Lionsgate // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // August 24th, 2007
This is going to hurt!
Ok, minor nitpick. The guy on the front of the box looks absolutely nothing like the actual killer in the movie. In fact, the killer on the box is wielding a chainsaw, a weapon not seen once in Brutal. I wouldn't normally go on about this, but it made me think this was going to be a "Crazy Deformed Killer Goes on a Chainsaw Killspree" movie. Instead it's a "Sexually Repressed Normal Looking Man Goes on a Normal Killspree" movie. Talk about life's bitter disappointments. I'm not ruining anything by the way. You find out who the killer is during the first five minutes when they show the killer hedge trimming some girl to death.
A scene that will be repeated later on actually. So you get to see the same exact kill...twice. Which is a little on the boring side.
Brutal is actually a prequel for Blackwater Valley Exorcism, as director Ethan Wiley points out in the commentary. Both movies star Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners) as Sheriff Jimmy Fleck. Combs was my favorite part of Brutal as his despicable, but somehow likable, sheriff bumbles along from crime scene to crime scene.
Sarah Thompson does a decent enough job as Combs' deputy, Zoe Adams, but at times it's hard to understand why Zoe wants to date Fleck so badly. And then, during her big scene with Fleck when he tries to break off their relationship, you see why. She's a little unbalanced. Zoe wildly swings from semi-competent deputy to needy lover. In fact, her character does less to solve the crime than the reporter who keeps following her and the autistic dog breeder (Michael Berryman, The Hills Have Eyes). None of this is the fault of Thompson, but the script. Which seems bent on saying that Zoe's a strong character, but refuses to back up this claim with any real action.
The actual horror seems fairly tame, with a lot happening off-screen. An impalement here, some severed limbs there, nothing really shocking. And the victims are all unbelievably annoying. I felt more sorry for the killer than the people he was going after. His success as a serial killer also seemed to have less to do with his prowess and the general incompetence of the police force.
There's an audio commentary by Ethan Wiley that's funny and informative, but the behind-the-scenes featurette is fairly lackluster.
Bland kills, bland killer and annoying characters don't make for a very entertaining horror film. There's nothing appallingly bad about Brutal. It's just that there's nothing very interesting here either. Brutal is worth a rental though, for those of you who are fans of Jeffrey Combs' other work. Which is really all Brutal has to offer.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
* Audio Commentary
* Still Gallery