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By Joe Wawrzyniak
“Smart and Blood-soaked Slasher Thrills.”
(2009) Directed by Michael Shelton
Vicious serial killer Basement Jack Riley (a genuinely creepy and unsettling mute portrayal by Eric Peter-Kaiser) specializes in butchering entire families and leaves a plethora of mangled corpses in his bloody wake as he travels from town to town. Perky and resilient lone survivor Karen tries to warn the police in the sleepy hamlet of Downer’s Grove that Jack is on their prowl in their burg, but alas they don’t take her seriously.
Director Michael Shelton and writer David Patrick O’Toole ably craft a welcome and refreshing departure from the usual teen slasher cycle. The main characters here are smart and mature adults rather than your usual gaggle of obnoxious horny adolescents. Moreover, Jack isn’t some one-dimensional crazed kill happy loon; instead he’s a fairly pitiable toxic product of horrible childhood abuse suffered at the hands of his monstrous and deranged mother (a truly chilling turn by 70’s exploitation cult favorite Lynn Lowry). The strong acting from a capable cast helps a lot: Peter-Kaiser and Morrow both excel in their roles, Sam Skoryna is solid and likable as eager, but bumbling rookie cop Chris Watts, Nathan Baxton provides amusing comic relief as a colorful local eccentric, and prolific scream queen Tiffany Shepis gets to keep her clothes on and flex her thespic chops for once as no-nonsense veteran Officer Armando. The fact that Jack savagely slaughters whole families in their houses makes the horror featured herein literally hit too close to home. (Having Jack pose his victims after he snuffs ‘em is a neat sick touch, too.) Naturally, we also get one tasty hot gratuitous sex scene and a handy helping of unflinchingly graphic gore (a bravura police station massacre set piece rates as the definite splatter highlight). Matthew Rudenberg’s slick cinematography effectively bellies the modest budget and gives the picture an attractive glossy look (the smooth tracking shots and occasional overhead camera angles are especially cool and impressive). Alan Howarth’s shivery score hits the shuddery spot. A well above average low-budget slice’n’dice item.