Director: Levan Bakhia
Released: November 2015
Cast: Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Dean Geyer, Kote Tolordava.
Reviewed By: Stu Greenfield
Revenge can be an ugly business and this makes it a popular underlying topic for many films, and it works particularly well for horror and thriller films. Pictures such as I Spit On Your Grave, The Last House On The Left and Hard Candy all utilise the topic of revenge as their driving force. Indeed, Revenge Horror is often recognised as its own sub-genre. And our latest review for the Film4 FrightFest fits smack bang into that category.
Landmine Goes Click is brought to the festival by director Levan Bakhia, the director of 274F. The film focuses on a couple, Daniel (Geyer) and Alicia (Locke) and their friend Chris (Knight) as the go on a camping trip in Georgia. As it turns out, Daniel has an ulterior motive for taking them on the trip and after the first night Chris and Alicia find they are involved in a revenge plot orchestrated by Daniel. Their idyllic trip into the countryside of Georgia becomes a living nightmare when Chris ‘accidentally’ steps on a landmine. It then becomes apparent that this was no accident and things go from bad to worse as a local named Illya (Tolvordava) begins to enact Daniels revenge on Alicia, with the help of his Rottweiler and makes Chris watch.
The title of this film may suggest some tongue in cheek humour, but Landmine Goes Click takes itself deadly seriously. Admittedly for the first twenty minutes you would be forgiven for not knowing what was going on. The establishing shots and the initial dialogue do not set the scene for the film well, but that does mean that audiences have to piece together what has happened in order for the characters to be in their current predicament. Once the first night of their camping trip is over, the film takes a dark turn and keeps getting darker. As it gets darker, the film gets more and more impressive.
Once Chris has stepped on the landmine it is almost as if he has stepped on a button that moves the film up a gear. The script and the acting become much more focused. The score begins to play a part in setting the atmosphere however it is minimal, utilising the script and the environment to build the tension. Landmine Goes Click looks much more at mental torture initially, rather than the gory, bloody retribution that is seen in revenge films such as the Saw franchise. The use of minimal dramatic soundtrack emphasises this. However during a particularly disturbing and brutal scene involving Illya and Alicia, the score is used to great effect to add an eerie yet calm atmosphere to an act that is otherwise manic and frightening. The two opposing mediums, visual and audible, join together to form a scene that is very effecting.
Landmine Goes Click is typical of its type in that it builds it’s tension over time. The mental torture of Alicia and Chris gets gradually worse as the film progresses, however what is atypical is the twist that the narrative offers us towards the end of the film, highlighting that this is more than a simple revenge flick. The plot is tipped on its head two thirds of the way through in a way that moves the film up another gear. The pacing of the film matches the build-up of the brutality beginning slowly but as the intensity of the torture builds, the pace of the film increases.
Sterling Knight gives a strong yet worrying performance as Chris. He is introduced as a bit of a loser, the third wheel of a relationship that he wants to be a partner in. But as the film progresses his anger and his confidence begins to grow and by the final third of the film his character is quite chilling. His portrayal of a character that goes through some acute trauma is peculiarly positive and upbeat at points, which diverts from his original ‘victim’ persona. Sterling, who is known for playing characters in comedies such as Melissa and Joey and 17 Again, plays the changing character admirably with nuances that would make a seasoned horror actor worry about their career.
Landmine Goes Click does not look great on the surface. The title does not do it justice and the opening scene is weak. But if audiences stick with this film they will be (un)pleasantly surprised. The film builds like a crescendo into a disturbing and enthralling horror/thriller that is as quietly exciting as it is unsettling.