Allumination Filmworks // 2007 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // January 3rd, 2008
Everyone's Dying To Be A Star.
1. To cut or chop with repeated and irregular blows.
2. To use one's skill in computer programming to gain illegal or unauthorized access to a file or network.
3. A mediocre and disdained writer.
Guess which of the above definitions is most likely to spring to mind after watching this movie?
Vincent King and partner Mary Shelley are out to make the ultimate horror movie. Recreating scenes from their favorite horror movies, the two have an unwitting group of college students lined up as their next set of victims. But who will make the final cut?
I wonder whether Wes Craven pondered the effect Scream would have on the film world when he revitalized the horror genre with his satirical classic. The film's character roster, a mix of horror-movie stereotypes and knowing movie geeks, allowed for the filmmakers to play with the horror-movie rulebook, creating a near-perfect blend of horror and comedy. Since then there have been numerous attempts to riff on the same idea with limited success from the lame Scary Movie series (why spoof a movie that is clearly making fun of the genre already?), to the more recent and quite brilliant Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.
With Hack!, writer/director Matt Flynn takes the same basic formula that made Scream a success and throws in a little addition, the killers film the victims to create their own homage to the horror genre. Sadly, at no point does this come close to Wes Craven's movie; in fact, it rarely comes close to being a good movie at all.
The biggest problem with the movie, sadly, is Flynn's obvious love for the horror genre. His constant referencing of other movies is, frankly, shameless. These aren't subtle nods, either. After smashing an axe into a victim's gut, the killer shouts, "Here's Johnny!," and this goes on and on. Even worse, the dialogue of the mostly film-student characters is pathetic. If these people were genuinely interested in horror as they claim, or any genre for that matter, wouldn't they actually give more reasoning for their love of a particular movie than shout drivel like "Hellraiser rules!"? It comes across as Flynn trying to name check as many of his favorite films as possible. Oh and check out the names of the characters: from Mary Shelley to Mr. Argento, it just beggars belief. I know we live in an age where films and TV shows frequently throw in references to the movies, but at least something like Family Guy does something with the reference, be it a little skit or, in the case of the "Blue Harvest" episode, an entire show that plays on the Star Wars mythos. Here we simply have characters named after horror icons and lines like, "Was Psycho shot here?" -- and don't even mention the Dead Calm reference.
The cast is made up of faces you'll recognize but often fail to place. From Burt Young and Tony Burton (Rocky) to Danica McKeller (The Wonder Years) and William Forsythe (The Devil's Rejects), they have, at least in most cases, shown themselves to be better than the material they are given to work with.
The DVD contains no special features, unless you consider a few trailers for other poor-looking horror films to be special; personally I don't. The audio on the disc is a flat lifeless mix that at one point became quite tinny with a little echo. I tried the disc on three other players in the house and the problem followed the disc. The video is a little better. A relatively clean image with vibrant color and good clarity in night sequences makes for a good-looking picture.
I suppose if you're new to the horror genre the film wouldn't be so bad, it's just anyone who's been a fan for a while will find the film so derivative of other, far better movies, that it really is hard to recommend to even a fairly casual horror movie fan.
To be fair to Flynn the film is competently filmed with some well-lit sequences and a couple of amusing kills. Sadly even these sequences that raise the standard of the film are merely pale imitations of the film's obvious inspirations. I mean, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm sure I've already seen another film possibly set in TEXAS, where a psycho with a CHAINSAW chases a terrified young girl through the woods, and some sort of MASSACRE ensues, the name escapes me for some reason...
There was a time when independent filmmakers produced the best horror around and would shake up the industry with films that dared to go places the mainstream simply could not or would not. That seems to becoming far less frequent however and Hack! is a prime example of the problem. I'm all for new talent getting into the industry and getting a shot at making movies in a genre they love, but if the result is going to be an unoriginal mess that simply amounts to a badly written love letter to the genre, I have to question the point of the project.
From the cast, only Kane Hodder, Danica McKellar, Burt Young, William Forstyhe, Tony Burton, and Juliet Landau are free to go for previous good behavior. The rest of the cast and crew are found guilty and ordered to send letters of apology to all those they have shamelessly referenced, imitated, or simply plagiarized.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Allumination Filmworks
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site