LITTLE ERIN MERRYWEATHER
Director: David Morwick
Year of release: 2007 (Filmed in 2003)
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 81-84 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "A flash of red, then your dead".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Near a small town New England college campus a young man is murdered after being lured off by a mysterious red robed figure whilst taking a shortcut through a patch of forest land. The victim was found with his stomach torn open and rocks placed within which leaves the local sheriff baffled. He turns to college professor Dr Paula Sheffield for help, a woman with a history of criminal profile work from her former profession in the city. Overhearing the conversation between the two is student Peter (played by the films director) who works for the college paper. Armed with inside information Peter begins his own investigation into the crime, a task which becomes increasingly urgent as the murders continue with more male students meeting their end. Peter and Dr Sheffield begin to suspect that the killer is someone who due to childhood trauma now resides in a fantasy land, seeing themselves as a twisted take on little red riding hood. Someone who lives or works on campus, knew the victims and who views men as wolves who must be killed.
Good points: The film visually looks really nice with striking imagery and photography on display throughout. The red robed figure flashing around the periphery of the screen before a kill is an effective visual touch in particular near the beginning where the red is in sharp contrast to the snowy backdrop. There was a good tease with this too where we thought a character was in danger but the cloaked individual turned out to be his girlfriend. Coloured drawings and illustrations also help narrate the story at points and these look very good as well. I especially liked the illustrations of buildings that then morphed into the real thing as we watched. This was probably made on a very low budget but you wouldn't know it from how it looks.
It sets itself a bit apart from most slashers with all the victims being male and it won't be a spoiler to say as it is made clear pretty much from the get go that the killer is female. Although this is not entirely knew and something that has occurred before to varying degrees it is still a change and something a little fresh in comparison to most other films from the genre. We have a final boy as well instead of a girl to go along with the above differences which again is fairly unusual.
I felt the film did a good job with being atmospheric with the college campus being a good backdrop. On the surface this might seem like a very generic stage for the film as we've had no end of slashers set in schools but this one seems more creepy and desolate. This is helped by the location which has a cold beauty and also by what we see of the students themselves. There is no party scenes in the film as we normally see with college campus type slashers with many of the characters we see seeming a tad more reserved and quiet. The fairytale aspects to the story touched on before with the child's narration and the picture book style drawings also add to the atmosphere as does the doll which is important to the killer.
The killer is more complex than many others from the genre with Erin appearing quite likeable and endearing at times in her interactions with Peter before he realises she is the murderer. Usually if we know who the killer is from the start as we do here it is some sort of monster figure like Michael Myers, Cropsy or Jason but here we have a very human antagonist. The Dr Sheffield character is also likeable and is probably more memorable than Peter himself and his male friends from the paper.
Bad Points: Unfortunately there is pretty much no blood at all to speak of in this and you don't see anything in detail for any of the kills with them all being cut away jobs. Sometimes a more subtle less is more approach has its merits and can work as we've seen in such films as The Blair Witch Project and Halloween but here the kills just left me feeling underwhelmed and disappointed. If there is too much blood and the kills are too over the top it can end up going against a film but this is at the other end of the spectrum where we see next to nothing. Disappointing as I say as the kills and a little bit of gore is a large part of the fun when watching slashers.
I thought the film was too sparse in parts when it came to giving key characters a backstory. I don't think it went in to enough depth about Erin's childhood and the relationship she had with her father which led her to murder years later. How did he get found out and imprisoned, was it a big scandal in the town and if so how come no one seemed to remember it when the current day murder spree began were a couple of questions I was left with. Plus I don't recall it mentioning much (if anything) about Erin's mother or other family members. On a similar note Dr Sheffield could have done with a tad more fleshing out in regards to her background as we didn't actually learn in out and out terms what job it was that she left in the big city to become a college professor. We assume something in police work or criminal profiling but it would only have taken a couple of extra lines of dialogue to make it clear.
It was also a bit unrealistic I felt that no one suspected Erin sooner. Peter in particular should have worked it out sooner being a wannabe journalist as he was. You could say that he was getting closer to Erin and had a crush on her so perhaps didn't want to believe anything bad of her but just the red cloak she wore and the fact she seemed a loner would have been enough to make her the prime suspect once they knew about the red riding hood thing. Also she told him she lived with her grandmother yet still the penny didn't seem to drop for the man. Only a small thing but it was slightly unrealistic as well that Dr Sheffield's psychologist friend actually seemed to live in the small town as you would think he might be someone she got to know and worked with in her job in whatever big city it was that she used to live in.
Verdict: There is much to admire with this pretty obscure slasher film mainly in regards to the visual style of it and how it blends the fairytale elements with a modern day college campus. It is refreshing to see a female killer and final boy and I'd probably have to say the film deserves to be more well known than it is. Having said that it does have a tendancy to be overrated by those that have seen it and if you are approaching it more from a pure slasher film fan perspective you would maybe be disappointed with the lack of gore and special effects. There is also no mystery surrounding the killer which although not a major issue as in many slashers we know straight away who it is, usually when the killer is a regular person there is usually more mystery and guess work to be done. So potentially that could be a disappointment to some as well. Overall though I'd say it is worth checking out but it isn't in my opinion as good as some would have you believe.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Billy: Chased through the snow and when caught his stomach is split open and rocks placed inside.
2) Kyle: Killed with pruning shears in a Cropsy The Burning style kill. Later also got rocks put in his stomach cavity.
3) Sean: Investigates a noise in the school building and turns around and walks straight into Erin who is holding out a blade.
4) Teddy: Killed off camera while using a library computer, body later seen by Peter under a table.