Sometimes the silliest of premises are some of the horror genre’s most fun...
...Not every entry is going to be something that pushes the boundaries of what a scary film can be. Paintball Massacre is not scary and doesn’t push the genre into new territory, but it knows what it is. That is no small thing; too often in these smaller budgeted films there is an attempt to bite off more than one can chew. It’s wonderful to see director Darren Barry and writer Chris Regan able to create exactly the type of film that is offered in trailers and description, and it’s all the better for that. The funny thing is, while the film itself isn’t particularly memorable, it’s comfortable in knowing what it is, and that’s why it works. You may not be blowing up social media about it later, but you’re guaranteed a good time while you watch. This is a vital lesson I think that more independent genre films should lean into. If your film is called Paintball Massacre, it should have two things in it: paintball and massacre. Barry and team know this, and deliver on their premise, no matter how silly.
Paintball Massacre is about a reunion of old friends that starts as a fun paintball game and turns to murder. The premise is really that simple and, though similar films certainly exist, what sets this one apart is that it allows space for the unease that comes with reunions after time apart. Some try to prove that they are doing better than they are, some don’t want to be there. It reminds us that as much as we try, we are all at some point worried about what others think about us. There is a good set up with all of the characters meeting up in a bar the night before they are taken off into the middle of nowhere for a paintball game where they meet an overzealous paintball instructor played by the remarkable Katy Brand, who creates one of the only truly remarkable characters. The rest are sort of performing in a paint by numbers. There’s nothing wrong with this—in fact I think these serviceable performances were intentional—because everyone is essentially bait for the killer, and no one wants to be at the reunion in the first place, much less playing paintball.
Once the murders pick up, the film just quickly wants to get to the finish line. Once the classmates realize they are being hunted they attempt to play detective as to who the murderer is. Sadly, the weight and importance of this reveal just don’t have any impact, but it also doesn’t hinder the film’s enjoyment. Once you accept you are watching a film about someone killing a group of people playing paintball, it gets easy to live with the lack of resolution. The story works because the script is on point, and even if it fails in some conventional ways, an audience is bound to have a good time.
The weakest link in all of Paintball Massacre is that it’s shot and presented in a very basic manner. It feels very much like a standard BBC comedy from the ‘90s. There is no unique setup for the kills and no real flair to it. There are one or two elaborate shots that serve to either highlight the surrounding area, which is a beautiful wood, or offer a more focused effort to show the kills. There is a good scene where a character has to put himself into a casket to survive the attack from the killer. Even inside the casket, which should produce a sense of dread, the way the camera does nothing leaves even that as a lackluster moment. This sadly persists from the opening reunion throughout the rest of the film.
Still, when all is said and done this is a serviceable and enjoyable enough film worth at least a rental. Not every feature needs to reach for the stars, but one wishes there was just something a little more for Paintball Massacre.
Paintball Massacre is now on VOD from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Justin Drabek