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Laid To Rest
cast: Kevin Gage, Bobbi Sue Luther, Thomas Dekker, Lena Headey, and Richard Lynch

writer and director: Robert Hall

89 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Mark West
A girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up in a casket, her memory gone. She manages to break out of the coffin, but finds herself locked in a funeral home, along with the corpse of an old woman, the undertaker (a cameo by Richard Lynch) and a tall man in a chrome skull mask ('chrome-skull', as everyone later refers to him, played by Nick Principe). Chrome-skull kills the undertaker, the girl injuries him and runs. She's picked up, wandering along the road, by Tucker (Kevin Gage), who takes her home where his girlfriend (Lena Headey) helps her to get cleaned up. It appears that the girl has no memory of who or where she is, or why Chrome-skull is after her. Then the killer turns up at the house...

Essentially, this is a 'masked man chases young woman and kills people along the way' horror film, which we've all seen a hundred times before and which enjoyed its peak in the 1980s, and it's a thread of the genre that is often done so badly, most people aren't interested - which would be a shame with this example because it's a pretty good film.

The film opens up in scope after Headey gets killed, introducing Stevie (Sean Whalen) and some backstory on Chrome-skull (which, nicely, is kept to a s nippet of information that Stevie gets off the internet), all of which leads them back to the funeral home. Next door to it is a rundown barn, which seems to be Chrome-skull's lair and, certainly, what's inside is quite a disturbing revelation. Finishing up in a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, this is relentless and quite gleefully gory and a real treat.

The acting is very good, with Luther (also a co-producer and the director's wife) being a particular standout. As the confused amnesiac at the start, through the 'Princess' mid-section (the name she picks for herself, at Tucker's suggestion), and to the finale, when she is shown what she once was, she's never less than watchable and holds the screen well. Gage and Whalen add solid support, Headey excels in her small role and, even though he has no dialogue, Principe carries himself well enough to make a grim, perhaps iconic, monster. In fact, Chrome-skull is the film's ace - in addition to the little backstory we get, we never see his face (with skin, that is), we never hear him speak, we don't know if he's supernatural or not (he seems generally impervious to pain) - he's a well dressed monster who can't be reasoned with (Principe, in the DVD extras, says he based him on Patrick Bateman, a comparison that worked for this reviewer). No explanation is made for his killing sprees, apart from the fact that he appears to video every death and send the footage to local police and I found that worked really well - sometimes, you don't need to know everything.

Laid To Rest is nicely shot with lush colours and none of the starkness (apart from a quick sequence in the convenience store) that you associate with digital photography (even if it is high-def). The editing is quick, without being epileptic and the locations (nicely explained on the extras) are well chosen and superbly art designed (especially Chrome-skull's lair). The characters are believable and even when, for the sake of the story, they have to do things we perhaps might not; they do worry and complain about it. However, with this kind of horror film, the effects can make it or break it and Hall's own company, Almost Human, provide the goods here and all of them are excellent. Many, in fact, feature in lingering shots and it's occasionally difficult to figure out what's real and what isn't - and sometimes uncomfortable because of that. In fact, there's a moment with Headey's right eye that really had me squirming, until it was explained - quite simply - on the extras. Actually, there is one effect that I thought was a bit silly, but it'd spoil things if I told you about it here.

This is a very good, very well made film that deserves a wide audience - it's certainly better than the deluge of rubbishy, PG-rated remakes the big studios are currently churning out. It is relentless and gruesome and violent and everything a good horror film should be - which either serves as a warning to you, or lets you know you're in for a treat.

My screener copy came with the following extras: Post Mortem - the making of Laid To Rest (31 minutes) is a detailed, in-depth look at the making of the film and the key crew, with very little fluff. Torture Porn (seven minutes) - the special effects of Laid To Rest, is all about the makeup, featuring the wonderfully named Erik Porn, who supervised the crew. Deleted scenes include a bizarre rendition of Roy Batty's "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..." speech by Chrome-skull. Blooper reel (six minutes).

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