Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bobbi Sue Luther, Kevin Gage, Sean Whalen, Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Richard Lynch, Nick Principe, Lucas Till, Anthony Fitzgerald, Seri DeYoung, Johnathon Schaech, Jana Kramer
Written by: Robert Hall
Directed by: Robert Hall
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, some sexual content, nudity and brief drug use
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/18/2009

Laid to Rest (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Chrome Improvement

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Makeup artist and special effects man Robert Hall wrote and directed this modern slasher film, and he has struck an effective balance between strong characters and excellent gore. Hall's significant other Bobbi Sue Luther stars as "The Girl," who wakes up in a coffin, her brains a little scrambled and with no memory of how she got there. She quickly realizes that she's not alone, that a tall, creepy guy known as "Chrome Skull" is after her. He wears, yes, a chrome skull stuck to his face as well as a video camera mounted on his shoulder so that he can forever capture his vicious acts of sadism. Judging from the tapes he has already collected, he has been at the murder game for a long time now. The Girl escapes and catches a ride with the tough-but-gentle Tucker (Kevin Gage), a good-ol'-boy who walks with a limp. Tucker brings the girl back home, which unexpectedly leads to the death of his beloved girlfriend (Lena Headey). Tucker and the girl hit the road and enlist the aid of a reluctant computer nerd, Stephen (Sean Whalen) who is still mourning the loss of his mother (died of natural causes, thanks very much). Unfortunately, no one's car has any gas, and no one's cell phone has any power or gets any reception. The best they can do is e-mail the cops and wait.

Fortunately, the film never explains just who Chrome Skull really is, aside from dropping some tantalizing hints. He may be supernatural, or not. He may be interested only in The Girl, or not. This ambiguity allows the characters to bloom; they're more than just meat. They jump back and forth from hope to fear depending on the situation. And Hall doesn't forget that both Tucker and Stephen need time to grieve over their lost loved ones. The Girl -- eventually nicknamed "Princess" -- is equally interesting, given that no one knows who she really is or her connection to the entire mess. It builds up a small measure of mystery, which Hall pays off nicely. And Tucker and Stephen quickly form a protective bond with her. When they've been separated and reunited at one point, they all exchange hugs. (She also has an earthy sexiness that grows on you; it's too bad that Hall keeps her swathed in an oversized men's shirt for almost the entire film.) Likewise, Hall's camera placement is smooth and economic; there's no shaking or lurching into excess. Gore hounds will be pleased as well; Hall's effects are outstanding, and -- as far as I could tell -- rarely rely on digital enhancement. I really liked this film. It's too bad that it didn't get a theatrical release, given that it's better than every other horror film I've seen so far in 2009.

DVD Details: Anchor Bay released the top-notch DVD, which will be worth a purchase. Hall and Luther team up for a commentary track, and we get some detailed, behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as deleted scenes, bloopers and a trailer.

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