[Review] 'Cry Havoc' Continues the Gory Saga of The Slasher Villain You Should Really Get to Know, Havoc
With the increasing amount of attention to horror, the genre continues to expand in themes and content. Numerous films over the last few years approached several important and even controversial topics which helped propel the genre into the public eye and even earn the title of “prestige horror.” Which, hooray for more nods to our beloved but habitually overlooked genre...
...However, let’s not have the fame go to our heads and forget the subgenres which helped inspire so many little horrorlings over the years. Slasher films frequently become the first subgenre people are exposed to when becoming initiated into the horror world and people outside the circle of gothic fandom often associate the entire genre with masked and/or deformed killers stalking helpless and clueless teenagers. Jason, Michael, Freddy, and Ghostface continue their reign as the most recognizable slasher villains, but that does not mean there is no room for some up and coming baddies.
Portraying gritty carnage and unforgiving and impulsive killers, this film would do well in the world of Grindhouse showings. Chained to a sleeping person and surrounded by fire, writer and director Rene Perez introduces us to Cry Havoc when a hapless victim must carefully remove the keys from her dozing captor. The CGI fire and background might distract you, but the villain will quickly earn back your interest. His appearance includes torn and tattered clothes and he is covered with chains, but the real attention-getter comes from the attacker’s face. Think a gruesome stapled-together version of Leatherface and then gift-wrapped in barbed wire. Heavy on the violence and low on dialogue, quite a few questions arise from the opening sequence. Even though the scared girl and masked murderer never exchange even the most basic of pleasantries, the director does provide us a few details about the plot. The story takes place on a large piece of private land and is owned by a wealthy (yet ill?) individual who hires “soldiers” to keep intruders from interfering with the killing spree of the predator known only as Havoc (JD Angstadt).
Havoc, long ago labeled as the deadliest serial killer, earned his escape from prison because of a mysterious man known as The Voyeur. Teamed with his soldiers known only as Echos, the sprawling undisclosed location becomes a personal reality show. Kidnapping people (specifically aspiring actresses), the victims serve as offerings for the blood thirsty Havoc and equally deranged Voyeur (Richard Tyson). Cry Havoc actually comes as the fourth installment in the Playing with Dolls franchise (all featuring Havoc). And the suspicions and stories circulating around the mysterious location have become whispered content for everyone from horror fans to journalists to the authorities. With the growing legend surrounding the compound, a reporter (Emily Sweet) earns an exclusive interview with the Voyeur. During the interview, the Voyeur gives a recap of the previous three films, so non-Playing with Dolls fans can understand the intricate plot and character backstories obviously associated with films of this nature. For those familiar with the story of Havoc, you are rewarded with a few clips of some of Havoc’s most gory kills from the previous films.
The first two films in the series followed a pretty small budget and did not offer much beyond a few impressive gore scenes, but the third film (Playing with Dolls: Havoc) and especially the most recent feature really developed the overall tone of the characters. The Voyeur plays a role similar to the mastermind in the Saw series. Due to an illness, Voyeur believes he understands life far better than others and follows the Jigsaw-type mantra that a person must suffer (possibly die) to truly understand what they have. And while the bad guys consist of the made-in-hell duo of Voyeur and Havoc, the good guys also come well equipped with the intelligent Ellen Weaver (Sweet) and Hungary’s answer to 1970s Charles Bronson, Richard Bronzi (Death Kiss). Sweet covers more of the horror aspect of the movie as she goes back and forth between being the hero and the bloodied and traumatized victim, while Bronzi brings the action as he shoots his way through every scene.
The storyline stays pretty simple as the director prefers to focus on action and pacing. What Perez really excels at is creating an embraceable slasher atmosphere despite the movie taking place in a bright woodsy setting. The soundtrack provides minimal amount of music for the first portion of the film, but creates a grating soundscape of rattling chains, rusty metal, and blood spurts to present an unsettling and gothic environment. And I almost forgot the gore! You want gore? This movie has some gore. Say good-bye to your jaw, your face, your jugular, and your guts because all of them belong to Havoc. The horror aspects of the film fizzle a little bit in the third act as gore gives way to gunplay and a fairly forced family bond appears, but Perez does pull it back together in the very end.
Grindhouse, exploitation, and slasher films will never earn much praise outside of the world of horror fandom, but the subgenre still holds some creativity and enjoyment even without the ‘prestige’. At the pace Perez is going with releasing Havoc movies (four installments since 2015) and the increasing quality of the films, horror fans can probably expect in the future a little more Havoc in their lives. I particularly hope that when I am at Horror-cons and Halloween gatherings in the future I will spy a few Havocs amongst the crowds of Jasons and Freddys.
Cry Havoc when the film releases on VOD on May 5th from Midnight Releasing.
By Amylou Ahava
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