Judge David Johnson dominated the King of the Hill circuit from 5th grade until he retired last year.
Shoot. Kill. Game over.
The latest from Dimension Extreme eschews the kind of grisly horror the label is known for and spits out a thriller that is arguably one of its most disturbing.
Facts of the Case
One man (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is on a solo road trip, traveling through the mountains. At a rest stop he meets up with a stranger (Maria Valverde) and the two are overcome by the amorous fumes of urinal cakes and engage in a bathroom quickie. Once that's done, the two go their separate ways, and while driving through a dense mountain pass, the man finds himself under fire from an unknown sniper.
With his exits blocked, he runs away, scared out of his pants. Eventually he meets up with a pair of forest rangers and his bathroom lover. The reunion is immediately broken up by gunfire and now everyone is a target. Who's doing the sniping? Why? And how come our hero is the biggest douchebag ever?
I've been more than satisfied by anything that arrives under the Dimension Extreme banner and this release especially appealed to me. A survival horror adventure featuring an evil sniper taking potshots at unsuspecting passersby? It's a potentially awesome concept and puts a nice spin on the "unseen killer force" genre staple. The thought of some a-hole miles away teeing you up in your crosshairs, with only the CRACK of the gunshot as a warning before a slug hollows out your skull? Yeah, there's fertile land to till for scares there.
And King of the Hill delivers. The sniper action gets rolling relatively early on into the runtime and doesn't let up until the end credits roll. While the body count isn't expansive, director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego spaces the kills out well enough to build the tension. Just when the gimmick begins to lose steam, the film takes a startling turn at the hour mark; eschewing the usual "wait until the end to reveal the killer and set up the showdown," these guys introduce us to the source of the slayings early—and it's a stunning reveal. Whereas the first two-thirds of the film focused on the survivors desperately attempting to evade death by sniper round, the camera turns around and lodges the viewer with the sniper for the duration.
I'm willing to bet most won't predict the reveal. I wouldn't dream of ruining the unveiling, so I'll just say that it's shocking at first and just grows more unsettling as the minutes tick by. Genius move by the filmmakers and a turn of events that stuck with me long after the ending. Which by the way is a perfect way to cap the mind@$%& that had preceded it.
There is one big-ass caveat, though. As cool as this movie is, the protagonist, Mr. Lavatory Fornicator, is a massive tool. I searched for a reason to like this guy, but at pretty much every turn he revealed himself to be even a bigger dillweed. One sequence in particular will have you rooting for the sniper to put one between his eyes or at least for a bear to come out of nowhere and punch him in the eye. The characterization is certainly more nuanced than the typical Noble Hero in horror thrillers, but when you start actively hoping your victim is ventilated by the bad guys, you're looking at an empathy problem.
Dimension's technical treatment is as strong as I've come to expect. Virtually the entire film takes place outside, in the woods, during the day and the picture quality (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) is, thankfully, strong. Two 5.1 audio tracks to choose from—an English dubbed and Spanish. No extras, unfortunately.
A great piece of survivalist horror, watered down a bit because of dick protagonist.
Not guilty. Head shot!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
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