Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #44
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: September 28, 1999
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 82 minutes
Directors: Daniel Liatowitsch, David Todd Ocvirk
Producers: Dana Altman, Nne Ebong
Screenplay: Nne Ebong, Daniel Liatowitsch, David Todd Ocvirk
Special Effects: Jason Collins: Autonomous F/X Inc.
Cinematography: Yoram Astrakhan
Score: William Kidd
Editing: Brian Olson
Studio: Armitage Pictures
Distributors: York Entertainment, Metrodome Distribution
Stars: Amy Weber, Donny Terranova, Nichole Pelerine, John Fairlie, Promise LaMarco, Ilia Volok, Kim Simms Thomas, Todd Beadle, Mari Weiss, Jonathan Rone, Linnea Quigley, Ivan Battee
Suggested Audio Candy:
William Kidd Kolobos
Big brother is watching you. At the turn of the millennium, we were treated to a glut of slashers that used closed circuit technology as a beady eye in an attempt to appeal to our inner voyeur. These ranged from Marc Evans’ decent but flawed My Little Eye to Rick Rosenthal’s epic fail Halloween Resurrection. Both depicted said technology as a malignant threat in much the same manner as Donald Cammell did back in 1977 with his tense sci-f thriller Demon Seed. Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk’s first and only directorial outing Kolobos was perhaps the most notable inclusion to this sequence and well worthy of anyone’s time and perseverance.
The nineties had witnessed a massive lull in horror with precious few original works amongst the overabundance of frothy Scream influenced teen slashers but Kolobos stood out from the crowd for a number of reasons. As flawed and incoherent as the eighties European features it emulated, and with similar levels of surrealism and excessive gore, it featured all manner of sadomasochistic imagery to implicate its audience and provoke a feeling of unease rarely seen at the time. Anyone who knows me well will be only too aware that I love nothing more than a dash of high anxiety so this gruesome little number really was preaching to the choir.
Loosely derived from a Greek word which means mutilation, Kolobos focuses on troubled artist Kyra (Amy Weber) who answers an ad in the classifieds searching for five potential lab rats to take up temporary lodging at a plush mountain lodge for an anthropology-based experiment. On her arrival, she meets her new housemates, struggling comedian Tom (Donny Terranova), spoilt actress Erica (Nichole Pelerine), film student Gary (John Fairlie) and fast food worker Tina (Promise LaMarco) and the group begin to bond (albeit tentatively), unaware of Kyra’s burgeoning secret. This girl has some pretty severe issues, one of which being recurring nightmares of being pursued by a faceless antagonist and she acts out through her art, which she is incredibly guarded about sharing with her new acquaintances.
Liatowitsch and Ocvirk waste precious little time in revealing the house’s ominous intentions as it promptly goes into lock-down mode, snaring them inside its booby trap laden bullpen, which share more than a passing resemblance to the suburban fortress from Demon Seed. Rigged to the nines with wall-to-wall traps, which include wall-mounted saw-flingers and acid-laced shower jets, their deadly digs makes for one helluva oppressive locale. We get the feeling that all will not end well for the tenants and this dread is bolstered by William Kidd’s atmospheric score which pays reverence to Dario Argento, riffing on his Suspiria theme which can only ever be a good thing in my books, no matter how thinly veiled or shameless.
They also “borrow” much of the Italian maestro’s visual trickery, employing similar fetishistic techniques such as extreme close-up while Director of Photography Yoram Astrakhan douses the screen in lucid primary colors. I swear, you’ll think you’re watching Suspiria at one point and it also nods affectionately at the Italian Giallo genre, with its numerous waking nightmare sequences really cranking the style up to thirteen. Whether said phantasms are just a figment of Kyra’s imagination remains unclear, keeping both the audience and her housemates guessing as the shit continually hits the fan. And boy does it hit the fan!
While said companions are generally loathsome and each as egocentric as the next, it’s impossible not to warm to them, particularly given their diligence with backs against the wall. As opposed to splitting up like most characters in their quandary, their decision to stay close and out-think their imperceivable opponent is admirable. Sadly, this logic doesn’t stretch to the film’s final act which spirals into a convoluted mess of the magnitude of Lucio Fulci at his least coherent. Considering they are openly paying homage to the Italians, I suppose kudos are in order for staying true to their origins. However, after such a potent second act, some may begin to question whether or not they simply ran out of steam.
Looking back at Kolobos, our enjoyment ultimately depends on a number of key factors. Our ability to forgive its illogical conclusion, devotion towards eighties horror cinema (particularly Italian), willingness to accept style as a substitute for substance, and our stomach linings being strong enough to withstand some pretty wince-inducing gore. If, like me, you’re still licking your gums like deviants then I implore you to dive right in as this atmospheric little oddity is something of a diamond in the rough and well worth tracking down post-haste. Besides, imitation really is the most sincere form of flattery.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Bloodletting here is on a pretty monumental scale and includes evisceration, impalement, meltdown, excruciating ankle displacement, permanent carved smiles, American History X style teeth extraction, and a sickening deer-antler eye-gouge which Fulci would be proud of. Undoubtedly one of the more full-on splatter flicks of its era, Kolobos serves up the deep red relish with gay abandon and Jason Collins and his team’s practical FX is first-rate, given the meager resources at his disposal.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014 (Revised Edition 2015)