Monday, August 30, 2021

Nail Gun Massacre (but not that one)


You know how you never really outgrow your childhood vices? For some it's nail biting, others, party bowls of cheese puffs, and most of us horror fans, cheaply made slashers set in wooded areas. 

Yup. Who says you have to grow up?

Quick Plot: Graduating high school senior Dominic is using his father's remote cabin for a fun weekend with his crush Ilsa, Japanese exchange student Mariko, and her boyfriend Kenji. His charcuterie plans are thrown asunder when Ilsa shows up with a batch of uninvited guests: her new older bro squeeze Dwane, unrequited crush Marcus, odd pal Rumor, stoner Eli, and smoker Sara.

With the PlayStation broken and radio non-iPod ready, the group decides to kill time the old-fashioned way: a parlor game of Dead Body. Naturally (since the film's title is "Dead Body") things get quite real: Mariko, Kenji, and Dominic are quickly found slain, and with doors locking from the inside, it's clear that the murderer is one of their own.

Dead Body is directed by newcomer Bobbin Ramsey from a script by Ian Bell and Ramon Isao, and clearly, this was made for less than the catering budget of a Marvel film (or even the cast payout for a BlumHouse one). We're pretty much restricted to one house and some woods, with actors you might have seen as character witnesses on Law & Order. Most of the violence occurs under so much darkness that there clearly wasn't too much of a need to go broke on fake blood.

And yet, much like the similarly tiny and game-themed Witch-Hunt, Dead Body manages to be far more entertaining than you might fear for a title you've never heard of streaming on Amazon Prime. It's under 90 minutes and moves exactly how you'd want this kind of dead "teenager" movie to move.

Some of the early arguments about what is actually going down feel repetitive (not ideal in such a short film), but one could argue that there's something of a point to that. I haven't played Dead Body in years, but the film makes it feel like an oral version of Clue, which adds an interesting spin to a fast mass murder mystery.

The characters are idiots, and most on the mild scale of likability, but the young(ish) actors (seriously, I did a few double takes when I realized they were supposed to be 18-year-old graduates and not celebrating a 10-year reunion) are good enough to help the material along. This isn't a hidden gem or new classic, but if you're looking for an old-fashioned slasher on cheap hypderdrive, Dead Body more than satisfies.

High Points
There really is a lot to admire in terms of how Ramsey made such efficient use of what had to be a teeny budget

Low Points
I'm not fully sure what to make of the film's treatment of its two Japanese characters, who exist solely to have a lot of sex while their very white friends discuss how they're always having sex because that's what Japanese people do. It's actually less racist than I'm making it sound, but just sits weird

A Note of Exemption
Time and time again, I've expressed rage at the new trend of opening a movie on a flash of violence that occurs 2/3rds of the way through the running time before flashing a "24 Hours Earlier" note to start proper. It feels cheap and sometimes genuinely spoils certain plot elements and usually, accomplishes nothing but presumably assures an impatient audience that yes, there will be violence in what might be a slow-burn. That being said, Dead Body does indeed open on such a scene, but this is the rare case where it doesn't hurt the storytelling. Instead, it just lets us know from the beginning that this is a whodunit, something the movie doesn't really hide.

Lessons Learned
You apparently don't have to be that smart to get into Harvard

Never underestimate the user-friendly quickfire power of a nail gun (as if we didn't already know)

It never hurts to bring a shovel for a weekend trip, even if you won't have to use it to dig poop holes

Dead Body sits very nicely in the "this was a good elliptical machine watch" at the gym. Find it on Amazon Prime when you're working out.

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