Director – John Simpson
Cast – Keir O’Donnell, Katheryn Winnick, Laura Breckenridge, Jessica Lucas, Tad Hilgenbrink, Reid Scott, Rena Owen, Kevin Cage, Brennan Bailey, Preston Bailey
Release Year – 2008
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Wow. I decided to give this one a watch after seeing it countless times at local rental stores and hearing one positive remark about it from a friend of mine. After giving this one a shot, I can honestly say after many months, maybe years of constant horror viewing…I found a new film to freak me out. It takes a lot to freak me out, and this film executed many different elements so perfectly that it succeeded in doing so. It is rare that we get a non-theatrical DTV(Direct To Video) film with the production and scare quality that this film has, and it is bittersweet given it shows Hollywood once again messed up not releasing a film, but that filmmakers do not need Hollywood studio intervention to put out a great horror flick.
Amusement follows three women who were once/are childhood friends. One of the girls is attacked in a home she was babysitting by a sadistic clown, another leaves a bar with a guy and never returns, and the third goes on a search for the missing friend only to discover a grisly surprise. What else could they have in common besides the fact they are childhood friends? Perhaps….something they did during their childhood is coming back to haunt them. Something, or…someone, is out for revenge against the three women. Someone who finds much joy in watching them squirm, shriek in fear, and…die.
Given how convoluted the slasher scene is, especially when involving a vengeful killer redeeming himself against those who gave him a troubled childhood(which is probably 90% of them), this film was a fresh watch that offered much to the sub-genre. The opening sequence is classic in nature and set the tone for the serial mayhem we will be forced to witness for the remainder of the flick. This only got better when we get our first sequence with one of our protagonists, the one involving the use of the clown. Wow. I really meant it when I said I had not been freaked out in quite some time, and it is thanks to this very sequence that my scare drought had finally been resolved. Perfect direction and great writing sealed the deal on this scene, and it remains one of the most chilling scenes I’ve ever seen.
Speaking of direction, director John Simpson did a fantastic job with this film. For a film that did not receive a theatrical release this really does give us a high production value. Each set was perfectly crafted at bringing out the utmost amount of awe-inducing horror and reminded me much of the NIN music video for “Closer”. Yes, very dark and moody with a sense of gothic surrealism rarely shown in the horror genre. Not bad for a guy with only one full-length film under his belt prior to this film. The amazing sets in this film were complimented by great direction and cinematography that brought out every creepy and tension inducing element of whatever scene was going on. Even developmental pre-kill/scare scenes were excellently done in giving the viewer a nice sense of dread over the events that will soon ensue.
As surprised as I was with this film’s direction, I was also surprised with the quality of it’s writing. Writer Jake Wade Hall, who penned the remakes for “The Hitcher” and “When A Stranger Calls” did a fantastic job with this film in all possible ways. The development of the plot and characters was well done, and the killer he helped create has to be one of the coolest slasher/serial-killers I’ve ever seen on film. Put it this way, he is referred to as “The Laugh”, how freakin creepy is that? Each twist and turn thrown into this film was excellently done and came at just the right time. This helped a lot with the film’s pacing, which I must say was absolutely perfect because I never once took my eyes off the screen.
Overall, this is an awesome film that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre, especially those who are mad lovers of the slasher horror sub-genre(as I am) and would like to see something new and creative thrown into the mix(as I saw). Give this one a watch.