Vicious (December 21/03)
Although Vicious is a fairly terrible horror movie, it does have one thing going for it: Tom Savini. A legendary cult figure because of his special effects work, Savini has dabbled in acting before (most notably his role in From Dusk Till Dawn as Sex Machine) and has already proven himself to be a charismatic figure. He's playing another villain here, which isn't much of a surprise, but he's also the best thing about an otherwise entirely forgettable film.
Savini stars as Kane, a government agent who's been sent into a vast forest to contain a deadly monster that seems to dine exclusively on humans. But for some inexplicable reason, Kane's been feeding the monster hapless campers and moronic locals. This doesn't bode well for four friends that are out in the woods on a fishing trip, and who might as well have "monster bait" written on the side of their truck.
This is obviously the sort of story that's served many a horror flick well, but it just doesn't work here. Though Vicious has been made on a low budget, that's not what sinks it; rather, it's the terrible performances and laughable special effects that do the film in. The most glaring flaw in Vicious is the atrocious manner in which the monster has been rendered. Though there are a few close-ups of the beast that are fairly effective, the computer effects used in wider shots are just terrible. The filmmakers probably would have been better off animating the monster by hand, because as is, there isn't an ounce of believability to it. It has that same look that you'd expect the first step of the CGI process to have; except, in this case, that's it. Director Matt Green would have been far better off keeping the beast in the shadows, especially considering that we never do get to see it eating anyone (Green often turns to the tried-and-true monster-o-vision POV shot).
And though the actors are all awful, Savini does seem to be having a great time here. Sporting a goatee and often chomping on a cigar, Savini's not afraid to go-for-broke with his performance and proves to be the only enjoyable element in the film. Everyone else veers between mediocre and appalling, but poor acting is generally par for the course with this type of movie. Unfortunately, it also means that we're rooting for the bad guy - Savini, in this case - instead of the alleged heroes. The dialogue isn't horrible, all things considering, but jeers to Green for allowing a character to deliver some seemingly important exposition through a garbled video phone.
It is possible that, in the realm of direct-to-video horror, you could do worse than Vicious. But it's not exactly probable, either.