Victim, The (2012)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 08/13/12 14:17:47

"I like Michael Biehn, but he's not enough for a good movie himself."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Michael Biehn has worked with some great directors over the course of his career, but his forays into directing his own material so far have been odd, to say the least. He went to Hong Kong to direct "The Blood Bond" but wasn't involved in post-production (and thus he does not consider it his film), and made this on a shoestring. You'd think a guy with Biehn's résumé and contacts who wanted to direct would get a shot at something higher-profile, and maybe be able to make something better than this.

Kyle (Biehn) lives by himself well outside of town, though he's not quite a hermit; he's just got his reasons for this sort of solitary life. It's about to be shattered, though, by the arrival of Annie (Jennifer Blanc), a stripper who had been having a little camping trip with her friend Mary (Danielle Harris) and two local cops. But now Mary's dead, and it would be very bad for the ambitious Harrison (Ryan Honey) if word of this got out, so he and his friend Cooger (Denny Kirkwood) aim to chase Annie down.

The Victim is a bare-bones grindhouse movie: The cast is small, the locations are few, and the short running time is noticeably padded by flashback scenes with Annie and Mary where little of note happens. It is made quick and dirty (a twelve-day shoot, and not a lot more in the way of pre-production), and looks it; it's got a genuinely stripped-down feeling without feeling like a pastiche. It's the genuine article, for better or worse.

Fortunately, director Michael Biehn has something at his disposal that few B-movie directors do: Actor Michael Biehn. Is this his best work? No, not by a long shot. But he's got a growling intensity that suits the role, and while he's not engaging in self-parody, there's an "I can't believe this is happening" vibe to Kyle that's amusing but doesn't undercut the audience's ability to take him seriously.

The rest of the cast, though... Jennifer Blanc is enthusiastic, but she doesn't bring a whole lot more to the film than getting hysterical. There have been worse scream queens in the history of horror movies, and while she's got some chemistry with real-life husband Biehn, she doesn't do as much as he does to make her character connect with the audience. Similarly, Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood aren't great villains; they hit their marks when action is called for but always seem to be reciting lines rather than actually making characters come to life.

And while Biehn is a cut above the rest of the cast as an actor, he's a work-in-progress as a writer and director. Aside from an extraneous subplot in the screenplay (perhaps left over from Reed Lackey's original version, which Biehn extensively rewrote) that leads to an awkward ending, he doesn't ever mess things up, but he never takes the unexceptional material and makes something special from it.

Would he have done better with more resources? Almost certainly; "The Victim" often feels very professional despite him not having a reasonable amount of money or time. But unless one is a big fan of Biehn's, there's not nearly enough creativity or quality to recommend it over other available choices.

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