Dir: Maurice Devereaux
Star: Sarah Joslyn Crowder, Kieran Keller, Tony Curtis Blondell, Jerry Spiro

This starts superbly: there's a Japanese game-show called Slashers, where six contestants have to survive an hour in a maze populated by three masked killers. Any survivors get to split $6m - or more, since there are bonuses for taking out the slashers, and if no-one survives, the pot rolls over. This is their "American special" with three men and three women brought to Tokyo: who will survive, and what will be left of them? Complete with shrieking studio audience, an over-caffeinated hostess and cheerleaders, this lurid TV nightmare surpasses even the likes of Man vs. Animal for poor taste.

Unfortunately, once the candidates enter the maze, the media satire takes a backseat, ignoring potential ideas such as, say, survivors coming back to do colour commentary. The single camera is also irritating, not least the flicker effect hideously overused to cover edits. Only sporadically - during advert breaks or when a slasher breaks character - does it become any more than tedious and formulaic, with the contestants in particular merely shallow cyphers. Lead heroine Megan (Crowder) was especially annoying, and more thought needed to go into her role. Claudine Shiraishi is, however, pitch-perfect as host Miko, and the gore makes up in volume what it lacks in credibility. It's not subtle or clever, but neither is the film; given the small budget, this is still fun to watch, despite obviously not fulfilling its potential.

Apr 2004

Fear Factor
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