New Line // 2009 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 30th, 2009
Your fear. His amusement.
Three high school friends, a maniac from their past and a pile of sharp implements total a horror film that isn't half bad.
Our villain for this go-round is the older version of a premium whack-job who was known around school for stringing up rats and exposing their rodent abdomens. Three girlfriends unfortunately decide to have some hurtful fun at the expense of lil' psycho-pants and believe it or not, it comes back to haunt them.
Tabitha, Shelby and Lisa are their names and they each have a separate story that brings them into contact with their nemesis and pretty much all those encounters involve bloodshed and exposed organs.
The movie is broken into three stories, before converging into one final act, and it's a satisfying way to approach a horror excursion. Right away director John Simpson makes with the terror, opening the film with a twist on the crazy trucker genre. It's a tense opener and sets the table for what's to come, including an off-putting series of scenes with people sewn to their bed, an eyeball-punishing experience with an antique record player and a killer clown sequence that should given any Bozophobes nightmares for a month.
Thankfully, Amusement doesn't run out of gas when the story settles into the pay-off: the showdown between the girls and the Big Bad, the crazy cracker with a disturbing laugh and a penchant for human dissection. When we're shown his chamber of horrors -- and what he derives said amusement from -- it's suitably icky. From there, we're talking formula chase-the-screaming-girl through the weird mansion, culminating in a satisfyingly violent end for one of the two characters left standing.
That's probably the biggest criticism to lob at what otherwise is a noteworthy horror outing: the thing plays by the textbook decrees for the genre. Add to that the disposability of the protagonist (she's essentially a screamer who can run fast) and a questionable motivation for the bad guy (hey, man, everyone had a sucky time in school, get over it), and Amusement misses legendary status. But make no mistake: It's a worthy venture for the scare-hound in your family and earns a recommendation from this horror buff.
The DVD is no-frills, but it's a technical winner. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen looks very good, sporting some impressive color work and detailing. If you're so inclined you also have the full-frame alternative to choose, but why in the world would you bother? The 5.1 surround mix is clean and loud. The lack of extras is a let down.
A good horror movie, just shy of great, Amusement nevertheless delivers the shocks and gore. A more robust DVD would have been highly appreciated, however.
Not guilty. The court is amused.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R