The Victim (2012)

I really wanted to like this film. I think Michael Biehn is great. He’s superb in Aliens, Terminator, The Abyss, The Divide and Planet Terror. When I heard he was making his own horror film – with his wife Jennifer Blanc – I was expecting something bloody decent. The agony of disappointment burns deep.

Kyle (Michael Biehn) wants to be left alone. Living in his uncle’s cabin, deep in the woods, he is rudely disturbed by the panic-stricken Annie (Jennifer Blanc) who claims two dirty coppers just killed her bestest friend Mary (Danielle Harris). Luckily for Annie, our man Kyle is a stand-up citizen and tries to protect her, but then one of the dirty plod breaks into his home and all hell breaks loose…

The Victim begins with a self-knowing title card claiming “Not based on true events”, which suggests a certain awareness and wryness that I expected to punctuate the film. Knowing the plot, I had expected The Victim to be an overblown parody of those ugly 70′s exploitation films, filled with screaming women and sicko pervert men. Instead it oddly becomes a homage to them instead, delivering a surprise-free sex ‘n’ slash ‘n’ revenge flick filled with screaming women and sicko pervert men and not enough blood.

This cheeky “not based on true events” tag is closely followed by Danielle Harris getting doggy-fucked in a forest for an inordinately long time, before her loving partner snaps her neck. It’s not as shocking as it sounds… and is just a little crass. Not ‘fun’ crass, but awkward and weird crass.

It honestly feels like Biehn was aiming for a tongue-in-cheek pastiche but missed the mark entirely, dumping Scream for a watered-down I Spit on Your Grave. The Victim turns out as a mundane and muted throw-back to the exploitation films of the 70’s – it even feels like it’s set during this period – the nasty cops have 70′s moustaches for some reason… but Biehn’s woodland cabin has a top-of-the-range laptop with internet access, so it’s clearly set in a modern period.

Unfortunately it is Biehn’s script that is severely lacking in quality, with every line of dialogue coming across as deliberately on-the-nose, delivered woodenly. It is also horribly self-involved, with lines like “You look good for fifty-four” (directed at Biehn, of course) and – even worse – “you fuck good for fifty-four”, which is a line that closely follows a fully-naked fuck-session between Biehn and the character of Annie, who is played by his actual wife. Yes, in The Victim you get to watch Michael Biehn fuck his wife. A dream come true!!

I think the most frustrating element is that I still can’t work out if The Victim was deliberately made to be a shonky, laughable parody of old crappy slasher flicks… or if (somehow) they actually made it in earnest, delivering one of the most awfully backwards horror films made in years. It’s a conundrum that perhaps only Biehn and Blanc can answer, but a question I’m certainly not going to ask them. It reminded me of Tulpa, in this respect, which was another film that aimed at homage / emulation and ended up as a bit laughable.

It’s not all terrible though – Biehn is a charismatic performer who is always watchable and his character is eons more interesting that the generic pervy cops and fun-loving but dumb strippers. He has clearly learnt a lot from his past experiences on set, because his direction is remarkably good for a horror film. In fact, if Biehn had nothing to do with this film then I doubt it would’ve even swam across to England as it is occasionally very amateurish (wait for the accidentally hilarious end credits, which has footage of nearly ALL the crew. It’s a sweet but amateurish move).

I hope Biehn concentrates on his directorial flare instead of leaping into another horror… although the fact he’s remaking the despicable rape and revenge flick Hidden in the Woods suggests otherwise. He’ll be playing the incestuous, psychotic, rape-happy scumbag antagonist. I can’t wait!

The Victim will please some audiences as it’s unchallenging, dirty and a little bit silly, but most people will be tired by this lite rehashing of a 70’s slasher-flick and switch off immediately. I was one of those people. And I really wanted to like this film, dammit.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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