An eery room. A haunting musical chord. Dimly lit hallways. The set up of Lou Simon’s “Hazmat” could be taken from just about any horror film, and the viewer is led to believe that there is such a thing as safety. As the film unfolds, we are introduced to “Scary Dave”, who runs a cheesy reality show, similar to “Candid Camera”. Recently, horror films such as “Grave Encounters” have utilized this tactic, to success, and “Hazmat” definitely makes a case to be its successor. The jist of the set up is that friends will set up their bud to be scared by the show, and then “Punk’d” style, it is revealed that it was all in good fun.
A good, refreshing mix of camera styles and angles is used throughout the film. This helps keeps the “found footage” aspect utilized in the recording of the show from overtaking the film. The lighting compliments the film throughout, giving the air that the characters brought the lights in. A very natural unnatural feel, which benefits the film in the overall picture.
The acting is excellent throughout the film, with “Scary Dave” by far being the most humorous. Similar to the main reason why many people watched “House of Wax” (2005)- to see Paris Hilton bite it- “Scary Dave” is the character that you really want to see suffer and die. With the setup being the conspirators and their chump are set loose into an abandoned government medical testing facility, and of course, they start getting picked off, as well as the show crew that are hanging out in the building. The twist, of course, and what sets this film apart from most other slashers out there, is the fact that the killer is actually the chump friend. We see him psychologically break down, and then mentally resolve himself to kill as soon as he enters the facility with his friends. Simon, who also wrote the script, definitely enjoys torturing her actors, putting them in an abandoned facility, and then turning one of their own against them. The gimmick of having the crew from the reality show overseeing the dramatics of the killer taking out his victims really brings the audience into the film.
Although the bodies don’t start piling up until almost halfway through the film, the initial set up of the film gets the audience invested in the characters and sets up the perfect kills. The first close look up at the killer is one that is by far an awesome moment in the film, but unfortunately, it is quickly cut off with a swing of his axe into another victim. With the gas mask (which is seen on the poster image of the film), the killer is reminiscent of the Miner from “My Bloody Valentine”. In that same style, she gives the audience a sound effect- the raspy breathing of the killer through his gas mask- that echoes “My Blood Valentine”, “Friday the 13th”, and even Darth Vader from “Star Wars”.
The effects are done well, considering the setting, but I would have liked to see some more gore. Most of the attacks are done using camera tricks and digital blood mixed with practical blood stains. Normally, I would say that digital is horrible, mostly because it’s hard to find just the right effect. But here, it fits very well with the overall mood, and the way Simon chose to use it is very tasteful. For the film being a slasher, there are definitely the moments of slashing, but there was very little of the aftermath of the cuts. Something that made “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” was not only the attacks, but also, the aftermath and scars it left on the characters. Simon focuses more on the characters that are still living, and the emotional scars that the killer is giving them. Of course, the major exception to this is a stellar practical eye effect- I’ll leave it at that.
With a handful of jump scares and plenty of “screaming at the screen” moments, the twists and turns that “Hazmat” takes is hilarious and scary, a great example of an awesome thrill ride. Director Lou Simon pulls off all of the important aspects of the great horror films with a fun script. The film has hit the film festival circuit, winning several awards, and is currently out on VOD and Comcast. It hit Redbox on April 29th.
As a slasher film, “Hazmat” is a perfect depiction for the future direction. Unique set ups, titillating kills, and excellent effects set the standard for horror films from here to come.