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XII/Dark Ride Blu-ray Review - -

Feature 6.5
Video 9.0
Audio 7.5
Special Features   00
Total 6.5

Distributor: Icon
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Reviewer: Simon Black
: R18+


XII/Dark Ride

That Leatherface certainly has a lot to answer for.  It seems every crazed psycho killer depicted in horror flicks these days has to be clad in a mask, preferably one made from the skin of his victims. 

Such is the case in Michael A. Nickles modestly-budgeted and rather obscure XII.  At least the criminal in this film, a convicted child killer whose face has been disfigured by peeved inmates, has a practical reason for going face shopping.  Now released from prison after five years for undisclosed reasons unlikely to be good behaviour, he hunts down his down jurors one at a time over the course of a single horrifying night. 

XII sticks unwaveringly to the modern B-movie horror ethos; a violent psychotic killer beyond hope of redemption, a bunch of young attractive victims who engage in lots of meaningless sexually charged dialogue, bumbling law enforcement who never seem to be at the right place at the right time, and an abundance of messy dispatches filmed in unflinching detail.  We are not even spared a shot of a mutilated young girl lying prone on a mortuary slab.  Some of the camerawork is awkward and the performances a little indifferent at times, but the gory makeup effects and infrequent bloodbath sequences are consistently spot on, and fans of the Saw and Hostel franchises will feel right at home with this violent and fairly enjoyable slasher. 

The other film in this latest Icon double-header is Dead Ride, which despite receiving second billing is, for my money, the superior of the two outings.  First of all the acting is generally of much higher calibre, despite some freaky-looking cast members like Patrick Renna and the walking Neanderthal David Clayton Rogers, and though the storyline is again derivative of previous Tobe Hooper efforts like The Funhouse writer/director Craig Singer makes a concerted effort to throw up the odd surprise. 

Filmed in 2004, screened as part of the After Dark Horrorfest weekend in 2006, released to DVD in 2007 and belatedly seeing the light of day on Blu-ray in mid-2010, Dark Ride concerns a group of college students who decide to visit a spooky abandoned Funhouse that was the scene of several grisly murders, including that of two young twins.  Unfortunately for the group the deranged killer, who also hides his deformed visage behind a mask, has escaped from a mental institution and is highly disgruntled that his former abode is being treated as a tourist attraction. 

Boasting convincing performances from The Sopranosí Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Renner, still best-known for portraying the pudgy son on the 1993 Pauly Shore vehicle Son in Law and the beautiful Andrea Bogart as a loopy hitchhiker, Dark Ride is a cogent and appropriately gory affair.  The set designs and special effects are once again nicely done and the violence is protracted, bloody and inventive, which seems to be all anyone can ask of a horror film these days.  One scene involving oral sex and decapitation is particularly well-enacted, and isnít something you encounter in every run of the mill slasher.  Yes itís derivative and yes it has its flaws, among them some occasionally choppy editing and a couple of cast members so ugly as to defy description, but Dark Ride, like its predecessor, delivers. 

As is ever the case with Icon horror double bills there are no bonus features, just a smattering of trailers, scene selection and English subs.  Picture quality is flawless on both films, and each looks great on Blu despite XII taking largely place in the bright sun of the Nevada desert and the majority of Dark Ride being shot in the gloom of an abandoned Funhouse, demonstrating the ability of the medium to deliver excellent clarity and contrast in both light and dark settings.  The DTS 5.1 surround sound is deep, rich and textured in both, though the overdubbed dialogue comes across quite tinny at times in XII

Though both films are far from perfect they contain plenty of thrills, lots of gore and several moments between them of unnerving intensity.  Though additional incentive in the form of extra features would have been nice, horror fans will certainly find much to recommend this double feature. 


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