Director: Jason Daly
Cast: Adam Leadbeater, Lorena King, Vivi Pineda, Cecilia Huete, Eddy Acosta
A group of friends on their way to a concert experience car trouble, resulting in them being stranded in the remote town of Shady Grove where the legend of Shane, who, as a young boy, was tied to tree and left to die but now stalks the town in search of revenge, persists. Unfortunately for the group, they discover Shane is all too real and is none too happy to have company.
FADE IN: A parked car peacefully rests on a quiet, desolate road. Inside, a couple passionately embrace and kiss, only a few short minutes away from engaging in intercourse. The man kisses and licks the female’s neck and lets his hands slid under her blouse, caressing her breasts. She, in turn, moans in pleasure. Suddenly, a noise is heard. A thumping. Someone is watching them! The man, in an effort to demonstrate his fearlessness, exits the car to investigate, despite the pleas from his terrified girlfriend. He moves into the darkness where he is approached by a figure. The figure is not interested in small talk and instantly attacks the man. Quiet again. The figure approaches the car where the helpless girl awaits. Seconds later, we hear her bloodcurling scream...
For even the casual horror fan, the opening scene described above is highly familiar. It is, perhaps, one of the most clichéd scenes in the annals of slasher cinema. And while the opening scene of Beware doesn’t completely follow the described action above, it does come close and definitely ignites a “been there, done that” feeling. However, the scene sets the tone for the rest of the film; after the opening scene, Beware employs virtually every slasher film cliché known to mankind, to the group of fun loving and oblivious teens who serves as prey for the bloodthirsty killer, to their car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, to a stop at the creepy, isolated gas station where a crazy local attempts to warn them of the possible danger that awaits, to the telling of the killer’s backstory around a campfire, to the seemingly unstoppable, invincible human killer. Beware is drenched with clichés and there isn’t an ounce of the film that horror fans won’t recognize. Normally, a film replete with unoriginality would severely sink in its own absurdity; after all, banal slasher films are not in any short supply. Beware, however, manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience that, despite the familiarity of it all, is memorable and a highly enjoyable throwback to the slasher classics of yesteryear. What makes the film work as opposed to countless other typical slasher films is the obvious knowledge and respect for the genre that the filmmaker has. Through careful attention to detail and a devotion to creating suspense even within the predictable scenes, Beware gently crosses the line from being a brainless, uninspired copycat to being an admirable homage to the golden age of the genre that many fans long for. In fact, this is perhaps one of the best homage to the 80’s slasher era since 2004’s Malevolence. Much like Malevolence, Beware is fully aware of what it is. Tension is built and characterization, something lacking in so many of these films, is carefully constructed as to give viewers a deeper involvement with the characters. Yes, they are the typical genre archetypes (with the exception that the cast is largely Hispanic), but they are given distinct personalities and desires that elevate them above their otherwise pre-defined roles. The problem is—and it is a major flaw with the film itself—is that the acting by all of them leaves a lot to be desired. Certainly, it is apparent that despite their limited acting ability, the cast is giving it their all and having fun with the material, which isn’t always the case with low budget films, but the majority of the cast’s obvious lack of acting chops verges on being quite distracting at times.
But despite the below average acting, virtually everything else about Beware is effective. The film is plotted in a methodical and deliberate manner that builds up to a satisfying payoff. The killer, Shane, has an interesting backstory and could rival any other major slasher icon such as Jason or Michael Myers with his sheer brutality and intimidating costume and presence. What’s noteworthy is the film never manages to get boring despite the careful pacing, as there is always something of interest happening coupled with a few death scenes for good measure. The final act of the film provides viewers with the murder and mayhem expected and from a low budget film; the deaths are quite creative and graphic, the standout being death by Guitar Hero. The climax is the edge-of-your-seat type of action that is reminiscent of so many of final chase scenes that films like Halloween and Friday the 13th did so well. And like all good slasher films, Beware leaves room for a sequel that hopefully will happen.
Beware is highly recommended for fans longing for a true homage to the slasher films of the past done by filmmakers who have an obvious love and knowledge of the genre. It’s a diamond in the rough of countless low budget horror films that flood the market each year. It will be interesting to see if director Daly has a sequel up his sleeve because, with a few minor tweaks to how he approached this film, the sequel potentially could be a home run. For now, though, grab the popcorn, get a copy of this film, and be prepared to be transported back to the good ol' days of horror.
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