Well, it opens in striking enough fashion: a toned female awakens naked on the floor of a darkened warehouse. She rises to her feet quivering and is chased by an unseen assailant brandishing a monkey wrench. Her screams reach fever pitch as she nears the exit, only for an inquisitive cop to enter and � out of sheer panic � unload the contents of his gun into her.

Okay, bad editing may make it seem like his pistol holds in excess of 20 bullets, but it makes for an eye-grabbing introduction in terms of stylised nudity and gore.

Unfortunately, SWEATSHOP plummets rather hastily from there.

Following the opening titles sequence, we�re introduced to Charlie (Ashley Kay) and her moronic bunch of friends. They�re all similar in that they don�t speak to one another, so much as they retort to each other�s sardonic wisecracks. I suppose with hairstyles as �outrageous� as theirs, there are no needs for personalities ...

Charlie is renowned for hosting fantastic parties. These involve a vacant property to break into, a bunch of horny punk mates headed by the loathsome Scottyboy (Peyton Wetzel) with drinking and screwing on their minds, and an obligatory black mate who can spin a mean deck as DJ for the night.

With all of this in place, Charlie settles on her latest venue � a disused factory that only those of us privy to the aforementioned pre-credits prologue know is a bad place to be.

These kids (well, people in their thirties who spike their hair in a bid to look hip) learn the hard way, and fall foul of a hulking brute in a welding mask, who hunts them down one-by-one with the intention of finger-hacking, visage-tearing and the like.

The survivors are, of course, too drunk and too absorbed in the terrible throbbing music to realise what�s going on. Until their turn to die comes ...

Shot with the same kind of faux retro flair that fashioned Rob Zombie�s THE DEVIL�S REJECTS, SWEATSHOP�s director Stacy Davidson offers up a curious fusion of flat TV movie-type set-ups and pop video aesthetics, shooting some scenes through a fisheye lens and others in a style more akin to an MTV link.

None of which helps the viewer warm to the surly, sarcastic characters of Davidson and Ted Geoghegan�s banal script. These nasties appear to be based on the punks of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD but try too hard to match their cool: they�re not cool, they�re annoying. And within minutes you�ll be praying for their violent demises. The only character less interesting than this desperate bunch is the criminally weak killer.

SWEATSHOP does at least deliver in its levels of violence. But even the grisliness, often mixed with ample amounts of exposed female flesh, is stylised under artificial coloured lighting and jarring music promo editing. The success of the SAW franchise clearly has a lot to answer for.

The gore resultantly lacks any more impact than that of an episode of "CSI". The FX are proficient but mostly of the aftermath variety, meaning we get very little in the way old-school splattery kills. Although a nifty face-ripping and a demolished cranium did stand out.

Tension-wise, the film has none. It�s effectively robbed of such by the above complaints, along with some seriously bad acting and an irritating incessant soundtrack.

There is a hint of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS about SWEATSHOP, at least initially. But it quickly dispenses with its threadbare premise and settles into a numbing succession of thrill-free torture sequences and predictable �shocks�.

The screener disc provided for review purposes was an extremely basic DVD-R. It contained the film only: no extras, menus, options etc.

For what it�s worth, the picture quality on the film was very good. Presented in 16x9 widescreen and boasting strong colours along with natural flesh-tones and stable blacks, SWEATSHOP gets a solid treatment from High Fliers.

English 2.0 audio was similarly without hitch.

I can only assume that the actual retail disc will, if anything, be of a slightly higher quality still � so all is good on the presentation front.

I have no details of any extra features that may be available on the final disc, but can inform you that it�s available to pre-order at a very good price on most sites.

Yet another torture-porn film of little distinction makes its way straight onto cheap DVD. While not so bad as to be labelled out-and-out crap, SWEATSHOP is perhaps something even worse: instantly forgettable.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by High Fliers
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review