Sometimes nightmares do come true.
Is horror dead? The horror genre exists on the fringe, give or take the occasional breakthrough. The heyday of slasher flicks seems to have passed with the 1980s, where Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, and Leatherface wave from their sequel-happy prime.
The new face of post-Scream horror is slicker, blander, self-referential. You can snap your fingers at the moment where the hot annoying girl will die, and you can see the twist ending coming a mile away. The scarred villains all go to the same boutique.
Fortunately, there are independent films like Kolobos that stay true to the horror formula while managing to entertain and provoke us. Gone is the polished veneer, and with it the patented twists and "surprise" killings. Kolobos does not stray far from convention, but puts enough intelligence and uncertainty into the proceedings that you are left wondering throughout. Yes, people die with predictable and gruesome regularity. The undercurrent and finale differentiate Kolobos, creating a cerebral experience.
Facts of the Case
Kyra (Amy Weber) is hit by a car while wandering in an alley. She is mutilated and catatonic, speaking the word "kolobos" over and over. The doctors at the hospital try to piece together what happened to her.
Kyra relives the last day's events in her mind. She and four others responded to an ad for a local reality show. They become roommates in a sweet pad, with cameras rolling throughout. Soon, they realize the program is a farce. They get locked in and people start dying.
[Editor's Note: The editor would like to point out that this concept would make Big Brother much more interesting.]
It becomes clear that one of them is a traitor. The survivors fight to escape while figuring out who is the rat. At least one of them escapes, but in the wake of the tragedy she realizes that her scars run deeper. Why did the show exist in the first place, and how will that truth affect the next group of stars?
Kolobos is firmly in the horror camp, and wears its fringe status proudly on its sleeve. One foot is in its horror roots, with gruesome slasher killings and a surreal, suburban ethic. The other foot is in the horror of today, with reality show glitz and teen bonding.
Yet Kolobos rises above both subgenres through grit and intelligence. Whether you agree with that statement depends on how you feel about the ending. Kolobos ends on a frustrating, schizoid note that threatens to invalidate the rest of the movie. On the surface, it is a fly ball out of left field. But once you digest the meaning, Kolobos seems much more complex, inviting a second viewing. Fortunately, the filmmakers knew where they were going the whole time, and provide clues throughout.
Red herrings abound in this psycho-slasher tableau. One of the fun things about the horror genre is trying to figure out whodunit. Kolobos plays with that tendency. By all means, follow the white rabbit if you can. The pace is taut throughout, but the feel shifts. Kolobos begins in reality, then shifts to out-there-land, then comes back. We know most of the movie is in Kyra's mind, which allows the filmmakers to throw extra curveballs. You'll probably jump at least once in spite of yourself.
The transfer is standard and unscrubbed. There are frequent dust and scratches, with occasional softness. However, the visual feel of the film is sophisticated. There are high production values in evidence here. Either indie horror has come a long way or these guys are experienced filmmakers. Lighting is particularly well-handled; many effects and moods are created solely through lighting.
The editing is tight. The story starts tense and remains so, with some periods of relative quiet. Character building is an oft-ignored aspect in horror films, but here it is used to great effectiveness. I was taken by surprise when the fit hit the shan.
The acting is uneven but overall is convincing. Amy Weber has the presence to carry the film, and the supporting roles are well-cast. Check out the horror movie within the horror movie for hilarious irony.
Kolobos has an aural tone that contributes to the psychological feel. The music is haunting but not ethereal. The sound effects are handled well. When you factor in the great sound, great editing, and decent visual feel, Kolobos starts to give studio films a run for their money.
Finally, we have the special effects. Fans of The Evil Dead and other low budget horror films will have no trouble figuring out how some of these effects were done. That said, the gore scenes are pretty tight. Some of this stuff will make you squirm, particularly if you have become accustomed to toned-down, Screamesque gore.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If this film had been packaged and promoted for what it is, no problem. But a few frustrating faux-paus exist. The cover makes it look like Kolobos is The Cat People meets Jurassic Vampires. Nobody has green or orange eyes in the film. There is no slobbering, scaly beast with a thousand fangs. They could have put a shot of Amy Weber in a clingy T-shirt with a shadow behind her; that would have been equally deceptive but within the standard allowance for horror covers.
There are minimal extras. Understandable, this is an independent movie with no studio backing. They probably exerted most of their resources just getting the film made. But the DVD menu lists a feature called "behind the scenes," which turns out to be a simple filmography for Amy Weber. Come on! By the way, if you happen to look up the website listed in her biography, you'll get one of those porn sites that throws up a million pop-ups all over your screen. Disappointing…I wanted to read about her experiences making Kolobos.
The prosecution calls rebuttal witness Charlie P. Diddle, who has this statement: "Yeah, it was real neat when they killed all those people, I mean whoa, look out for the booby trap there, dude! But that ending, what a cop out! Didn't make a damn bit a' sense. And there warn't no hooters."
[Author's Note: If you're reading this and you're actually named Charlie P. Diddle, I apologize.]
I've watched a bunch of horror films lately, and this one stands out. The audio and visuals are well handled, the editing and acting are tight. I appreciate the nods to the horror I grew up with. The best thing about Kolobos is the cerebral take on a primarily visceral genre, which made me want to see it again. If you thirst for something edgier than current horror fare, this one will do the trick. The bare bones package won't wow anyone, but this film does have replay value. As DVD connoisseurs, we should support good independent efforts because it gives us variety in our viewing diet.
On the count of confusing horror viewers with deep thought, filmmakers Nne Ebong, Daniel Liatowitsch, and David Todd Ocvirk are found innocent. The court encourages such risk to avoid staleness in the genre. Amy Weber is free to go with the court's best wishes. I commend you, young lady, for not falling prey to "pointless nudity to make it in Hollywood" syndrome.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: York Entertainment
• Amy Weber Filmography
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