LEFT FOR DEAD
Director: Christopher Harrison
Year of release: 2007
Country of origin: Canada
Running time: 78 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Also known as: Devil's Night and Halloween Left for dead
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Five friends belonging to a college fraternity and on their way to a Halloween party chase after a young man they interrupt trying to break into their car. After catching up with the guy they shove him around and he ends up falling and hitting his head on a rock. Believing him dead the five friends panic and run off without reporting the incident. The following year an another Halloween party Tommy, the most reluctant of the five to leave the body believes he sees another of the group being murdered at an upstairs window of the party house. The perpetrator is wearing the same mask that Tommy himself was wearing one year ago and accidentally left behind at the scene of the accident. After investigating and finding the room empty Tommy's friend convinces him he is imagining things. The following day though the friend Tommy saw being strangled does indeed prove to be missing. Tommy continues to catch fleeting glimpses of the masked figure and as more frat brothers, local kids and their girlfriends also start disappearing his remaining friends come to realise his paranoia wasn't unfounded after all. It is apparent someone is looking to make them pay for the accident of the previous year. Meanwhile a dangerous lunatic by name of Michael Lymberner, a mad farmer said to chop up his victims and feed them to his pigs is believed to be at large in the area. As the police search for this madman Tommy's friends question whether it is in fact this Lymberner and not the man they left for dead the previous Halloween who is hunting them.
Good points: There are frequent nods and winks to other older slasher films so this helps make Left for Dead a nice homage to the genre. Besides the obvious I Know What You Did Last Summer inspired plot there is a strong Halloween style vibe running through this as well. The killer himself is referred to in the credits as The Mask which is similar to Myers who is sometimes known as The Shape. It is quite reminiscent of Halloween throughout really with the killer watching kids while in a car as well as watching Tommy from afar in a taunting way as Myers did with Laurie Strode. He also pops up behind victims for us to see just before killing them in a similar way to Myers. On top of that final boy Tommy probably takes his name from Tommy Doyle. There are some other film references as well such as a Maniac like shotgun incident, a Psycho inspired shower kill and a copy of a double kill used in one of the Friday the 13th films.
I thought the main trio of characters of the three chief frat brothers in Tommy, Clark and Blair were well acted with the dialogue among them being solid. In Tommy we have a final boy as well which always makes a nice change from what is typically a females role. He was likeable enough though strangely Clark actually seemed to exhibit more of the traditional final girl qualities like not drinking or doing drugs at the party and generally trying to be the calm voice of reason or play peacekeeper if squabbles broke out. It was only towards the end when he has sex that he strays from the final girl template. Genre regular Danielle Harris also has a role as Tommy's girlfriend Nancy so she is something else that ties this in with the Halloween franchise. She does well in a smallish role.
The killer looks the part I thought with the mask chosen being effective enough to stand out. It has a little bit of Micheal Myers inspiration to it again as it resembles that mask a bit but with more defined facial features around the eyes and lips, a slight greenish tint to it and more strikingly long stringy hair. It did look a bit odd from the back but impressive from the front. Strangely enough I actually found the mask for sale online which I was surprised to see with this being such an obscure film.
Bad Points: The opening of the film with the accident is not very well done and serves as quite a weak introduction to things. Firstly we only learn why the guy is being chased about halfway through when Tommy is telling the story to his girlfriend Nancy so initially at the beginning we don't know what is going on really as to what the relationship is between hunted and hunters. Then it just seems poorly done how he falls and supposedly dies by hitting his head on a rock which is off camera so we don't even see it happen. They should have shown him being beaten up and pushed around a lot more than he was. Lastly I think Tommy should have kept the mask on for longer to help establish it and then made a show of taking it off and putting it down. The way it was done it was easy to miss what was later to become the killers mask was even connected to him. Then they should have shown a lingering shot of the mask abandoned by the body as the boys fled to emphasise it had been left by mistake. As they didn't I initially didn't know what Tommy was talking about when he starts mentioning the mask later.
This is only the start of the confusion unfortunately. Things get worse when Tommy sees his friend Freddy being strangled in an upstairs window. Problem is that it is difficult to even see the killer properly let alone that he is strangling someone. Maybe it was just poor picture quality though on my German copy of the film. On top of this on the day following the party some random characters seemingly with little to no connection to the frat brothers show up for a short while and it is hard keeping track of who is who. There is a guy with long hair for example who starts talking to a girl as they walk to college that disappears shortly after never to be seen again. Similarly there are two characters killed off around this time who don't seem to have any connection at all with the main plot or cast and I was left scratching my head as to who they were.
Spoiler ahead here. In light of Detective Brackett being revealed as the killer at the end I was unsure what he was trying to accomplish earlier. It seemed he was perhaps trying to frame Tommy for the murders with the planted machete or maybe just trying to taunt him but it wasn't clear. I wasn't sure if he was trying to pass it all of as Lymberner's work initially but then when his boss suspected a 2nd killer maybe he tried to frame Tommy? I'm probably getting that wrong but it was quite confusing. The part with Brackett and his boss at the crime scene was confusing in itself as I wasn't sure who the body belonged to. The only female corpse unaccounted for was shower victim Courtney but as this body wasn't in the shower I'm not sure who it was supposed to be. Presumably it wasn't unrelated to our killer and instead one of Lmyberner's as the detective said it didn't fit his MO. In fact the whole business with Lymberner just seemed tacked on and unnecessary and only served to cloud the waters.
In a final note of confusion I wasn't sure who the man in the photograph was that Blair found with the wallet. It appeared to be some bald guy so it wasn't Lymberner. Possibly it was the guy who hit his head at the start as he was wearing a hat so could have been bald but it was just another hard to understand moment.
Verdict: For a relatively unknown low budget slasher this was a watchable enough affair with decent acting from the leads including fan favourite Danielle Harris. The references to other slashers was a welcome addition and the killer looked good. Sadly dragging things down a few notches was the lack of clarity on display throughout. For what on paper sounds like a simple easy to follow story premise it was delivered in a very confusing way and was at times hard to follow.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Freddy: Strangled. 2) Brady: Suffocated with plastic over his face, off camera. 3) Costume contest winning girl: Neck snapped. 4) Courtney: Stabbed multiple times in the torso in the shower. 5) Matt. Stabbed in the torso/shoulder I think as he got off the phone. 6) Lori: Presumably killed off camera after changing into her costume though we don't see a confirmation body later. 7) Clark: Impaled through the bed along with Shari as he had sex. 8) Shari: Same as Clark. 9) Nancy: Impaled from behind on machete. 10) Blair: Struck in the head with machete. 11) Detective Brackett: Stabbed with knife concealed in leg cast and then beheaded.