A group of mismatched social stereotypes are whisked away into the Queensland hills for a weekend of summer camp team-building, where their new employer hopes to assess their personalities and ultimately award one of them with a management role within the company.

Presided over by idiotic company man Patrick (Mark Theodossiou), the group comprises of the usual generic horror fodder: sulky Goth vamp Madison (Johancee Theron), angsty nerd Warren (Dryden Bingham), his wisecracking "cool dude" pal Gus (writer-director Joe Bauer), colourful gay Dimitri (Jess Thomas-Hall), redheaded geek pin-up Lucy (Laura Jane Turner), stoner Dickman (Daniel Bradford), prissy Hannah (Carmel Savage), blonde bimbo Krystal (Meisha Lowe), her witless muscle-head boyfriend Jock (Andrew O'Sullivan), and enigmatic brunette beauty Emily (Rita Artmann).

Following an afternoon of hijinks, the group settle down round a camp fire in the nearby woods once darkness falls. Gus freaks them all out, including Emily who he's quickly become smitten by, with a song he's composed on his guitar which warns of a homicidal maniac being in their midst.

This carries further weight when Patrick asks each new employee to write a corporate suggestion on a piece of paper and place it anonymously into a box. As he begins to read each one aloud, he recoils as one piece of paper announces that each one of them is going to be murdered "creatively" over the course of the weekend. No-one owns up to having written this note but, naturally, Gus becomes the prime suspect.

The group retire to their individual quarters for the evening, quickly forgetting about this threat and instead returning to their favourite pastimes of fucking, shouting and playing poker. However, it's not long before the first of them turns up dead...

But who is the killer and what is their motive?

A better question perhaps is whether you'll actually care, given that the first 40 minutes of this overlong (101 minutes) film seem determined to make us detest each loud, smug, thinly-drawn character. I realise Bauer's intention was to lampoon the slasher genre, but all this has achieved is an amplification of the negative attributes which often rob such films of any dramatic engagement.

As a comedy, this isn't really up to snuff. The one-liners aren't funny; the occasional cartoonish set-piece - Gus repeatedly spinning around in a bid to catch a figure that keeps darting past him while his back is turned, for example - feel extremely dated. You can imagine that, even back in the 1980s, Sam Raimi probably fleetingly considered such ideas as the sight gags found in THE KILLAGE and then dismissed them, reasoning that The Goodies explored them years earlier. A Goth chick reading Satan's autobiography? Please, no.

With no-one worth rooting for and a script that tries too hard (but keeps on failing), THE KILLAGE - like its title - is hard to warm to. Even on a horror level, tossing in the obligatory shower murder scene and death by stiletto etc isn't enough to redeem this mess. A complete lack of tension and some woeful CGI gore put paid to the notion that this could appeal as a curiosity to genre fanatics.

It's a shame because Bauer appears to be a likeable, enthusiastic gent. He exhibits the odd creative flourish which suggests he has genuine talent. David Lazar's score is generally good, and the editing - again by Bauer - is never less than highly proficient. Performances are uneven but Bauer and Artmann stood out for me.

Filmed over the course of two weekends for the paltry sum of 20,000 Australian dollars, I do credit the film with looking and sounding a lot better than you could rightfully expect it to. But I still struggle to see who this is actually going to entertain.

Monster Pictures present THE KILLAGE without cuts, in its original 16x9 widescreen ratio. Colours are strong throughout, the frequently sunny compositions ensuring this vibrant transfer really has a chance to shine. Blacks are free from noise; detail is consistently solid.

English 2.0 audio is perfectly serviceable for the duration of playback. Optional English subtitles are provided but only appeared to be workable from the main menu.

Speaking of which, the disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a static scene selection menu allows access to the film via 30 chapters.

Bonus features commence with a lively cast and director commentary track, which is amiable enough but gets a little muddled with voices tripping over each other at times. Managed by Bauer, it provides further evidence of his intelligence, but doesn't really make me like the film any more.

However, the whopping 85-minute Behind the Scenes documentary did have me wishing I could get into the film a little more. The crew seem genuinely together, the cast are upbeat despite being up against freakishly dire weather conditions, and Bauer comes across as both irrepressible and sincere.

More fascinating is a 33-minute featurette in which Bauer takes us through the visual effects of the film. Amazingly, there are 476 visual effects in the film - though roughly 410 of these involve the digital removal of wires, microphones etc. Still, this makes for a surprisingly engrossing - and educational - watch.

Lazar guides us through his process for composing and editing the score in the following 8-minute featurette.

33 minutes of outtakes, two trailers, a couple of generous photo galleries and a peek at Bauer's original storyboards for the film round out a copious extras section.

THE KILLAGE has won awards at festival screenings and certainly reveals Joe Bauer as a man with promise. But its screenwriting, pacing and characterisation problems left me cold.

Still, Monster Pictures' disc is a loaded one.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Monster Pictures
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review