Angela Bettis as Joan Burrows
Kirby Bliss Blanton as Olympia Burrows
Devon Graye as Paul Watts
Chris Titus as Jeff
Ben Cotton as Bishop
Monika Mar-Lee as Sandra
Brittney Wilson as Young Joan
Tegan Moss as Susie
Directed by Jed Weintrob
Halfway through Jed Weintrob’s orgy of ocular feasts, “Scar,” you realize the film’s 3-D approach is simply a front for an average script and a sub-par concept. It’s a magician’s show girl used to distract you from the utterly banal circumstances occurring just under your nose, or, a set of beer goggles to lend questionable depth to otherwise one-dimensional leads. It does a deft job of entertaining, but nix the smoke-and-mirrors act and you’ve got the equivalent of an interchangeable “Scream” knock-off – spiced up with today’s omnipresent themes of torture – one might find languishing on late-night television.
“Scar’s greatest flaw isn’t just the overuse of flashbacks – Weintraub’s only crutch to elicit jumps scares – it’s the wasted talent of horror sweetheart Angela Bettis, the svelte actress every misfit identified with in Lucky McKee’s “May.” She’s sleepwalking through this one as Joan Burrows, an emotionally scarred (get it?) survivor of a psycho attack. When she was a teen, Joan and a close pal were bound and sadistically tortured by a mad funeral home director named Bishop. His M.O. consists of kidnapping a pair of victims then slicing them until he’s granted permission from one of his targets to kill the other. Under the knife, young Joan is prodded into making a decision: die or give Bishop the green light to finish off her already-screwed BFF. Now, many years later, Joan is returning home for the graduation of her niece, Olympia. She’s also handy emotional support for her brother – Olympia’s father – Jeff, a grieving town deputy played by Chris Titus who looks like he just walked off the set of “Grindhouse” where he was Michael Biehn’s stand-in.
As you can imagine, Joan is already on-edge with so many painful memories so it doesn’t get any better when the local teen populace starts dropping like flies. She suspects Bishop is back, naturally, and we’re supposed to think so too since Joan’s increasing flashbacks to her tragedy never really explain right away what happened to her bogeyman in the French beret (yes, Bishop wears a beret – he’s sophisticated and confident like that). As the mystery unfolds, all suspicious eyes are upon her – has she flipped her lid? Is she the one behind the murders? Can we get an extra flashback for good measure?
Also suffering from all of this drama is Olympia herself, a young gal whose breezy life and budding romance with the school’s recluse comes to a crashing halt. She traipses around the flick looking good and doing what teens do, in this case: avoid getting a ticket from her father for blasting through a stop sign, assuring said policeman father that she’ll behave herself at a party he “doesn’t want to have to bust” and getting permission from this obviously way-too-easy-going dad to stay out late even though a killer has already claimed the life of one of her friends with another schoolmate still missing.
You know, standard slasher movie logic. Shouldn’t a film that strives to evolve “the horror film” visually do the same at the base level with a good script?
Weintrob, with writer Zack Ford, juggle a lot of familiar beats that find their characters creeping around dark houses, discovering the police officer who is supposed to be watching over them is really D-E-A-D or enduring scary scenarios that reveal themselves to be dreams. Altogether they amount to an “okay” visceral time but the experience is downright bulimic in the fright department. The filmmaker forgot to make his film scary!
To compensate, Weintrob enjoys the 3-D format, exploring its various avenues in exploitation, whether it’s giving us a perky-chested teen removing and brandishing her bra (and other goodies) to the camera or spouting off some arterial spray from a gashed throat. “Scar” does play it safe, though, and doesn’t overindulge in these obvious in-your-face gags as its 3-D horror forefathers like “Amityville 3-D” or “Friday the 13th Part 3” once did. Weintrob is wise to dispense with a few fun shots at the outstart then he allows the audience to sink in to his film’s world, even though that tactic ultimately winds up working against him. Toshiaki Ozawa’s photography is another desaturated – at times overly done so – exercise but he makes the utmost use out of the film’s fall setting and the layered compositions the lush (Canadian) environment presents.
“Scar” also attempts to out-torture its torture-bred predecessors like “Saw” and “Hostel.” It gets there through the most obvious means possible forgoing subtlety for quick-delivery on the meaty grue. Weintrob gets us to flinch with a torn out tongue. He manages to make us squirm as a piercing is torn out. But is it safe to say I’m bored with this now? Yeah, I think so. The film attempts to base this violence in ludicrous socio-political meaning by having the film’s killer come right out and refer to Iraq. Talk about hammering the idea into our skulls. Yeesh.
When the implausible, yet hyper-gory (yee-haw!), finale reveals all of its twists one realizes “Scars” is asking you to completely turn a blind eye to its derivative trappings. In return it promises to wow you with its admittedly impressive 3-D presentation and shock the hell out of you with unflinching violence (we’ll see if it all makes it to the screen in the long run). Fair enough, I went along for the rollercoaster ride, but at the end of the day I was kind’ve hoping for more narrative inventiveness…not some direct-to-vid flick posturing as something bigger because it had some wonderful technology at its fingertips.