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By Mark Bell | March 21, 2013

Mitch (Brett Hickox), Tim (Kevin Rushing) and Trey (Scott Luchkowec) are three salesmen in Mexico who, after a fun night with some local ladies (Kat Slatery and Leilani Saxon), find themselves on the bad side of a drug kingpin (Alvaro Mujica). Left on a remote farm, the three find themselves up against a rare breed of insect that is not only highly territorial and aggressive, it also has a deadly bite that can cause death almost immediately (the reason for the overwhelming effectiveness of the bite is a major plot point, so I’m going to stay vague on that here). As they attempt to survive, they meet up with a doctor (Doc Ruther) on the farm familiar with what it takes to evade the insects, and the group begins to hatch a plan for escape.

Tony York and Brett Hickox’s Left to Die attempts a clever narrative with a complex backstory, but comes up short in both execution and engagement. You can have the most cleverly convoluted script in the world, but if no one is interested in seeing where it goes, it just doesn’t work. The film is up against some typical low budget pitfalls too, unfortunately, that it can’t transcend via performance or story, leaving the overall production simply subpar.

For one, the story jumps around quite a bit in the opening minutes to set up all the pieces it will attempt to connect later. From an opening “found footage” style film reel about a University of Chicago School of Biology study from 1976, the film then hops to an unfortunate event three days ago in the Ozarks, then it hops to five years ago to set up the background of a financially-strapped Senator (Mike Graves), who owns the very land we saw in the previous jump, and then it comes back to present time in Mexico. Everything pays off later, but in hopping around it gives too much attention to an expository backstory setup before giving us a handful of characters to follow, who we ultimately don’t care about.

Except for curiosity about the danger that Mitch, Tim and Trey are in for, there’s no other reason to follow them. Only Mitch has more to his character to work with, but even his background, while explaining his presence with the group, is cursory and necessary solely for more exposition. The inclusion of the two women on the farm later on seems to add some dramatic stakes, but again you’re not really invested in their story either.

Since the characters don’t have much going for them, and the story is needlessly convoluted, you have to look at the film’s other technical elements for value. And there, while the film does have a nice moment here or there of composition, it comes up short, likely due to resource limitations. The main effects element, the killer insects, are laughably bad. In instances where there’s a need for fight choreography, it’s equally hilarious in a negative way. And behind it all is a score that hits hokey notes far more often than it elevates the film.

So where I finally landed with this film is that it reminds me of some of B-Movies that erred on the side of plotting instead of delivering any real connection with the audience. The killer insect angle, the conspiracies, the drug trade… on paper, a lot going on with true dramatic potential. In practice, it just doesn’t come together. Maybe if the film didn’t frontload the exposition, gave the characters more to work with than “potential victims of killer insect” and allowed for some real human drama to arrive, we’d have something here. As it is, Left to Die is an unfortunate mess that is hard to recommend even for the occasional, unintentional laugh it causes.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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