Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #17
Number of Views: One
Release Date: November 20, 2009
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Stacey Davidson
Producers: Laura Bryant, Ted Geoghegan
Screenplay: Stacey Davidson, Ted Geoghegan
Special Effects: Kristi Boul, Marcus Koch, Mike Oliver, Laura Bryant
Visual Effects: Stacy Davidson
Cinematography: Stacy Davidson
Score: Dwayne Cathey
Editing: Stacy Davidson
Studio: Bloodline Entertainment, Odyssee Pictures, Starving Kappa Pictures, Upstart Filmworks
Distributors: Bounty Films, New KSM
Stars: Ashley Kay, Peyton Wetzel, Brent Himes, Melanie Donihoo, Julin, Naika Malveaux, Danielle Jones, ViVi Sterling, Vincent Guerrero and Jeremy Sumrall as The Beast
Suggested Audio Candy
Slayer “Raining Blood”
Let’s talk slasher shall we? After a woefully barren spell during the nineties, it appears that everyone’s favorite sub-genre is well and truly back with a vengeance. Over the past few years, a glut of new wave psychos have entered the fray and with decidedly varied end results. If past successes have any hope of being repeated, then there are a number of regulations to abide by, a certain number of pitfalls to avoid, and a template one needs to adhere to. Perhaps the most elementary is the need for an iconic eradicator. Here lies the centerpiece for the entire package – the linchpin which holds everything together. Historically judged primarily by their appearance, in particular their mask, a killer’s outfitting and physique need to be spot-on to stand a chance of making a name for themselves.
Next on the agenda is the all-important tool of annihilation. This can include machete, cleaver, over-sized bread knife, hacksaw, chainsaw, circular saw, drill, shears, axe, pick axe, rope, bare hands or any combination of the above. Hell, they can even use a sex toy or frying pan if that way inclined. As long as the chosen weapon fits the executioner’s image then pretty much anything is fair game. Having said that, I would imagine Leatherface to be far less intimidating wielding a box cutter and, on the flip side, Leprechaun brandishing a gargantuan chainsaw would be just plain farcical. It’s basically just common sense.
Then we have the fodder, or gormless teenagers as is normally commonplace. Some may be of the opinion that they need to be hateful, exceedingly obnoxious and highly sexed dead heads culpable of making daft-as-a-brush decisions when facing that blank unflinching stare of certain death. I belong to the school of thinking that, as long as you’re setting the bar high enough, then why not make them likeable and relatable to the onlooker. If they’re well enough rounded and distinctive enough to appeal then the audience will be far more likely to invest time in them and subsequently the emotional impact of their all-important termination is heightened.
Location is instrumental too. Campsites work as we all know, providing ample foliage for said slayer to plan their sneak attack on their blissfully unaware targets, but they have been rather done to death over the years. Whether hospital, prom, fun fair, sorority campus or anywhere suitably secluded, it all works for me, just as long as the correct ambiance is provided. Last, but by no means least, are the dispatches which, should a venture fail to adhere to any or all of the above, has the power to rescue it from anonymity. You see, us horror buffs aren’t a demanding bunch. We are willing to lower our expectations just as long as the blood flows freely and artistically. No CGI unless you can do it justice, all we need is some hideous practical splatter and we’re like pigs in swill.
Step up Stacey Davidson’s sophomore effort Sweatshop – a little-known slasher clearly crafted with love in place of resources. His setting is an abandoned warehouse and chosen location for an unlicensed rave which is a respectable enough start. Our lambs to the slaughter comprise a vivid bouquet of Goths, punks and dominatrices, suicide girls and general deviants. While not exactly Oscar front-runners, what they woefully lack in acting chops they make up for with genuine enthusiasm and, in Peyton Wetzel’s Scottyboy and Julin’s glow-stick twirling, child-like Miko, they have some affable enough asses, each more freakish and emo than the last.
Plot is almost entirely surplus to proceedings as Davidson clearly isn’t aiming to test the grey matter and that is fine by me. If I wish to stroke my chin pensively for a couple of hours, then I’ll watch A Beautiful Mind. However, if I’m looking to watch a gaggle of colorful nobodies being soundly perforated, then where better than an after hours sweatshop to play host to the carnage? No need for pointless meandering exposition, just give me some balls to the wall bloodshed and I’m more than a happy camper. Then there’s the meat and vegetables – the inexplicably humongous hulking frame of solid dense whale blubber that is The Beast and this juggernaut is certainly not one to be trifled with. His preferred utensil of agony is a gargantuan anvil hammer and he wastes absolutely no time kneading innocents. Salivating yet? Good. Now time for the inevitable downsides.
The film kicks off with a jarring industrial techno track which hardly sets an ominous opening tone. The cast, while easy to spot in an identity parade, spout some hilariously dire dialogue and rely on gusto as opposed than any real aptitude. There is absolutely no back-story to flesh out our killer although this is perhaps an astute choice given the questionable quality of the script. Despite the imposing figure The Beast casts, any lack of tension seriously undermines his menace. Plus, at one point, the director sees fit to shoehorn in five minutes of feverish dancing which one can only resume is to pad out the running time. Schoolboy errors for the most part, they certainly don’t help the director’s cause.
Yet, regardless of this rather extensive laundry list of folly, Sweatshop somehow manages to entertain pretty consistently for ninety blood-soaked minutes. The chief reason for this are the all-important kills and they provide a decent decoy to the film’s many weaknesses. There is some rather magnanimous splatter on Davidson’s platter and he ensures that the grue is drip-fed at a reasonably breakneck speed throughout to stop any rot setting in. The anvil is put to use rather inventively, splendidly on one particular occasion, and there are numerous other standout dispatches in which The Beast doesn’t revert to using his trusty trademark tool, instead utilizing his environment to perform his fiendish work.
Once utter bedlam is finally introduced for the closing act, it becomes a case of blink and you’ll miss it although, when you’re being treated to random ravers being compacted by such a munificent weapon en masse, it is entirely justifiable. When you consider that Davidson had a meager $250k at his disposal to make this work, then you have all the perspective you require to make an informed decision. Should you be searching for wall-to-wall quality then Sweatshop will leave you well and truly discontented. However, seek out this moderately engaging little gorefest if you are willing to lower that bar of expectation and are prepared just to bask in its butchery. It isn’t big and certainly isn’t anywhere approaching clever either, but it is good fun and sometimes that’s more than enough.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Rating: 4/5
For The Grue-Guzzlers: Splat, squelch, splinter and smash to smithereens is the general order of the day here. Need I say more? Okay, well how does a torn off jaw, face forced a metal grate, or the sight of The Beast’s anvil literally eviscerating one poor victim’s lower torso, along with the work bench to which she is strapped, sound to you? If your pupils are dilating then you’ll find plenty of red meat in Sweatshop to fill your cheeks and SFX maestro Marcus Koch is clearly one to watch very closely in the coming years on this evidence.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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