June 12, 2013

Frayed (2007)

Directed by Norbert Caoili and Rob Portmann. Starring Tony Doupe ("Sheriff Pat Baker"), Aaron Blakely ("Gary Jordan"), Alena Dashiell ("Sara Baker"), and Tasha Smith-Floe ("Veronica"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Lionsgate)
Running time: 01:51:10
Country: USA

A deranged young man named escapes from a mental institution, dons a mask, and heads back to his old neighborhood to track down his sister and commit some good ol'-fashioned murder. No this isn't John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, it's Norbert Caoili and Rob Portmann's FRAYED. The main difference here is... well, there's really no main difference now that I think about it, unless you count the fact that this looks its budget and has less talent in front of and behind the camera. OK, maybe I'm being too harsh on this movie, but those words pretty much sum up how I felt during the first 95 minutes of this 110-minute movie. As for the last 15 minutes? Continue reading to find out!

What I did for most of the movie

FRAYED opens with a found-footage motif that captures the birthday party of a little boy named Kurt. Nothing seems too out-of-the-ordinary outside of the fact that Kurt seems a tad grumpy and is picking on his little sister Sara. Kurt and Sara's mother films the party as it winds down, and she manages to capture a shitty-looking party clown entertaining some kids before heading upstairs to check on Kurt (the camera is still on, mind you), who seems to be bothered by something. Next thing you know, mom is on the ground getting her head bashed in as the camera captures the incident. As evident by the year 1994 on the bottom corner of the video-tape, this is a flashback. We then cut to present day, and we're introduced to a grown-up Sara and her father, who was noticeably absent during Kurt's ill-fated birthday party.

The development of the characters and the establishing of the story is quick and to the point; Kurt killed his mom and got placed in a nuthouse, Kurt's dad is a cop and has since re-married, and the surviving members of the Baker family have moved on with their lives but are still undoubtedly troubled by what happened many years ago. The film also wastes no time driving home just how fucked-up in the head Kurt is. While he's remained fairly docile as a patient at the institution, he's also aggressively reclusive and has remained completely silent all those years. Also, he does the whole rocking back-and-forth thing, so you know he's crazy.

Dressed in only a hospital gown and a unique-looking Stitchpunk/Clown mask that makes him look like a lost member of Slipknot, Kurt makes a daring escape from the asylum and claims a few bodies in the process. A security guard named Gary tries to stop Kurt and inadvertently assumes the role of the Final Guy for the first act (and part of the second) as the film stalls before the inevitable Baker family reunion. Meanwhile, Sara and her best friend Veronica are completely oblivious to what's going on since they're out in the woods being groped and fondled by their respective boyfriends. But, as Kurt approaches gets closer and the bodies start to pile up, the Baker clan is made aware of the situation and act accordingly.

To eliminate the amount of rambling that I'm inclined to do, I'll try to keep this is concise as possible. FRAYED shows some promise in the opening minutes thanks to one of the best head-bashing scenes I've ever seen next to IRREVERSIBLE. High praise for a low-budget slasher such as this, but I assure you it's no hyperbole. From then on, the film just reeks of amateur craftsmanship and uninspired storytelling. None of the actors are convincing, the minimal budget shows more often than not (I'm not exactly sure what the budget was, but I assume it wasn't much), and the similarities to HALLOWEEN are almost distracting. That could be the jaded Horror fan in me talking, but I can't even fathom this being enjoyable if I were to watch it through a different pair of eyes. At the very least, there's a cool stabbing scene that takes place early in the movie that's almost on par with the stab-a-thon in I SAW THE DEVIL. Aside from that, though? A few legitimately well-executed jump scares amidst Slasher cliche after Slasher cliche. To its credit, FRAYED builds up to a predictable plot twist but then blindsides you with another, more effective twist with a heartbreaking revelation. The latter twist is so strong that it almost redeems the rest of the film. Almost. Ultimately, I'm not sure why this movie annoyed me so much. Whatever the case, FRAYED has problems, but it also has enough noteworthy moments (the head-crushing, etc.) that I wouldn't discourage anyone from seeing it - just prepare to be underwhelmed by a majority of it.

Score: 5

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