PLANK FACE **** USA 2016 Dir: Scott Schirmer. 91 mins
A Bandit Motion Pictures production sharing a director and key personnel with HARVEST LAKE, this initially plays to genre type as a young couple fucking in the woods are bloodily interrupted by the masked, heavy breathing weirdo who has been peeping on them. It then pivots into something far from ordinary, as the male survivor (Nathan Barrett) avenges the actions of the eponymous, masked maniac in a particularly brutal fashion (with sadistic shades of the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake) before being captured and by Plankface’s warped family unit, who groom him as a replacement for their lost patriarch.
Deliberately paced and featuring minimal dialogue, the film’s melancholic sympathy for the antagonists brings it tonally closer to Gary Sherman’s masterful DEATHLINE rather than THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Writer-director Schirmer experiments with the genre audience’s gender expectations, as Barrett’s journey initially takes the form of a typical female protagonist’s character journey; this, in turn, is subverted in a particularly uncomfortable rape scene with a shifting balance of power. Unusually sexually explicit for a U.S. genre film – with considerable male and female full frontal nudity – the film employs modern horror’s favoured theme of “who are the real savages?” and offers a powerful inversion of key past movies like THE HILLS HAVE EYES and THE WOMAN. Schirmer gets bold, ballsy performances from all concerned and shows an eye for disarming visual choices, like the animalistic sex scene framed by a foreground image of a hapless guy burning to death.
Review by Steven West