Blood Shed 2014 Review
Blood Shed 2014
aka American Weapon
Directed by: Cliff Vasco
Starring: Amin Joseph, Maria-Elena Laas, Benjamin Mouton
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Recently in my review of Rose of Death, I mentioned that leaving a rose beside a murdered corpse had been done before and much better in one of my all-time favourites, Rosemary’s Killer. Well it’s nice to see that the film that I have so much respect for is still having an influence on the genre it assisted in defining, because Cliff Vasco’s recent stalk and slasher has also ‘utilised’ a similar idea to that classic synopsis. Blood Shed is the latest film to include a psycho killer that’s not been able to escape his military background, but its plot takes things to a more intriguing level than we’ve seen in previous entries…
Six teenagers take a break in some secluded woodland for a few days to get away from it all. Little do they know however that hiding in the woodland is a deranged psychopathic killer…
Whilst I was logging on to Vimeo to watch this pre screener, I took a browse around online to see if I could find any news or information about the picture. On the IMDB, I saw that it already has a laughable 2.7 rating with a couple of not so generous comments posted below. There were also a few external reviews that equally criticised Cliff Vasco’s debut feature. Often slashers get a hard time from snooty authors even if they do deserve praise and I couldn’t help but wonder if this may have been the reason behind the initial negativity?
Well yes and no is the answer, because whilst Shed is not going to redefine the way that we look at slashers, it deserves more respect than it’s currently being given. It all kicks off at what I guess is a marine training camp. We see two actors giving fairly credible impressions of Private Pyle and Gny. Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket (If you haven’t seen that and don’t know what I am referring to, I’ve just given you the perfect excuse to see a fantastic movie). To add a dose of realism, the scene incorporates real footage of soldiers being drilled at a military base and it’s very easy to see that it is (ancient Vietnam) stuff that is of totally different quality, which is kind of cheesy and amusing. I liked the idea of an antagonist that had been warped by the pressure of an over zealous/bullying drill sergeant and was excited about what would come next.
We then get to meet our group of young adults (aka cannon fodder) who are off camping for a weekend in the woods. The first thing that I noticed about them was that their dinnertime conversation was unlike the norm. Screenwriter Vasco is most certainly a fan of conspiracy theories and his characters discuss subjects such as the CIA’s power and that war is the organising principle for any society. It was enough to make Oliver Stone want to send a Facebook request and continued the tone for our lone assassin on the grassy knoll, sorry, in the surrounding forest. We are made aware of his presence by constant POVs that show him preparing to strike and we don’t wait long until he does.
The kill scenes in Shed may not be gory, but they are incredibly gruesome and they are spaced well enough to so that we are never left waiting around for action. There are a couple of effective jump scares that keep your heart racing and Vasco does well to make the chase sequences fast flowing and tense. We work out pretty quickly who is set to be our final girl and she gets twenty-odd minutes alone to confront the killer. Unfortunately, it’s the way that our nut job is conveyed that reveals the biggest of the feature’s problems. When he is first introduced, he looks incredibly creepy in army fatigues and a Nixon (?) mask. The headpiece is lost almost immediately though and then we are left with little more than an average middle-aged guy in camouflage that just wasn’t imposing enough to deliver scares. I recently saw The Demon from 1979, and the bogeyman there was clearly visible on-screen on only the odd occasion. This wasn’t important though, because his size and demeanor made him incredibly intimidating. Blood Shed has a big hole in the middle of its story, which is about the size of a threatening assailant.
As I alluded to earlier, the murders are consistent, which left me wondering as to why the film failed to maintain my attention. It’s hard to put a finger on the exact reasoning, because on reflection a lot of things are done with more input than usual. For example, each of the screen personalities gets time to build a relationship with the viewer and they have strongly defined, albeit stereotypical, characteristics. In fairness though, like many recent genre entries, Shed fails to make them ‘likeable’ in any way and therefore it’s hard to care if they survive. Even the final girl lacked charm and charisma. It’s unfair perhaps to criticise the sound mixing of a pre-screener (these issues are usually ironed out before going to print), but I must admit that I nearly blew my speakers every time that the music came on because I had the volume at 95% to hear the dialogue.
Blood Shed is an interesting addition to the genre, because it is a generic slasher film in so many ways, but in others it snaps branches of the template. The final scene for example is overplayed and poorly delivered, but I have never seen anything quite like it in twenty-plus- years of watching slashers. I won’t reveal what happens, so as not ruin it for you, but it was extremely unique in a peculiar way. In fact, the whole film is a mish mash of ideas that work only sporadically, but those sporadic moments are worth checking out. Having a confused military angle and trying to deliver a political message of some kind was unusual and perhaps slightly misplaced, but interesting all the same.
Whilst Shed is ultimately flawed, I must admit that a 2.7 rating is incredibly harsh…
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl: √