MADE ME DO IT **** USA 2017 Dir: Benjamin Ironside Koppin. 90 mins
The Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN-style opening CCTV-captured asylum scenes and SE7EN-style title sequence may reveal key influences, but this intense, low-bodycount latter-day slasher movie is a strong picture in its own right. Downbeat college student Anna B Shaffer and her younger emo brother (Jason Gregory London) are terrorised by a psychotic escapee (Kyle Van Vonderen) while the story reveals the grim details of his upbringing. Director Koppin has fun with slasher tropes: the ballsy heroine who shines in a sea of unhelpful / cowardly male characters; the notably absent parental / authority figures; the disposable victim fodder (stranded motorists, pothead pizza guy); and the brief, brutal kill scenes. He also boldly diverts from expectation by unmasking the killer for most of the movie and making him a three-dimensional, sympathetic character. Aggressively cut montages of his early life (and the sub-genre-standard abusive maternal figure) combine with Van Vonderen’s multi-layered performance to give us a memorable antagonist. Van Vonderen shifts between personalities, crudely impersonates his abusive aunt and generates equal parts pity and terror as the tense scenario unfolds. It’s as sensitive as a slasher film can be around the subject of mental illness – saving all of its anger for institutionalised bullying and a messed up social system. The film is also commendably serious and scary, with the camera jittering, skittering and recoiling in the presence of the skinny, unbalanced killer and Shaffer proving to be a final girl worth rooting for.
Review by Steven West