Aaron (Henry Thomas) is an unhinged loner who sits in his apartment daily toiling over his latest failed novel. Draped in a white jumpsuit and looking like he hasn't slept in weeks, he cuts an awkward figure with evidence of anger management issues.

The primary source of his rage is his attractive blonde neighbour Linda (Kelli Garner) and her "dumbfuck" boyfriend Kyle (Jordan Hagan), who he can hear constantly bickering through the building's paper-thin walls.

One morning Aaron visits the launderette and finds it empty save for Linda. Despite his best efforts to ignore her, she recognises him and coaxes him into a conversation. It begins with him being evasive about the need for the white jumpsuit ("it's all about the stains" he explains enigmatically). Then he moves in closer, antagonising Linda by slating her boyfriend and suggesting he would be a model replacement.

Although unimpressed with his advances, Linda continues to entertain Aaron and eventually accepts his invitation to lunch while their clothes continue to spin.

Over lunch, Aaron tells Linda he has special powers and offers to tell her horrific stories. Thinking she's taking the piss out of her wacko neighbour, Linda accepts the offer. The first tale - which we get a visual rendering of - tells of a dysfunctional family who sit patiently round the dinner table while a deranged mother (Carol Ann Susi, with the creepiest eyes ever) serves food in a hilariously frightening manner. It's all about the stains ...

Linda's disappointed at how tame the story is, and so Aaron offers to push the envelope further and spin yarns that involve people in her life getting what (he believes) they deserve. Smarting from being forbidden by Kyle to join her friend Frank's (Bret Roberts) birthday party at a cabin in the woods, Linda allows Aaron to begin with a story of how her friends get to the cabin to party, go skinny-dipping and soon become the victims of a demented stalker.

A brief sojourn affords Aaron the chance to invent a grisly demise for waster Kyle too - a creative FINAL DESTINATION-type death that involves a large bottle filled with coins - before he and Linda order a couple more beers and continue with the imaginary dispensing of her friends. Linda even helps Aaron design the killer's look, adding a pink tool belt, much to her neighbour's horror.

The action shifts increasingly to Aaron's account of the party-going campers getting bumped off, interspersed with occasional fleeting additions or corrections from Linda (Aaron has Frank bonk with the beautiful Jenny [Michele Nordin] and then has to change the story when Linda informs him Frank is gay).

Cutting the story short when she remembers herself, Linda returns to her apartment. When she discovers that Kyle has disappeared she races round to Aaron's place to vent her spleen. Seizing the opportunity, he offers to drive Linda out to the cabin so she can catch up with the partying. After all, his story was purely make-believe and her friends are in no danger of being picked off by a psychopath with a camera attached to the top his ski-mask ... right?

Toying with conventions and flirting assuredly with black comedy, RED VELVET is a smart and stylish slice of indie filmmaking that offers that rare beast: something different. Although effectively a slasher film, it benefits from a genre-savvy script (Aaron and Linda trash the clichés of the genre when creating their villain) and unusually long scenes of entertaining dialogue that lend RED VELVET a maverick attitude that's more Sundance than Frightfest.

But that doesn't mean the film isn't stuffed with it's fair share of stock slasher ingredients. On the contrary, director Bruce Dickson has fun peppering Anthony Burns and Joe Moe's surprising screenplay with boobs and gore. Pleasingly the bloodletting is free from CGI, relying instead on cheesy prosthetics and fake blood. This includes a body sawn in half that puts the similar CGI-assisted effects from ICHI THE KILLER and WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD to shame. Elsewhere we get decapitation, knifings and attacks to heads with a claw hammer.

Briefly commenting on the boobs, I am compelled to mention that the female partygoers - Nordin, Natalia Baron and Cristen Coppen - all have breathtaking figures. And they all get their kits off.

The casting is intelligent and the inspired pairing of Thomas and Garner works really well. Having cut his horror teeth in the likes of DEAD BIRDS and the Masters Of Horror episode "Chocolate", Thomas impresses with his raw nervous energy while Garner tempers their scenes together with a cynical yet warm distancing that allows the viewer to emphasise with her growing concerns.

The meshing of reality and fiction is deftly handled for the most part, only degenerating into confused J-Horror type messiness in the final act. But Dickson manages to keep the whole thing from crawling up it's own arsehole and triumphs with a dark 80s-style coda that will have fans of DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE and MANIAC smiling.

Delving into interesting themes and exploring them in a manner rarely seen in today's genre films, Moe and Burns must be applauded for digging deeper than has become the norm. They study not only the art of storytelling and the lines that blur fact and fiction, but isolation, alienation, dysfunction, obsession, and even an analysis of the genre they're working within.

Original, quirky and smart, RED VELVET sometimes suffers from it's own low budget trappings and the odd gag that doesn't work (giving the killer one-liners later in the film was a mistake) but is definitely a film worth seeking out. The script is strong, the cinematography and lighting are very stylish indeed and performances are likeable throughout. Oh, and those women are stunning. Nordin has a look of Cheryl Cole, only fitter - and naked.

3 Mac Studios' disc presents the film uncut in a vibrant and sharp anamorphic 1.85:1 picture. Flesh tones are accurate, the colourful Argento-esque lighting schemes come across well and grain is minimal.

English audio is provided in a decent, evenly balanced 5.1 mix.

The static main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to RED VELVET via 25 chapters.

Copious extras, none of which are advertised on the back cover for some curious reason, begin with an entertaining and enlightening commentary track from Joe Moe, Justin McConville from Johnny Man and the Cadillacs and co-producer Sean Fernald. They keep the tone light but explore every aspect of the production, down to the online trailer and the opening credits - no stone is left unturned.

A 7-minute featurette takes us behind the scenes with the cast, several of whom - including Thomas - are on hand to explain their characters.

The making of the FX is given a 5-minute overview in the somewhat brief but welcome "The Gory Story".

A music video of the aforementioned Johnny Man and the Cadillacs performing their song "Maniac", which features in the film, follows. This offers decent rockabilly sounds and is complemented by a harmless, no-budget video.

A 13-minute slideshow of production stills is set to repetitive electronica and works as a visual diary of what looks to have been a pleasurable shoot.

Finally, the film's trailer is 30 seconds long and consequently doesn't do the film justice.

The disc opens with a faux warning advising us to expect gore, nudity and laughs. For once, we get a film that delivers on its promise.

Highly recommended. For more information have a look at or visit through the SGM suppliers link, where you'll find the film exclusively available from them.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by 3Mac Studios
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review