By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: A copycat psycho killer.
Chief Superintendent Jonathan Rich (Christopher Lee) and Police Chief Bob McLaine (Rod Taylor) surround an abandoned home where a killer, who has sliced the throats of several women in the town, is hiding-out. When the killer makes an attempt to escape he shoots and injures the superintendent forcing Bob to return fire and kill the fleeing suspect. Everyone in the town believes that with the bad guy now dead the killings will stop, but instead they continue. Could there be a copycat killer, or is it someone on the police force who’s studied the killer’s methods and is now playing them-out?
A very odd mix that seems at times to being a wanna-be slasher film and at other points a detective thriller and even a psychological study, but on all three levels it fails. The killings lack inspiration and no effort is made for build-up, tension, or atmosphere. They’re captured in a routine way and the special effects are unconvincing. Instead of looking like the victim’s throat is getting slashed it appears more like a streak of lipstick, or bright red nail polish.
The setting is a fictitious Canadian town, but was clearly shot in Sweden, as all the cars have Swedish license plates and the vehicles are much smaller than what you’d find in the North America at that time. The ambulances have a different sound to their sirens and there’s even business signs seen in Swedish. Having Valerie Perrine, who plays Taylor’s wife, go off to Bermuda with her lover Ray (Sam Cook) looks quite fake as we never see any palm trees, or beaches making it seem more like it was shot in a hotel room in Sweden.
Lee gives a solid performance, but he disappears for long periods and only comes back near the end. Despite being several years younger, Taylor, with his very worn, lined face, ends up looking much older. His presence is dour and his inner angst that comes out every once in awhile is neither riveting or intense. Taylor doesn’t carry the movie like a good leading actor should, but instead drags it down. Perrine for her part, isn’t in it long enough to make much of a difference though she does appear nude from the back.
The twist in which Lee realizes Taylor is the killer doesn’t come-off as any shocking surprise since the film leads us to this conclusion from the very beginning and therefore once it gets revealed it’s more ho-hum than anything. Having Taylor shoot his wife’s lover by tricking him into wearing the mask and thus allow himself to be killed by Taylor in an attempt to make it seem like he had ‘the real killer’ when really it was just a way for him to get rid of a rival for his wife’s affections was too easy of a way out. Most likely there would’ve been some overlooked loopholes in his scheme that would’ve eventually gotten him arrested, so watching him proudly walk away in the snow as the credit’s role doesn’t gel and more a flimsy ending that leaves open too many loose ends.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: December 1, 1988
Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes
Director: Arne Mattsson
Studio: Master Film Production
Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)