THE VICTIM is the solo directorial debut from genre actor, Michael Biehn (in 2010 he co-directed THE BLOOD BOND with Anthony Szeto). I’ve posted a few articles about the progress of this film over the last year, and then suddenly it went silent. So I was pretty happy that THE VICTIM was being screened at this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend and made a point to check it out. I’m glad I did for two reasons. First; it’s a fun film, and second; Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc, and Danielle Harris were all in attendance to watch the film with us and hold a Q & A after the screening (only Biehn and Blanc were there for the Q & A). It’s always nice to get the “inside scoop” from the director and leading actor/actress in a film. So let’s get to it.
THE VICTIM stars Michael Biehn as Kyle (a nod to his role in THE TERMINATOR), a self-imposed recluse who holes up in his uncle’s unused cabin in a very remote area in the woods. He’s there to get his life together and get over some trauma from his past (what this is is only hinted at in the early parts of the film). One night while he’s trying to get some work done, a frazzled and panicked girl, Annie (Jennifer Blanc), starts pounding on his door to let him in. He reluctantly does and she tells him she’s being chased by two guys who wanna kill her. Oh yeah; the two guys are cops. Oh yeah; and one of the cops is going to be the next sheriff of the county!! Don’t worry, I didn’t spoil anything. These facts come out very early in the film. Annie tells him that she and her roommate Mary (Danielle Harris) were partying with the two cops out in the woods when things got a little outta control. From this point the film twists and turns as it makes us question who is ‘good,’ who is ‘bad,’ and who is really the victim. You’ll find yourself putting every character in the film under a microscope as you try and figure out where everything is headed.
Biehn, who also wrote the screenplay, does a really nice job keeping the tension high and the plot moving along at a nice pace. During the Q & A we find out that THE VICTIM was shot on a micro-budget and there were a lot of things Biehn wanted to do in the film, but he was limited by the budget. The first thing you’ll notice is that for the content, there’s a surprising lack of blood and gore. Again, this is attributed to the budget (Robert Hall’s Almost Human f/x company handles the effects). But the film doesn’t suffer from the lack of gore. Sure it would’ve been nice to have a gorier film, especially since this is Biehn’s homage to grindhouse flicks, but he manages to fill the story with a lot of exploitation elements that all work together. We get sex, drugs, corrupt cops, a serial killer, torture, and violence towards women. As Biehn told us after the screening, he tried to fit as many exploitive elements into the film as he could that wouldn’t cost a lot of money (i.e, no zombies or excessive gore). He seemed genuinely happy with the film and he should be. It’s a fast-paced throwback film with a solid plot and overall good acting.
Starring as the corrupt cops are Ryan Honey as Harrison (the future sheriff) and Denny Kirkwood as Cooger (a narcotics cop). Both did solid jobs but Honey was the one actor who seemed to get a little over-the-top at times. In his defense, though, his character was the most complex one in the film. Harrison is essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a sociopath who somehow got on the right career path. There are times, though, when his acting seems to get away from him and he over does it. He also has a really distracting, cheesy, 1970’s mustache that was a nice touch. It made him seem all the more crazy and it also situated THE VICTIM nicely in the grindhouse-era.
Biehn and cinematographer Eric Curtis do a nice job capturing some really nice scenes. Biehn told us that he utilized a “Day for Night” technique where all the night shots were filmed during the day time. This is a method he picked up from Xavier Gens, who used this technique in his film FRONTIERE(S). Biehn picked Gens’ brain about this technique when he starred in Gens’ film, THE DIVIDE. It was a nice choice because Biehn captured some very cool scenes and shots with creepy looking shadows and managed to make the ‘dark’ seem like a menacing character itself. At the screening the film played a little darker than Biehn would’ve liked (not a problem with the film itself but with the equipment and screen it was shown on) and let us know that on the right screen THE VICTIM plays a little “lighter.”
THE VICTIM is overall a solid film that will grab you from the opening shot. Biehn nicely builds up the tension throughout the film and delivers an explosive conclusion. There are times when watching where you’ll say to yourself, “This scene would’ve been even better with more gore,” but this lack of over-the-top gore doesn’t hurt the overall experience of the film as it is. At the end of the day, THE VICTIM is a fun and intense exploitation film that’s an homage to the grindhouse films of yesteryear. This is a solid directorial debut and I’m looking forward to seeing what Biehn comes up with next.
Director: Michael Biehn (& screenwriter)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer at the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012