I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU
Director: Christopher Leitch
Year of release: 1998
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 89 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Three hundred years ago the town founders killed a 'witch'. Now somethings come back for blood".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Free spirited and sassy Sarah having just moved to the small town of Pine Crest Massachusetts from LA finds herself having difficulty fitting in at her new school. She manages to rub some of the popular kids up the wrong way, a group calling themselves the Descendants Club who begin to give her a hard time. She finds herself connecting with school loser and fellow outcast Charlie, himself a victim of the Descendants Club. Charlie is surprised to discover which house in town Sarah and her mother have moved into as he claims it is reputed to be the former home of a witch, a woman also named Sarah who was burned at the stake some 300 years ago. Sarah later learns that he namesake was pulled from what is now her house in the middle of the night by five leading figures in town and then burned alive after being accused of two murders by means of witchcraft. Prior to her death Sarah apparently swore vengeance on the future generations of the five families behind her demise. Predictably the present day Descendants Club turn out to be the descendants of these ancient families and much of their hostility towards Sarah stems from their belief that she is the reincarnation of the witch from 300 years before who is now out to get them. Soon enough members of the club begin to fall victim to attacks but rather than being the work of Sarah it seems there is another threat in town. A masked and black robed psycho with a razor claw weapon who takes great delight in quoting the "I've been waiting for you" line of the title as he stalks his prey.
Good points: The film scores highly on atmosphere with the small New England town of Pine Crest feeling very genuine and the ghost story/urban legend of the witch adding a creepy element to things. Coming out at around the same time as the slasher rebirth in the mid to late nineties it has a very similar vibe to its counterparts of the time in Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer etc. In fact it is based on a book written by the same author who penned the book IKWYDLS was based on. So if like myself you enjoy the vibe of the slashers of that era and also perhaps something like The Craft you will find a similar mood here. In particular the party scene and the bits at the school have a strong nineties horror vibe to them with one of the leads in the Descendants Club Eric also being played by Neve Campbell's brother.
Visually the film also looks nice and is on par I'd say with the company it shared at the time and looks to have been competently handled by the director. Unlike said company though this was a made for TV movie so taking that into account it looks rather good and is even pretty at times.
The acting is also very strong throughout from all the main players so much so that it helps hold things together when other things begin to let it down. Sarah Chalke in the lead role of Sarah Zoltanne in particular stands out as being very good and is a likeable heroine. Christian Campbell as Eric is also on song throughout.
The masked maniac looks decent and although a bit of a rip off of Ghostface from Scream with a Freddy Kruger or Wolverine inspired weapon at least an effort has been made to provide a costume. I've seen much better but also a lot worse so I'll give them props at least for effort.
Bad Points: I'm going to have to go in to first mild and then more major spoiler territory here for the bad points. Firstly there is one major thing that works to the films detriment and lets the whole thing down and that is that the masked killer is not really a killer at all. Rather than properly killing off his victims he instead merely seems content with just giving them a good scare! This has to be a first for a slasher film though you could argue it isn't a slasher at all really due to the reticent blood shy nature of our antagonist. I do think it includes enough familiar ingredients of the genre however to be covered here. We have the revenge plot with the descendants of people that perpetrated a crime years before being targeted. Granted it has a much more supernatural flavor to it here maybe more akin to a ghost story being about a witch and 300 years seems an awfully long time to wait for revenge but it still sort of holds up as a slasher staple. The psycho certainly looks like your standard slasher villain as well and the way he stalks and taunts his victims is spot on. We even get a chase scene. Sadly there just isn't any end product from this madman. This renders the film almost entirely blood free and makes it feel very tame. It isn't very scary once we realise the killer isn't ruthless or even interested in finishing anyone off. It lowers the stakes and our interest I'd say as well. His reluctance to finish off victims also leads to some confusing moments where we don't see what happens to certain people who are in the psycho's grasp like Kevin and later Sarah's Mom.
Bigger spoilers are ahead here. Things get a bit confusing elsewhere in the story as well as in light of what we learn at the end it isn't clear who it was quoting the "I've been waiting for you line" throughout the film. The way it was shot clearly implies it was the masked person but looking back after watching it maybe it was supposed to be the witch on certain occasions if not all the time. Certainly I suppose it was supposed to be the witch calling Sarah on the phone near the start but I would have liked these things to have been made much more clear at the end. They also aren't very clear on if it is actually supposed to be two people donning the costume as in not only Charlie but also the history teacher Ted. It was hinted at that the person that attacked Sarah's mother at least at the end was Ted and that he was perhaps Charlies father. Neither whether they were indeed related or if it was Ted in the costume at any point were actually confirmed definitively at the end though which I didn't like. Seeing that you potentially have the witch on the loose as well (presumably behind the attack of Charlie in the shop) it all ends on a rather muddled note.
While on the subject of the ending it goes for a bit of a twist which I personally didn't really care for. Again it adds to the uncertainty as it is far from clear for how much of (if any) of the film the witch had an influence over Sarah.
Verdict: Ultimately I was left with a bit of a hollow empty feeling after watching this as I was unhappy that we were cheated out of all the kills. As a result the film had a very tame watered down feel. Despite this though there were still positives to take from the experience and it is a credit to the acting, characters and nineties vibe and atmosphere that despite the flaws these positives can still just about keep it afloat. If you look back on the Scream inspired slasher revival with fondness I'd say give this a go as it may be one you missed and it certainly seems to have been forgotten about now well and truly eclipsed by more well known films of that time like Cherry Falls and Urban Legend etc. It is not in the same league as these but still fells a bit like their cute little brother or sister. This also could serve as a good introduction to the slasher genre for a young person/child.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Misty: Scared to death after being attacked in her car. Presumably has a heart attack in fright.
* There was a bit of confusion as to whether Kevin was killed or not but I don't think he was seeing that he was moving a tiny bit when discovered. Perhaps that was just a mistake and the actor moved by accident but I also don't know why tape would be placed over his mouth if he was already dead so I'm thinking he was just restrained but alive.