Larry Greene is a filmmaker that I have become quite familiar with in the past year or so. His crime feature Dark Shields turned out to be an interesting, if a bit uneven, foray into the dark world of crooked cops. His next film after that, however, was what lulled me into being a fan. The romantic dramedy Love Evaluated may not be the type of film that I am usually a proponent of, but Greene showed then that he had skills when it came to handling his actors, as well as developing a atmosphere that really worked in the context of showcasing love and friendships. This particular skill of his is once again carried over in his latest feature, which is quite surprising considering the content. Sadistic is Greene’s attempt at jumping right into the world of horror cinema, and surprisingly he makes the adjustments quite well. Showing a great depth of versatility, Greene enters into this genre without sacrificing any of the things that made him such a interesting director in the first place. While I don’t intend to convince anyone that Sadistic is the best horror title of the decade, I will say that it is a very solid foray into the slasher genre and manages to provide a viewpoint that is quite unique.
In the introduction for our film, the young and beautiful Elizabeth Galten (Maria Brothers) is shown surviving a tragic assault by a maniacal lunatic known as "scissor man." This lunatic turns out to be a stalker that had been following Elizabeth around for quite a while, and he finally snapped when he realized he could never attain the beautiful young girl for himself. So, the maniac kills Elizabeth’s boyfriend and chases her through her own house before Elizabeth finally outwits her attempted murderer and shoves him down the stairs where is instantly killed. We skip forward six months, and Elizabeth is seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis in an attempt to forget the sordid ordeal. Just as things begin to perk up for Elizabeth, and she begins to date once again after meeting a handsome journalist who holds a crush, the bottom falls out and Elizabeth faces a new reign of terror. It seems that a new "scissor man" has stepped forward and has began stalking Elizabeth. With so many new people in Elizabeth’s life, who could this new mad man be, and what are his reasons for these vile murders?
If you could not tell by that plot synopsis, Greene’s latest film owes a fairly heavy debt to the Scream franchise. Very similar to those films, Sadistic plays out like any one of the Scream sequels. We of course focus on a young girl who has been previously traumatized, and then we watch as a masked killer enters back into her life killing off the people that she loves. Honestly, this seems about as close to the Scream movies as you can get without featuring Courtney Cox. With the inevitable series of plot twists that are revealed during the climax of the film, it starts to feel more and more like one of the new-era slashers that were made in the wake of Wes Craven’s series. Greene doesn’t saturate his title with knowing winks to the camera, however, and that is certainly a welcome relief. In the post-Scream world, it seems that every slasher film must admit to the audience that its characters KNOW that they happen to be in a slasher movie. Instead, Greene keeps the film rather low-key. He doesn’t delve right into slasher film cliches, such as characters constantly making bad decisions or falling down while running, but he isn’t averse to using slasher film devices that have worked in the past. In that regard, it is a mix of new and old, and the tension generally works.
Director Larry Greene has tremendously improved as a director, and Sadistic certainly shows this. The improvements made on each successive film has been dramatic, and it seems that he may be close to hitting his peak. His work with his actors is becoming much more apparent, as his cast is universally solid this go-around. In the past, some of his films certainly showed an air of immaturity in terms of performances, but here his cast shows off a wealth of depth and personality. As mentioned earlier, Greene always seems to do well with large ensemble casts. He knows how to develop a repertoire between a room full of people. There are several scenes within Sadistic that seem to recall some of Greene’s earlier pictures. In particular, I was reminded of Love Actually, which was a film that was founded upon the ensemble dynamic that Greene handles so well. Visually, Greene always gets the very best from the budgetary restraints of his films. Although it seems obvious that Greene is working without a lot of money, his sets, lighting and camerawork are always glued to a technically solid foundation. Unfortunately, the film does use a fair amount of poor CGI blood, which unfortunately exposes the film to a far heavier scrutiny than it deserves. Even in expensive films it is hard to make CGI blood look good, or realistic, and in this case it is neither. Although it can be a great thing to minimize production costs, creating blood in After Effects rarely seems to work out in a professional looking manner.
Despite its limited problems, I have to admit that I really enjoyed Sadistic. It is a horror movie that delves heavily into characterization, and that is uncommon within the world of genre cinema. While there are others who won’t share my appreciation, I must give credit where credit is due. Sadistic is a inventive and unique look at the slasher genre, made by a unique voice in the world of independent cinema. It is absolutely worth checking out if the opportunity pops up. You can read more about the film via its official Facebook page