CLICHÉ ** USA 2020 Dir: Royce Freeman. 23 mins
A Jacksonville-shot slasher satire from editor / writer / director Royce Freeman, this has a fabulous, rhyming opening crawl that establishes a legendary menace that “seems to have no end”. It’s a welcome tribute to a select few 80’s slashers that offered whimsical theme tunes about their psycho-killers, notably the musical ode to Marz for the long-under-appreciated MADMAN. A group of ageing friends broadly conforming to slasher archetypes a la THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (the virgin, the slut, the jock, the jokester, the stoner, the nerd) gather together at a rented getaway with no signal and banter about THE BREAKFAST CLUB and TWIN PEAKS while playing a STAR WARS version of fuck / marry / kill. Sadly, their inevitable peril swiftly descends into a witless barrage of dated, self-conscious SCREAM-style dialogue exchanges. It’s more than a little depressing to watch this unlikeable ensemble trot through variations of typical smug late-90’s horror interactions: “This is classic trope of the genre!” / “Right out of a B-horror movie”, etc. Thomas Hamby offers a chirpy Greek chorus incarnation of the usual “Prowler” figure (“Dumb kids never listen!”), but the flat, self-conscious central performances sap any energy it might have had, and it’s criminally low on suspense or horror. “This whole thing’s a cliché!” someone yelps at a climactic point – which is the whole joke, though someone should have recognised that Wes Craven’s SCREAM (1996) is almost 25 years old and was, itself, rehashing the self-referential humour and sarcastic genre commentary of several ahead-of-the-curve 80’s slashers. The best thing about CLICHÉ is the evocative original score by Elliot Sturges and Dylan McLain.
Review by Steven West