10/7/10

Shredder (2003) And You Thought He Only Hated Turtles

Before I get into today’s snowboarding slasher, I want to say that I have no ability when it comes to winter sports at all. My knowledge of snowboarding is limited to The Olympics (where it continues to puzzle me how it got in but not skateboarding), Shawn White commercials, and the game Cool Boarders that I used to have on the Playstation. So don’t expect this review to be popping with snowboarding lingo. That’s mostly because I tried and couldn’t figure out what context the words are used. Snowboarding always looks like a bad idea to me as does skiing, but I’m nothing if not an equal opportunity wuss. To me, it appears that you strap a 2 by 4 to your feet, hurl yourself down a mountain waiting for a tree to appear in front of you or a cliff you didn’t see to appear, and then, as you relax and take in the mountain locales, death ensues. For the borders in today’s film, Shredder, they don’t have to waste their time waiting for nature to cull them out because someone is more than happy to do it for them. .

Shredder starts off like they were running down a checklist of things they had to do in a slasher movie. First up, a car full of kids headed out for an abandoned ski lodge. Then, the group takes in a stranger, Christian, who is from the vaguely stated “Europe”. After that make sure you head into town to meet the locals and get warned off from where you’re staying when the creepy bartender recounts the tale of when some little girl was killed on the mountain (cue dramatic pause) by snowboarders. After that all you have to do is split up and get yourselves picked off by a merciless skier dressed head to toe in black. It probably wouldn’t come as a surprise there’s not much imaginative plotting in Shredder, but what might surprise you is while the plot was standard, the characters are actually interesting, well scripted, believable, and at times actually funny (though the film does insert a fair amount of strange gallows humor).

Having characters I actually liked in a film where the plot was spelled out like it was being dragged across the sky on an aerial banner, made for interesting viewing. It was easy to predict who might live and die, but unlike the cast of so many slashers, I actually got into it yelling at the characters to not take their next and very obvious step. I watched expecting it to be a silly, stupid, z-grade mess, but director Greg Huson, who wrote the script with Craig Carson, really pulls though by mixing the expected along with a cast of very non-standard characters. Working with cinematographer Charles Schner (2009 Alfred Hitchcock remake The Lodger, Life on Mars), the powdery snow of the pristine mountains comes off less bright and attractive than cold and desolate. Now with all this being said, I have to backtrack a bit. While I enjoyed Shredder more than I expected (as you will see from my grade), I also felt that it had a lot of needless exposition, perhaps one or two extraneous characters, and a good deal of padding in the form of people snowboarding around. However, being as it is the first (and only) horror outing from Huson, he did an above average job making the silly snowboarding content work in a slasher.

I’ve talked about how much I liked the characters without getting into specifics, but I have to call a few of these actors out. Saved by the Bell: The Next Generation’s Lindsey McKeon follows in fellow Bell alum Elizabeth Berkley's footsteps by showing her goods, but her main addition to the film is the pitch perfect portrayal of spoiled rich tramp Kimberley Van Arx. Like a lot of the characters, she seems like a bigger, more ‘90’s version of a stock ‘80’s movie character, but scenes such as when she’s going around their cabin filling her hands up with anything she can to fend off attackers, a frying pan, a fire poker, and a cheese grater, elicit enough laughs or character to shock these roles out of being stock. Billy O’Sullivan entertains (and drops quite a few movie references) as Skyler, the documentary film maker following Kirk (Peter Riggs) the stoner second best snowboarder in the world, and Brad Hawkins, former star of kid’s program V.R. Troopers, provides a great red herring as the “European” Christen. The real standout to me was Juleah Weikel as Pike. Often mislabeled as Pike the Dyke by her snowboarding friends, she nails the most interesting and dynamic character in the film. Plus it doesn‘t hurt that she was super cute.

As with any slasher the two main ingredients that have to really work to make the film good are the killer and the kills. While it was a nice bonus that I liked and was entertained by the characters in Shredder, I have liked plenty of slashers where I could have given less than a crap if my “heroes” lived or died. The killer really doesn’t make much of an impression. Until the very end of the film he has no lines, so we’re just talking your basic killer in black…..with skis naturally. However, I have to like his methods. Getting killed with an icicle, hung on the ski lift, and impaled with a skiing pole are just some of the fun ways to go in Shredder. Though it is the least messy, I really have to applaud the filmmakers for the ski life scene. They manage to make it scary, then morbidly funny, before making it chillingly scary again, and that is no easy feat.

That dichotomy of the horroriffic and the humorous playing against each other is a lot of what works in Shredder, but I would be hesitant to call it a horror comedy as it doesn’t have enough jokes to push it all the way into that category. Shredder really defied my expectations. I was totally expecting to be eviscerating the film to comic effect by now, and nothing surprises me more right now than actually recommending it to you folks. It will not be the best slasher you’ve ever seen, but whatever you expect it to be, even after reading this review, is probably not going to be what you get. So go be bitchin’ or gnarly or whatever the kids are saying these days, and check this one out. As for me I’m going to remain off the slopes, there’s plenty of ways for me to mess up and die in day to day life. I don’t need snow, a mountain, or and evil skier to help me out with that!

Bugg Rating


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