Sunday, May 8, 2011

Laid to Rest: A New Slasher Classic?

When you think about the big horror franchises of the 80's (which, I think we can all agree was the golden age of slashers), what did they all have in common? An iconic killer, of course. The big four: Freddy, Jason, Michael, and Leatherface all had either a trademark mask, weapon, or both. Who today can look at a goalie mask without immediately thinking of the illustrious Mr. Voorhees?  When you think of a chainsaw, does your brain say, "power tool" or "murder weapon?" Mine too. I may be jumping the gun on this one, but it seems to me that Laid to Rest has what it takes to stand up alongside the greats, and Cthulu-willing, Chromeskull will take his rightful place in the horror hall of fame.

When it comes to masks, the simpler, the more iconic. This is why Michaels Myers's featureless white mask is so effective. And Jason's is simpler still.  Chromeskull's mask is flashier and more elaborate, but the design is straightforward: a skull-the universal symbol of death, polished to a high shine so his victims can see their own reflections as they die.

Chromeskull's weapons are two huge, vicious-looking knives with fingerguards and wicked serrated teeth. They too are polished and shiny, glinting in the dark against the backdrop of Mr. Skull's classy black suit. Chromeskull gets more than a few creative kills out of those versatile knives, and the violence is way more intense and graphic than practically any 80's slasher. The special effects are top-notch and the gore is copious. Nearly every kill had me shouting, "That was so cool," at the screen.

Glorious kills aside, where Laid to Rest really shines is in its simultaneous adherence to and departure from slasher film conventions. Robert Hall takes a page out of John Carpenter's book and reveals no motive for the murders, keeping his killer silent and mysterious. There's a sort of "slasher purity" to the film that makes it work so well. There's no real plot to speak of, and it starts off scary and rarely lets up.

Where it departs from convention is in the characters. Rather than an obnoxious group of partying teenagers, Laid to Rest begins with a single woman trapped in a coffin who has amnesia and possibly brain damage. After her initial escape from Chromeskull, she hitches a ride with a big, tough-looking, bald dude who turns out to be the nicest, most endearing character in the film. He takes on the role of her protector and brings her home to his wife, played by the always fantastic Lena Heady, who comes off as gruff and abrasive, but quickly shows her kinder side. The couple are hicks, but Hall doesn't turn them into stereotypes who exist only to be mocked. Because they care about this mysterious young woman, you care about them, which always makes the violence so much more crushing.

While not a perfect film, I was still blown away by it and beyond happy to learn a Robert Hall-helmed sequel is in the works. This is one franchise I'd like to see get huge.

But I do wonder how much of my excitement was due to having "discovered" the film on my own. I had never heard of it-just picked it up on a whim at the pawn shop because Lena Heady was listed in the credits. I'd like to know what you think-am I overblowing this thing, or is it really as good as I thought. Seriously y'all, blow up the comments section on this one.


  1. I've heard so much back on forth on this one...yet I continue to forget to seek it out. I dig your take on the film, so hopefully I'll feel the same way.

  2. I've noticed this one at my local Blockbuster a few times but keep skippin' over it. Will try to remember to pick it up next time and give it a go.

  3. I watched this last night. Great gore and I agree with you about the characters. Tucker, the gruff looking sweet guy was refreshing. I am not sold on Chromeskull however. I don't think a killer with a camcorder on his shoulder and personalized license plates will ever be able to stand next to super-slashers Michael or Jason. Came across more corny than classic. And what sort of slasher texts. The movie itself was a little clunky but I admired the effort. Worth watching for the gore alone.

  4. You've got a point about Chromeskull. Michael and Jason are like forces of nature, while Chromeskull is a rich dude with a hobby. Still, I love his look and the amazing variety of kills he manages with two simple blades. Let's just hope he doesn't start cracking one-liners in the sequel.


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