Murder-Set-Pieces (2004)

Rating: C

Dir: Nick Palumbo
Star: Sven Garrett, Jade Risser, Valerie Baber, Tony Todd

Technically, this is very impressive, with disturbing sequences of murder, torture and rape – the woman getting her throat slit in the bathtub was among the grimmest killings I’ve seen on celluloid. These aspects really show up Hollywood product like Hostel for the weak, watered-down approach to death that they are compelled to provide. And, unlike most extreme horror films, it’s shot on 35mm, giving it a sense of legitimate cinema that’s often missing. Visually, cinematographer Brendan Flynt delivers a solid look, which captures the neon-glare of Las Vegas very well. And Jade Risser, playing the young girl who’s the only one to see the evil lurking behind the main character’s facade, is occasionally impressive, though in other scenes feels painfully artificial.

The lack of any real plot description is because there’s hardly any. A photographer (Garrett – who looks much better than he acts) abuses hookers, strippers and finally, little girls. And that’s the film’s main weakness: virtually no emotional content here at all. We know nothing about most victims; any insight into the cause is almost incoherent (was it childhood trauma? His Nazi grandfather? 9/11? Could be any of them); and what he chooses to offer himself, is largely in unsubtitled German. Despite the gore, there’s no “realism” here. Does the killer have a day job? What does he do with the bodies? Where are the cops? Even after killing a porn store manager (Todd) in front of a witness, there’s no apparent police reaction. As a showreel for the FX house involved, this is impeccable. As any more – such as a chance to gaze into the abyss of a serial killer’s mind – it falls far down the list.