The term grindhouse gets thrown around the horror genre quite a bit these days, thanks in no small part to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s flick from a few years back. What exactly makes a movie a “grindhouse movie”? This was the main question I asked myself after watching The Victim, Michael Biehn’s (Terminator) directorial debut out next week on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Let’s start with a plot summary so you have some idea exactly where The Victim is coming from.
The movie opens with strippers Annie (Jennifer Blanc) and Mary (Danielle Harris) getting down and dirty with a couple cops out in the woods. A few cynical words from Mary, and she ends up dead at the hands of Harrison (Ryan Honey). Annie quickly heads out into the woods to look for help, until she comes across a quiet cabin in the middle of nowhere. Inside she meets loner Kyle (Biehn). Kyle wants nothing more than to be left alone, but eventually decides to help his new friend deal with a couple corrupt cops. “And in the end who will be the most unexpected victim of all?”
I must start with a personal annoyance of mine. I hate hearing that a movie is a “grindhouse movie”. What the fuck does that even mean? Is the viewing public too dumb to know what the term exploitation means? Grindhouse has become one of those terms like torture porn that I despise. To me, grindhouse is no more than a nickname for the theaters that were willing to show low budget exploitation movies primarily in the 70’s and 80’s. I would say that there are still some theaters that have grindhouse nights where they still to this day play low budget non studio films (though none in Toledo). I don’t know why this bothered me, but The Victim box art is covered in “grindhouse thriller” and “even mainstream critics are calling it a rollercoaster ride and masterpiece”. It felt like they were making excuses ahead of time if you don’t like it.
Okay, enough about me and my ludicrous opinions, back to the movie because that’s why you’re here. Is The Victim any good? Withholding any bias I felt about the box art (which also features two large pictures of Michael Biehn wielding an ax that he doesn’t use in the movie), it was okay. The movie definitely has all the basic staples of an exploitation movie; sex, nudity, over the top acting, limited locations, and a little torture. I can’t deny the movie opens with a bang (the extremely lovely Danielle Harris taking it doggie style!!) but it never truly exploits anything. All of the sex scenes/acts are fully clothed, save for one extremely long “love” scene between Biehn and his true life wife Blanc that went on way too long and felt more like Cinemax after dark than throwback to the exploitation era. Most of the violence in the movie is the result of firearms, which I’ve always found lame in any horror or exploitation movie, unless it’s an action movie. There is the above mentioned torture scene where things get amped up a little, but not enough for my sick mind. Little to no blood and gore is splashed on screen till the end. Ryan Honey does a fine job hamming it up on camera as main baddie Harrison, but everyone else is trying to play there parts straight, making him look out of place. Danielle Harris is completely wasted, as she is offed in the first five minutes, and only shows up in shallow and pointless flashbacks the rest of the movie. And the forced twist ending was lame, lame, lame, lame.
So, long story short do I think The Victim is worth checking out? For fans of low budget (by Hollywood standards) thrillers it’s a decent little flick. It’s obvious that Michael Biehn is a fan, and he does a fine job weaving together a basic story. If you’re a fan of over the top exploitation like myself, it’s tame and a tad boring and unfortunately may be quickly forgotten. If you’re town is still lucky enough to have a video store, I’d say it’s worth a rental. Look for The Victim on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow.