Director: Michael A. Nickles
Year of release: 2008
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 78-81 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Judge, Jury, Executioner", "You have been summoned" and "A jury decided the fate of one man, now he decides theirs".
Also known as: Twelve
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: On a desolate highway a newlywed couple are viciously attacked by a unseen individual driving a pick up truck. It’s soon revealed the fiend is one Leonard Karlsson, a recently paroled ex con notorious in the small desert town of Halliclaw where the action unfolds. We come to discover the vengeful Karlsson is on a mission to tear through Halliclaw eliminating those who sat on the jury some years ago whom he deems responsible for sending him to prison.
At the centre of the fast developing mayhem are two waitresses Claire and Vicki who find themselves at the top of the hitlist of the twisted Karlsson. With the town’s Sheriff away on holiday the girls have only a bumbling Deputy to aid them in their attempts to survive Karlsson’s rampage.
Good points: *Dusty desert town Halliclaw is a great setting for the action and really does a good job of putting across a vibe of small town isolation. There is also some nice juxtaposition going on as it is Christmas time and normally we would associate this in films with cold weather, snow on the ground etc but here it’s just the opposite with sun and sand. I felt it made for a memorable backdrop for the film to play out against.
*The film boasts a simple yet effective story, essentially it’s a quest for what the ex con Karlsson believes to be revenge against those that condemned him to five years in prison. Though it’s never definitively revealed the crime appeared to have been some sort of paedophilia related rape and due to the nature of his sins Karlsson was attacked and disfigured facially by his fellow inmates while inside. As such Karlsson now wears a mask and has a penchant himself for specifically targeting the faces of his victims. It’s nice and simple like I say, very straightforward to follow while remaining effective while not coming across as confusing in any way.
*The main protagonists of the two waitresses, Claire as final girl and Vicki as her more fun loving outgoing friend make for two strong leads. They come across very convincingly as being friends as well as both being likeable. Vicky in particular despite initially coming across as being typecast in the dumb blonde role proves to be more switched on than your average slasher film character in terms of trying to outwit and evade the killer. The dim witted Deputy Kent is a watchable character as well and I was entertained by him during the time he is around.
*There were a couple of moments during the film which caught me by surprise in which certain characters perhaps didn’t last as long as I expected so it did a good job of keeping the audience (or me at least) on their collective toes at certain points.
*The killer Leonard Karlsson though not great by any means is a reasonable killer and though he borrows a bit from the Texas Chainsaw franchise with the face fetish he does look pretty menacing and is brutal in his actions at times. Though he did have a mask which is appreciated it was quite bland though it was saved by the teeth/mouth part which I believe was actually supposed to be Karlsson’s actual disfigured face poking through cut away parts of the mask.
Bad Points: *The deaths are a bit on the disappointing side and there isn’t a whole lot in the way or gore going on in the film. Well there is a good bit of gore at the beginning but other than that we only get a couple of quick flashes of anything decent with most everything else happening off camera. With the whole face rip gimmick going on a lot of the deaths are similar as well in addition to being largely off camera.
*Despite looking fairly decent visually I felt as if the Leonard Karlsson character was missing something to make him properly memorable. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what the issue is but perhaps it’s because we don’t learn enough about the crime which landed him in prison. He was definitely lacking in a proper fleshed out backstory. Perhaps they could have even started the film off in the courtroom with us not properly seeing his face but hearing the judge describe his crimes. Alternatively we could have seen a flashback of him being beaten up and disfigured in prison with the inmates talking about his crime as they attacked him. Maybe it was just thought to be too much of a sensitive subject to go into detail with as it was briefly hinted at as being a child rape.
*Spoiler: There is a slightly confusing set piece in the junkyard involving a shootout between Julia and Deputy Kent. Despite Kent announcing that he wasn’t there to cause any trouble Julio still started shooting at Kent seemingly for no reason. I think we were supposed to infer that Karlsson was already present himself and had got into it with Julio before Kent and the girls arrived so Julio perhaps thought Kent was Karlsson or was at least working with him. The two looked nothing alike though and Kent clearly stated his intentions so it was hard to see how Julio would be confused. Maybe he was just drug addled but whatever the reason it was a blemish on the films copy book and didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
*Very mild spoiler: When the girls are sitting in the car just before running in opposite directions (when Vicki gives Claire the gun) they talk about waiting for the Sheriff as the only alternative to running. This sounds silly though as the sheriff is on holiday probably miles and miles away and obviously wouldn’t respond to the call himself. Probably it was just a mistake or maybe they meant that if they contacted the Sheriff at his holiday location he would contact the authorities on their behalf. Coming from him the request would maybe carry more weight and it would be those police that they would wait for. Maybe it was just meant as a flippant joke though it hardly seemed the time for jokes. Whatever the case the comment sure sounded weird.
Verdict: XII for me was a pretty solid short and sweet indy slasher film. The story is simple but effective and though we don’t have a lot of characters those we do have do a fine job in particular the two leads in Claire and Vicky. The killer just about cuts the mustard but sadly the kills are mostly disappointing in that many of them are off camera. Though this isn’t a film that is likely to live long in your memory or make a lasting impression it’s a more than decent time passer that should keep you entertained for the fairly short running time.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Phoebe’s new husband: Head blown off with gun (Shotgun probably).
2)Phoebe: Killed off camera. We see her in a body bag later supposedly with her face cut off.
3)Agent Naughton: Run over by Karlsson in his truck.
4)Hilda: Killed off camera. Face presumably cut off.
5)Shane: Killed off camera. Face cut off and we see his corpse briefly when Claire takes his gun.
6)Julio: Shot by Deputy Kent in self-defence. Don’t think it was actually confirmed that Julio died so this is kind of an assumption on my part.
7)Deputy Kent: Shot with a Magnum style handgun by Julio.
8)Harry: Tongue cut off and then actually killed away from the camera. Face presumably cut off.
9)Vicki: Strapped to a table and face cut off.
10)Leonard Karlsson: Hit in the head with a cinderblock and then shot by Claire multiple times.