HazMat Movie Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Written and Directed by Lou Simon
2013, 80 minutes, Rated R
VOD released on March 11th, 2014
Norbert Velez as Jacob/HazMat
Todd Bruno as David
Aniela McGuinness as Brenda
As a child of the '80s, I have a particular fondness for slashers of all shapes and colors. So, I'm always at least slightly inclined to view a new entrant into the genre with some favorability. And yes, some are brilliant and set a new bar (hi there Leslie Vernon, I miss you), but some are, well... not. HazMat is definitely not the former, but not the latter either. What it is is stuck firmly in the vast middle ground of mediocrity. A watchable, serviceable horror flick that puts on no airs and delivers exactly what it hopes to; namely gore and jump scares, but doesn't quite fire on all cylinders. It is low-budget and looks it, and has all the trappings of a low-budget feature. It has semi-decent effects, semi-decent acting, and a semi-decent plot line, with little payoff or imagination to push it to the next level.
HazMat tells the story of a crew of a TV show dedicated to pranking and scaring an unwitting victim. The show within the show, Scary Antics (probably not coincidentally reminiscent Scare Tactics, the name of a TV program in real life that did exactly what the premise here does) sets up the wrong victim this time, and high strung Jacob flips his lid, dons a hazmat suit and starts picking off friends and crew alike for the next hour or so. It's acutely predictable fare, but handled fairly well.
By no means will "HazMat" become as iconic as his '80s predecessors like Jason or Freddy, but he's styled decently, if a little on the My Bloody Valentine side with some color thrown in for fun. I won't go so far as to say it's unimaginative, but it's clearly not a wholly original conceit either. The premise culls together elements of some top-notch low-budget movies like Session 9 and Grave Encounters, but lacks the finesse both those movies employed. And that, more than anything else, is the movie's biggest downfall. It takes the good elements of several films and doesn't quite fit the jigsaw puzzle back in the right way, so the picture's not quite as clear as it should be. It's not a rip-off, and not quite homage or winky satire. It's its own uniquely un-unique beast.
This is only writer/director Lou Simon's second feature, and she handles it with enough aplomb and talent that it makes one wonder what she could do with a more sizeable budget and a refined script. But, the budget is not the real culprit here. We live in an age where more and more crews are doing stellar work with less (I'm looking at you Astron-6), so it's also getting harder and harder to use budget as an excuse for failure or as a means to grade on a curve. Step up your game Lou.