I had seen this title in stores several times but was turned off by the cartoony cover art. Eventually, I stumbled across it on NetFlix and decided to give a chance because 1) the cover, though still cartoony, at least lacked the Fangoria banner which makes it look even more cartoonier, and 2) free streaming!
I’m glad I did as this turned out to be a lot of fun, and I can easily recommend it.
It starts off with a title card that is completely unnecessary in retrospect. It seems to be setting us up for a dystopian tale like Escape From New York or Soylent Green.
In fact, dude (or should I say bloke since it turns out he is British) loses his job — that’s all that matters. Just an aside — how is dystopian not in spell-check? Hunger Games has been out for 6 years.
Director Ryan Lee Driscoll gets things moving immediately. After a quick breakfast where the father Kurt goes Santini on the kids, berating his son for not being manly enough and his daughter for dressing like a tramp – they’re off! Kurt seems to loosen up as drives the family out for a nice day in the country.
After some car trouble, he leads them to a nearby farmhouse. If you look closely, there is a pickaxe leaning against the wall. And remember the principle of Chekhov’s Pickaxe – if there is a pickaxe in the first scene, by the end, it must be buried in someone’s skull (translations vary on this interpretation).
Once inside, Dad turns out to be positively chirpy. Clearly this can’t last. At times, he sounds a lot like John Cleese doing his Basil Fawlty slow-burn. He then commences his breakdown which I will try to keep somewhat spoiler free.
Secrets are revealed, blood is drawn, fortunes are reversed, yada-yada. Opportunities to put an end to Dad’s shenanigans are repeatedly squandered, another character shows up against all odds. Standard horror movie fare.
But it is constantly entertaining, and moves along at a good pace. It’s just – I can’t stop thinking about that bloody (well, not yet) pickaxe.
Much later, Driscoll pulls off a nice bit of business as Dad is in full meltdown mode (and never sounding more like John Cleese), strangling Mom. Daughter Megan is in the bathroom, and hears screams. She tries to get out, but Dad has rigged up a rope system that prevents the door from opening. The cutting between the ropes on the door versus the necktie Dad is using to strangle Mom is Hitchcockian in its execution.
Son Jay finally grows a pair, and runs to get the pickaxe.
But wait – no, he has run past the pickaxe, into the house to get a regular axe. Dude, your mother is dying – there’s a gardening weapon of individual destruction RIGHT THERE! You passed it twice!
I could nitpick a few other things: A spare cellphone? Who was that blue-sleeved man? When Jay returns with chopped wood, it has clearly been sawed, not chopped. The lighting in the woods is freakishly spotty. I just can’t figure out what is going on with the lawn mower – do mowers not have wheels in England? Are they hover mowers? And I have hats with propellers bigger than that blade. But none of that matters – it is a fun ride and well worth your time.
- I was ready to mock Jay for his grip on the axe – choking way up, and probably looking pretty girly to his old man. But as I thought about it, an axe is a pretty unwieldy weapon in a hostage situation. Any dwarf with a dream can flail away while being attacked by a horde of Orcs. But when your Dad is strangling your Mom, the wide swing is just asking for trouble.
- That weird lighting prompted me to look up phases of the moon. This moon had an illuminated right half, known as a 1st Quarter. Half & half, so why is it called a Quarter?
- No, the pickaxe was never used. Suck it, Chekov.
Finally, I just noticed the license. That is not going to help his innocent plea against premeditated murder.