEATSHOP is a “born and raised” Texas film that is shot in Houston and directed by Stacy Davidson. Davidson and the entire cast and crew were present for the screening last night which made this a whole lotta fun. Davidson told us that this project was originally written as a horror-porno hybrid for Hustler Magazine but after he read the script he thought it was too good for that. So in the re-writes, he tells us, “instead of sex we just put in more gore.” Nice choice!! There was a lot of alcohol flowing last night and everyone was cheering hard during the gore scenes; and rightly so. The f/x, done by Marcus Koch, Kristi Boul, and Mike Oliver, were incredibly juicy and extremely well executed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the plot: A group of 20-somethings break into an abandoned (!!) warehouse in order to throw a rave. These just aren’t a bunch of punk kids though. Our group has done this many times before and you could even call them professionals at it. The “leader” Charlie (Ashley Kay) tries to run the show as a business and has the rest of the group setting up for the rave the minute they get there. But soon our feisty group is getting drunk, getting stoned, generally carrying on, and having sex. The movie essentially follows these kids around watching them having fun and then them getting killed in very grisly ways. VERY grisly ways.
Yes, the set-up is simple but I don’t know if Davidson realizes how many potential problems he avoids with it. It explains why the group is there in the middle of the night; it explains why there’s no police around; there was no need to try and come up with ridiculous reasons why some of the kids had to go off alone (they all had specific jobs to do in setting up for the rave), and it explains why no one else knew they were there (they’re in the warehouse illegally). It may have been unintentional, but like I said, Davidson really avoids a lot of the typical pit falls of the “kids in an abandoned location” movies.
Davidson also takes his time in allowing the audience to really get to know the characters. Although we were all cheering when they got off-ed in the most brutal of ways, we still felt a connection to the characters and were sorry to see them go (kind of). The performances were good across the board. I can’t think of one time when I felt someone in the cast was overacting or pandering to the camera. The characters were also believable so you got pulled into the movie and were able to have a really great time. There were times when I felt the movie started dragging along but as quickly as I felt that way Davidson would grace the screen with a very messy and gory death. Overall I felt the movie could have shaved off about 10 minutes to tighten everything up and help the pace.
Now lets get to the man of the hour. The killer here is dubbed “The Beast,” played effectively by Jeremy Sumrall, and though The Beast is the main killer there are also two other “creatures” (for lack of a better description) that help lure victims right into the Beast’s hands. What makes these killers so effective is that we learn NOTHING about them. Nothing. Nada. We never know who they are, where they came from, why they’re killing … nothing. I’m assuming, by the title, that the old warehouse use to be a sweatshop that had horrible working conditions. But that’s a total guess. And the Beast’s weapon of choice? An anvil attached to a long steel pipe. Yes you heard me; an anvil attached to a steel pipe. Just wait until you see how he puts that thing to use. WOW. The gore is both fun and will make you flinch. In one scene he has a girl tied down (with barbed wire) on a make-shift wooden table; the Beast first clips off her fingers one by one with a large bolt cutters and then picks up his anvil weapon and proceeds to crush her from the waist down. Well to be more accurate he separates her upper and lower torso, crushes the table she’s on, and practically goes through the floor. We get a lot of crushed body parts, dismembered limbs, and very juicy gore scenes. You’ll love it.
Overall this is an effective and fun old school slasher flick complete with an old school slasher. You’ll dig the kick ass soundtrack and the original score (by Dwayne Cathey) and incidental music (by Shikhee). Even the soundtrack has an 80’s feel to it. Davidson does a great job with leaving the audience wanting more. I definitely wanna see the Beast revisited and find out SOMETHING about him!! This isn’t just a really good and fun indie horror flick, its a fun flick, period!! Definitely check this one out.
Director: Stacy Davidson (and writer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brain
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer at the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2010