Image Entertainment // 2011 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // March 1st, 2013
You shouldn't go out in those woods.
Today, it's both very easy and very hard to make an homage to the golden years of the slasher film. Easy because, with all the examples great and poor that are available, the skeletal framework of the story is basically already written; hard because, with all those examples available, it's too simple for them to fall into the trap of ripping them off and bringing nothing of their own to the table. Nobody Gets out Alive makes no bones about its roots and straddles the line between the good and bad sides of homage.
A group of friends head out to the woods for a weekend camping trip, ignoring the warning of the story of Hunter Isth. Once a loving father, his sweet daughter was run down by a drunken teenager a decade ago. Since then, the legend goes, he has lived in the woods, stalking teenagers and killing them out of revenge. These kids laugh about it while they drink and carouse, but soon learn that some legends have a deadly truth to them.
>From the outset, Nobody Gets out Alive (though referred to in the special features as Down the Road) makes its intentions clear. It's a slasher film in the old-school tradition. Introduce a group of attractive teens, send them out on a camping trip where they can get drunk and have sex, and mention the existence of a crazed killer, and you have the standard recipe for murder and gore. Writer and director Jason Christopher, in his first feature film, has no intention of altering the formula and follows it to the letter.
As a consequence, the final result is decidedly imperfect. The teenagers are a typically annoying bunch, with only the main actress (Jen Dance) having any real character of her own, and even then it's obscured as an idea of some old illness that goes unexplained and has little to do with the plot. There isn't a whole lot of suspense, either, and as soon as the trouble starts, there's no question where it leads. Nor is the film the most competently made, with problems on all fronts. It's Christopher's first real film, so some clunkiness is to be expected, but there are poor performances, editing flubs, and weird shot framing all over the place.
It's not all bad, though. The one thing that Christopher brings to the table that is different than most of the movies he pays tribute is that he leaves his killer unmasked. Granted, for most of the time, we are unable to see his face, but when it's time for him to present himself, he doesn't feel the need to hide his identity. This brings out the best performance in the film by far, that of Brian Gallagher (6 Degrees of Hell) as Hunter Isth. His massive beard helps his crazy look and his delivery is pretty much spot on, giving both the rage of a madman and the eternal grief of a father. His long speech in front of his barely surviving victims (recorded in a single take) is powerful and, though it doesn't justify his horrific actions, it makes his character understandable and compelling.
It's also fairly violent, which will satisfy those hunting for gore. The killings are all unpleasant and varied, with sledge hammers, saws, and nails to the head all coming into play. The uncomfortable murders are accented with pretty good gore effects, especially for the budget, which will turn the unsuspecting squeamish. That doesn't make a horror film great, by any means, but it does help to obscure some of the other problems with the film and keeps it afloat through its short, tight running time.
Image Entertainment presents Nobody Gets out Alive in a decent edition, especially for a horror movie of this budget. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is far from perfect, but it gets the job done. The black levels in this very dark film are solid, with fair detail within them. The brighter scenes are where the problems arise. There, we can see plenty of digital artifacts and blurriness during tracking shots. It looks cheap because it is cheap and it's not so bad considering. The sound fares better, though, with a fairly strong surround mix that is clear and crisp throughout. There isn't a ton of action in the low end or surround channels, but the dialog and sound effects always sound good.
Special features start with an audio commentary with Jason Christopher and producer Deven Lobascio that is interesting and reasonably enjoyable. It's a standard making-of talk, but they have a healthy amount of pride in their film and aren't shy about expressing it. They don't really acknowledge the many issues with the film, but they do highlight the good things about it, which makes it worth a listen. A making-of featurette discusses much of the same material, but with a lot more voices and behind the scenes footage. A reel of outtakes, pointless as ever, closes out the disc.
Nobody Gets out Alive is loaded with problems, but the film's heart is in the right place. With a clear love for the slasher movies of the past, Christopher has constructed a perfectly watchable indie horror film. The bad definitely outweighs the good, but he adds just enough to the genre that slasher fans will want to have a look.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated