Anchor Bay // 2006 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 11th, 2007
Each beat may be your last.
Robert Englund brings his Elm Street cred to this blood-soaked slasher film.
Chambers (James Binkley) is a ruthless serial killer, caught by Sheriff Berger (Englund) and about to take a spin on the electric chair. After talking some @#$% to the priest reading him his last rites, Chambers saddles in and gets himself nice and roasted. But when he arrives at the hospital morgue, he reanimates, wastes the doctor, rips open his chest, removes his heart, and drinks it down like a Red Bull.
That's right, kids: our serial killer is actually a demon-possessed, scripture-quoting harbinger of death. Amidst the heart-ripping in the darkened hospital halls, he's scoped out a prize victim: Sara (Meredith Henderson), a social outcast teen who is somehow powerful enough to house the demonic spirit within Chambers.
Sara teams up with Walter (Nathaniel Stephenson), a classmate and a video game aficionado, to try and mount an escape from the hospital. But that won't be easy, with nearly all the staff wasted by Chambers and full-on tornado raging outside.
Wow, points right off for the amount of gore in this flick. Director Bob Keen and his special effects crew squeeze as much mileage out of their fake-blood budget line item and rain down the red stuff in massive doses. Though Chambers isn't an innovative killer, limiting his M.O. to ripping out people's hearts from their chest cavities throughout the film, it is a method that gets the juices flowing. When victims get the old surgical treatment, plumes of blood spew forth, coating Binkley and any other actor on the screen. After the recipient of the cleave-and-jerk succumbs, his or her chest ripped apart, the last shot of the sequence is usually the same: Chambers grinning, cradling a heart (obviously prosthetic, but still pumping, baby!). Keen lets his camera embrace the mayhem. Although it's all over-the-top and not very scary, it's not often you see this level of sinew in your straight-to-disc horror endeavors.
Gore can only take you so far, and unfortunately there's not enough substance in Heartstopper to merit a whole-hearted recommendation. The goofy violence associated with Chambers can't compensate for the general lameness of the character. Binkley sets the Ham-it-Up level to 9.75 and delivers as overwrought a rendition of a crazy murderer as you'll see anywhere. With the constant Bible-quoting, teeth-clenching, and melodramatic line reading, Chambers flirts dangerously close to parody status. On the other end, though, the good guys hold their own; Henderson plays the feisty female protagonist role well enough and Stephenson isn't too annoying, despite taking part in an idiotic scene where he's pushed in his wheelchair, screaming macho-like and firing his gun at the killer.
The demonic gimmick works fairly well, although it's never really explored beyond some stilted expository dialogue and Chambers's beady demon eyes. I guess it was necessary in light of all the times Chambers bounces back from fatal attacks (dude gets downed toward the end with a sweet gunshot/sulfuric acid combo) and his ability to remove hearts with ease, but story-wise, it doesn't add a whole lot.
The film almost loses all credibility as a serious horror flick with the -- literally -- overblown finale. Light spoilers ahead, by the way. A tornado handily swings by the hospital just as Chambers and the kids have their big showdown, and what, pray tell, is used to save the day? That's right -- a PSP. Ugh, transparent shilling and an idiotic ending left a bad taste in this judge's mouth.
Anchor Bay did a decent job with this disc, giving the film a crisp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment that really flaunts the redness of the blood, supported by a solid 5.1 digital track. Two nice-sized interviews with Robert Englund and Bob Keen are your extras for this one.
Cheesy moments abound and the forward momentum sags in the middle third, but Heartstopper isn't without its treats, notably lots and lots of blood and Robert Englund. Maybe a rental?
Here's a washcloth. Clean yourself up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews with Robert Englund and Director Bob Keen