Scar (Danielle Cole) is a raven-haired punk who lives with a pot-bellied slob who likes nothing better than to slouch on the settee watching TV and shouting her to bring him a beer from the fridge at regular intervals. Having just received her latest black eye from this loser, Scar finally snaps and kills said boyfriend. She later disposes of his body with ruthless efficiency.
She leaves their apartment and struggles to live on the streets for a short while, before turning to her aged pothead father (Tennessee Webb) for a place to stay. There's clearly some history between the pair of them, and he soon sends her packing. She responds to his lack of charity by spitting in his face. Twice.
Meanwhile, Scarlett (Neale Kimmel) is a serial blackmailer. She has affairs with married men like Kyle (Nigel Downer) and Harry (Chris Handfield), only to casually tell them she wants $5,000 upfront and $2,000 each month - or she'll tell their wives everything. But when she tries this with her latest victim, Alan (Ryan Alexander Scott II), he retaliates by dragging her into an alley and beating the shit out of her. Fortunately Scar is there with the largest kitchen knife you've ever seen - and she promptly extinguishes the man's life.
All Scar asks is that Scarlett let her take a shower at her apartment. Initially reticent, Scarlett eventually agrees. Once showered and fed, the girls sit down on Scarlett's settee and begin to get know one another over a couple of glasses of wine.
After confessing her profession to Scar, Scarlett is invited by her new pal to join her on a mission to fuck a local man that night. They post a provocative photo online and soon find themselves invited to the apartment of a horny security guard. Alas, Scar is obviously drunk and chooses to antagonise her potential date to the point that he uses his stun-gun on her to calm her down. Incensed by this and still reeling from her beating, Scarlett quickly steps in ... and clubs the fella to death with a dumbbell.
The two women are now man-killers. And they like it. A bond has been formed.
"When a guy disappears, the cops won't look for you and me", reasons Scar to a mildly perturbed but curiously invigorated Scarlett the following morning, "they'll look for other guys". This inspires Scarlett to confront Harry, who's said he's not going to pay her a penny, and try one last time to get him to play along with her blackmail game. He still refuses - and receives several fatal stabs to his groin as a consequence.
Yes, the girls are now Hell-bent on traversing the land (well, Toronto) in search of scummy men to kill. The only problem is, a dashing male detective called Mike (Matt Wells) has started investigating the murders, and is paying particular attention to Scarlett due to her known association with Alan. Of course, he develops an attraction towards his suspect...
It's hardly an original premise, is it? Off the top of my head, I'm thinking THELMA AND LOUISE, A GUN FOR JENNIFER, BAISE MOI ... Still, writer-director Sean K Robb is evidently attempting to link social commentary to his character study/slasher hybrid by inserting frequent references to Bush's war criminal status and, more generally, America's post-9/11 paranoia. Quite what these things have to do with two women get stab-happy around philandering and/or abusive men, I'm not entirely sure.
Performances are generally good and the photography is frequently striking in its crisp, bright prettiness. The plot may take a predictable route for the most part but is just intriguing enough to keep us hanging around to see how this all pans out.
On the negative side, the friendship between a homeless punk and a successful, manipulative business woman is hugely unlikely. As is the swift relationship that blossoms between Mike and Scarlett. The film plays out in vignette style: consequently, we never get any sense of pace or incremental tension. The frequent prolonged fades to black in-between each scene accentuate this point. Scarlett's motives for killing are dubious at best - she resents men that she seduced purely to blackmail at a later date. In fact, there's nary a sympathetic character in the entire film; we don't really care for anyone.
Oh, and while this is a character study, it fails to satisfyingly probe into the characters' psyches. We learn little about them or why they're capable of such sadistic acts of violence (specifically, there's a home invasion scene about midway through the film that truly robs the film of credibility due to its lack of logic or insight). They pause a lot, mostly to watch TV. But that tells us nothing: all that does is damage the film's pacing.
And lest I forget the eclectic score, which at almost every juncture feels too frivolous to accompany the unexpectedly sombre tone. Sometimes this kind of paradox can be very effective indeed; here, those moments simply stick out like a sore thumb.
All things considered, is SCARS worth checking out? Yes, despite its shortcomings I'd say so. It's slick, attractive, violent, occasionally underscored by subtle strains of dark humour, and will keep you intrigued. Just be forewarned that it's also quite stupid, unoriginal and overly reliant upon your suspension of disbelief.
SCARS arrives on UK DVD courtesy of Left Films. It looks good in an uncut print which respects the original anamorphic ratio. The presentation is clean, clear, sharp and free from compression noise. Colours are well-rendered, flesh tones appear true throughout.
English audio is proffered in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both are credible playback options - the latter only really comes into its own whenever music kicks in.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. An animated scene selection option affords access to SCARS via 10 chapters.
We only get one film-related bonus feature: the 56-second "theatrical trailer".
The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for THE HORROR NETWORK, MY LITTLE SISTER and DARKER SHADES OF ELISE. Elsewhere in the extras menu, we also get previews for DEMON HUNTER and WORM.
SCARS isn't exactly a great film but it does show promise from its lead actresses and first-time director Sean K Robb. The film looks very good on Left Films' DVD.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Left Films|