After the sh*tshow that was Muck, I have a really hard time deciding if crowdfunding is the way to go with films. Sure, the backers had no idea that Wolsh would take their money and churn out the incoherent mess that became Muck, but it makes you wonder if relying on fans’ collective judgement to fund a film with so many unknowns (and YouTube stars) involved is a smart move. Well, Old 37 is another crowdfunded effort, and director Christian Winters pulled an Alan Smithee in protest of the final result. At first, things don’t seem to bode well for this film. Luckily, things aren’t quite as horrible as you think.
Jon Roy (Kane Hodder) and Darryl (Bill Moseley) grew up with a dad who took his kids along for the ride while he worked. Problem was, their dad was a psychopath, whose former job as a medic allowed him to travel to accident scenes and torture the victims while Jon and Darryl watched from the ambulance. Now that Jon and Darryl are all grown up, they’re carrying on their dad’s work, intercepting calls and riding out in their junker ambulance to accidents. That’s bad news for Amy (Caitlin Harris), an insecure small-town teenager whose attempts to rebuild her life, fit in and get noticed turn into a deadly case of mistaken identity.
Based on a dream of co-writer Paul Travers, the idea of a team of paramedics wreaking havoc on vulnerable individuals is a pretty novel (and sinister) idea. Think about it: You have a person or persons involved in an accident, possibly injured. You end up calling 9-1-1 for a group of strangers to arrive with the assumption (and trust) of them helping you. While this concept isn’t entirely unheard of in film, I don’t recall a film taking the idea of crooked paramedics and running with it. It also helps that the team of Moseley and Hodder are the paramedics, and are appropriately twisted in their endeavours. Returning to his hockey mask days, Hodder’s face is hidden by a leather mask as a result of some “surgery”. As a result, Hodder once again pulls off some great emotion without so much as uttering a word. Likewise, hearkening back to his Chop-Top and Otis Driftwood characters, Moseley is the brains of the outfit, doing much of the (trash)talking and deceiving. Both are more than capable of playing cunning and sinister characters, and they don’t disappoint with some mean-spirited and gory moments.
As it sounds, the brothers aren’t your one-note killers in a low-budget slasher. Don’t let the premise of the film fool you. While there are obviously fodder characters for Hodder and Moseley to carve up, credit to writers Joe Landes and Paul Travers for doing something to give many of the characters some substance. Much of the first part of the film is establishing and developing the characters on both sides. The Roy brothers are shown growing up in a broken home, being abused by their father (and later on, abusing him). On the flipside, we have teens going about and dealing with the various dramas that teens are wont to have. Caitlin Harris turns in a believable performance as Amy, who struggles to overcome the deaths of her best friend and her father, as well as trying to fit in and gain the attention of the local heartthrob, Jason, (Maxwell Zagorski). Her friend Brooke (Olivia Alexander) definitely doesn’t act like a friend, and almost constantly belittles and puts Amy down. Needless to say, she meets a rough demise.
As for drawbacks, the film’s biggest asset is also it’s greatest flaw. While it’s great that we’re given characters that have had time devoted to developing them, the pacing of the film in its first half is often trying to sit through. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see that the Roy brothers have a much more interesting backstory and development than the teens. This imbalance admittedly does make you want to root for Moseley and Hodder far more than the other characters, but it’s still flawed. It also doesn’t help that there are also flaws in logic that continually come up and fly in the face of the story. Namely, with all of these disappearances at accident sites (due to the Roy brothers), and it being such a small town, why isn’t there more of an investigation going on?
Even though the film is rough around the edges, Old 37 proves to be an enjoyable ride. The cast performs well, the concept is delightfully sinister, and it definitely has more substance to it than a certain other crowdfunded film. Landes and Travers have crafted a slasher that while isn’t perfect, definitely doesn’t insult horror fans’ intelligence with cardboard characters and lame backstory. While I don’t know the reason why director Christian Winters refused to take credit for the film, it’s definitely not dead on arrival. Check it out to see two genre vets doing what they do best.