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By Rogan Marshall | November 27, 2003

This low-key low def video thriller, shot in Chicago, concerns the twisty’n’turny hijinks that ensue when a slacker night watchman, alone in a warehouse, is terrorized by an escaped serial killer playing head games.
At first I really wanted to like this one. Its modest ambition and scope are perfectly suited to its resources. Solid camerawork and shots smartly called alleviate the crappy video look. The acting is okay, though it seems a little shabby at the edges, on account of loose cutting and questionable sound recording. Again, however, these technical issues are ameliorated by organized, detailed construction all around. This may be something shot by some kids on the weekends, but McGatlin and his associates proceed like responsible professionals on every front, which, trust me, you rarely see, in penniless ground level productions. I even, in the beginning, started to engage in the story, and worry about the main character. This is called suspense, and it’s another thing that’s regrettably rare, in a tiny movie like this.
After a while, though, things bog down. The pace is slow; the narrative lacks drive; the plot mechanics keep riding dead horses: the old ‘cat jumps out’ gag, the old ‘killer’s a menacing stranger on the phone’ gag, the old ‘the killer’s coming and the car won’t start’ gag. Then these big, big holes in the script start popping up, the kind of plot logic problems that just ruin everything for anyone who notices them. My notes are full of questions: Why does the hero forget about his friend’s corpse in the parking lot for so long, at a crucial juncture? Why does he discard a gun, then immediately arm himself with a baseball bat? And, in the home stretch, over and over: why doesn’t he call the cops again? If I see one more goddamn movie whose writer pretends his hero is stupid or stoned enough to neglect to call the police repeatedly when it is the only appropriate action for that character to take, I’m going to start calling these underground filmmakers at home (their phone numbers are often written on the tape labels) and personally harass them into an understanding of when one calls the police.
But why should I be mean? Like I said, they worked real hard and it shows, and I engaged in it enough that I might’ve watched it through to the end, even if it weren’t my job to do so. Also the girl is really cute. If Troy McGatlin makes a couple more movies (and maybe he already has – the Dead Alive folks have carefully removed the original copyright date from the picture), he might find the voice he unfortunately lacks.

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