Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Thorn

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet
Thorn [aka Legacy of Thorn]
Photographed, written, directed, edited, etc., by MJ Dixon
Mycho Entertainment Group / Wildeye Releasing / MVD Video
97 minutes, 2016 / 2017

Although the more human Leatherface pretty much began the thread of masked killers with sharp objects in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), it was kicked into high gear with the Michael Myers / Halloween (1978) and Jason Voorhees / Friday the 13th (1980) one-two punch of the additional supernatural nature of the hulking killing machines. While not yet cliché, the theme of the Thorn character is also certainly not exactly new. But then again, I truly believe it’s time we had a fresh franchise, doncha think?!

The original character of Thorn was from 2009; he showed up again in Slasher House in 2012. I have yet to see those first two releases, but this comes across as a remake/reboot by its creator. There are a couple of differences I already know about, and it’s probably a good idea to start fresh. Someday, though, I would like to see the original to compare. For example, in the first, Thorn was the concealed character’s family name; now perhaps it refers to the mucho grande machetes he carries.

The story is set in Avondale, a relatively new village in a suburb of industrial England (filmed around Greater Manchester). The film is broke up into two segments, which intercut between each other throughout. One is the modern Leap Year of 2012 (when it was filmed), and the other takes place the previous one, four years earlier in 2008. What is extremely well done is that the present one is chronological, but the previous is shown in reverse order, so it starts with the end of the day, and goes back to the beginning of it. I thought was well written/done is that you don’t lose track of either, and the viewer knows which is which. Bravo.

Thorn is a huge, brute of a man with an arm full of tribal stripe-style tattoos, dressed in tight leather (it must have been hell for Richard Holloran, who portrays him). The mask is interesting with a metallic sheen, and more so the two enormous machetes he carries crossed on his back, though most of the time at least one is in his hand. With superhuman strength (more on that later), he can easily chop a human into bits, though a mid-section stab from front or back seems to be the preferred choice.

The high school into which he enters – nay, saunters, as he has a very confident swagger – to obliterate anyone in his path is full of bullies/mean girls, cheerleaders, nerds and the cool Black guy (Paris Rivers). However, it doesn’t seem to be infested by any supervision. The only adult seen (not counting Thorn, that is) is the janitor, and he’s part of a bigger, cult happening (shades of the Wicker Man, Batman!). Perhaps the teachers and admin are in on it, but it’s never really explained. More on that, later, too.

Jade Wallis
Thorn’s focus is on one of the cheerleaders, Jessica. While he kills anyone who gets in the way of reaching her, he also seems to go out of his way to build a substantial body count. Jess is definitely a flawed human (as are all of us) in a film locus. An odd mix of ego and fear, gets to scream and cower a lot, needing – or demanding – help from others, which doesn’t end well for them. Local actor Jade Wallis does a decent job of it, though occasionally shrilly; but then again, I’m willing to bet someone in that position, being faced with an immortal with superhuman strength and twin machetes, just might be a bit shrill. I’m just sayin’. Jane Haselhurst, who plays her frenemy, Alice, does a nice turn, as well. Actually, the whole cast mostly does a decent job of it.

One factor I enjoyed was watching the difference between the characters in the 2009 sequences compared to the later 2012 ones. Some personalities are completely different, even in body language and tone.  

There are some issues with the film: the biggest one, for example, is that there are some conversational parts that go on way longer than they need be, past their point of usefulness to the plot. This would have been a very tight thrill-ride 80 minutes, but considering the action-to-talking ratio, this is better than most, and its concentrated in just a few scenes here and there.

Also, there are some plot holes, such as the why does this mask have so much power and where does it come from. Why only on Leap Year day. When – and why – did it all start? There are hints that the story will go on (having a title card saying “Thorn will return in” another film is a strong indicator, along with how, to some extent. What is the cult that it seems much of the town’s power class seems to be in on? As with many films of this nature, the first one introduces the evil character, and the sequel(s) tell the backstory in more detail.

There is a lot of blood (much spewing from the mouth) with little gore (juicy bits), and the SFX are largely applications, with some digi stuff thrown in to beef (pun unintended) it up. A couple of nude scenes mostly from the back, ample cleavage and braless tees add to the viewing, but nothing for the women as the men stay clad (and remain mostly clods).

Make sure you stay past the credits for a Marvel-like bit at the end. The extras are a standard-albeit-interesting 22-minute Making Of which includes backstage footage and interviews of the cast shot by the cast, and two different trailers for the film.

With the imperfections in place (hey, I had issues with both the original Halloween and Friday the 13th, too), I have to say this was still a fun film that goes what it sets out to do, create a new and enjoyable killing semi-human killing machine that can become a new – err – legacy to enjoy. I do recommend it.

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