On the off chance that you haven’t had the opportunity to see the theatrical trailer for After Dark films’ release Perkins 14, I just wanted to take a second to remind you that, love it or hate it, this film is all your fault. Created in conjunction with the website Massify.com, Perkins 14 is the first real interactive film experience to make its way to the big screen. It’s not so much a “choose your own adventure” horror movie, but through an online contest fans were able to pick the film After Dark was to produce. So, as the trailer proclaims, Perkins 14 is a film: Invented, Written, Cast, Voted For, Chosen and Created, by you! I guess the tagline sums it up best “This time horror fans, the blood is on your hands”. That’s supposed to be a cheeky reference to the fact that the fans are responsible for all the atrocities that occur on the screen. The truth is, it’s a damming statement about what happens when you make a film by committee.
10-years ago in the small town of Stone Cove, 14 children went missing. Tonight, on a night like so many others, they’ve returned. One of those missing children was Kyle the son of police officer Dwayne Hopkins (Patrick O’Kane, Exorcist: The Beginning). When Hopkins makes a routine traffic stop he winds up arresting Ronald Perkins (Richard Brake, Hannibal Rising) only to discover later on that Perkins was the man who kidnapped those kids a decade earlier. But, when Hopkins heads out to Perkins house to investigate further, he makes the terrifying discovery that not only are the children alive, they’ve been bred into crazed cannibal killers. Can Hopkins stop the 14 from killing everyone in the town—including his wife and remaining daughter? It’ll be a night to dismember when the Perkins 14 come home to Stone Cove!
Creator Jeremy Donaldson’s brainchild was voted on and then written and directed into existence by Lane Shadgett and After Dark festival alumni Craig Singer (Dark Ride). Together they assembled a cast—a few of whom were voted on by massify.com readers (including Shayla Beesley’ who plays Hopkins daughter Daisy). The cast is rounded out with mostly unfamiliar faces—with the exception of Katherine Pawlak, who’s a web staple as part of theLonlygirl15 series, and Ex-Misfits vocalist Michale Graves (who previously appeared with the band in Singer’s 1995 flick Animal Room). For the most part the cast delivers the mind numbing verbiage with about as much conviction as one can expect of a group of people who basically spend the second half of 90-minutes running and screaming. The truth is the script for Perkins 14 is terrible. It feels every bit like they pushed this puppy out over the course of a weekend and never looked back. The premise is solid—so we’ll give Donaldson (who plays Sam in the film) credit for coming up with a pretty good story—but the execution is wrought with explicitly lame dialogue.
The saving grace of the film is strictly visual. Singer makes the second half of the flick—essentially an extended chase sequence—stocked full of interesting camera movements, exciting shot composition and some very cool cinematography courtesy of John Sosenko. The gore effects are well executed too once we get past the initial attack sequences (which take place mostly in the dark recesses of the screen, or off camera).
I wish there was more I could tell you to make you want to run out and see what the folks who frequented Massify.com hath brought upon the Cineplex. But the truth is, in spite of some vicious effects work, a few interesting ideas and a chance to see if Michale Graves has any acting chops (the jury is still out on that one since all of his dialogue is just freakin’ ridiculous) –there is very little to recommend about Perkins 14. Ultimately, I guess the film stands a reminder of the powerful idiom—you get what you wish for. Or, perhaps that should be, if you don’t vote you can’t complain. You know what; I think I’ll go with that one. In fact…I think if you voted, you should definitely complain. Loudly!