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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review: Sweatshop (2010)

The standard workings of the slasher film are so well known that they hardly need mentioning.  The more originality shown in the familiar methods of the mad the better.  To wit, the real devils are left in the details.  Sweatshop doesn't deviate far from the usual mechanics, but it does pick one helluva tool out of the blood-shed to make a smashing entrance.

The film centers around some ultra-hip and attractive alternative goth/punk ravers who throw underground parties to turn some nice profits.  They lay claim to an old warehouse, being completely oblivious to its violent past or what may still be lurking inside.  Their intent is to obviously dance and get a bit hammered, but I don't think finding themselves at the business end of a huge anvil attached to some piping is quite what they had in mind.

And that's really Sweatshop's work-order in a nutshell.  There are some personal conflicts going on between the thinly sketched characters, so we get some background and glimpses into these trivial dynamics: we have the hard-nosed bitch who takes no shit; a jerky oversexed 'player' type; a lesbian extrovert; the quiet reserved girl; and standing out most conspicuously from the lot, an obese redneck who carries a real public restroom's air about himself.

Thankfully, the forced melodramatics between them all are only fodder to forward the narrative to the next battering; while the group indulges in much griping, boozing and sexing along the way.  Director Stacy Davidson's vigorous pace makes up for a few leisurely performances and he achieves a good bit of suspense in the process.

No back-story is given for the hulking killer (known only as 'The Beast'), who dons a welder's helmet and animal skins and shows a real aptitude for using anything within his powerful grasp to dispose of the obnoxious trespassers.  In addition, he keeps two genuinely creepy hench-wenches in his employ whose sole purpose is to corral potential victims to slaughter.  Whenever any of them appear on screen you can't help but feeling a rush of anticipation as to what type of nastiness will transpire.

Sweatshop looks and sounds great.  The skillful cinematography and composition far exceed most independent films of this nature and the soundtrack suits the pummeling promenade to a tee.  The FX department doesn't skimp on any of the many well executed set-pieces either, really pounding out the grue and never shying away from the more violent displays.  It's gory, unrelenting and even leaves some doubt as to who will survive, which is always welcome.  The ending also begs sequel, which admittedly is as novel an idea in slasher films as the happy ending is in a romantic comedy, but the way it arrives at this is both amusing and inspired.

Sweatshop's technical values are excellent, being vivid and colorful in both a visual and visceral sense; the script offers some well placed humor without feeling corny; it has some pleasing eye candy; and just enough ambiguity and lack of restraint to keep you wanting more.  It's an impressive piece of 'pulped' fiction that does the genre proud.

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