"Looks like we've got a skinner!"
We head to the arid Deep South for a serial killer romp in Twelve, where shades of the Ed Gein atrocities vie for space with more straightforward slasher elements. We start in Las Vegas, where two newlyweds are just leaving the strip for the start of their new life together. They're so monumentally irritating that, within the first five minutes, I'm hoping they're going to suffer - and the film obliges, as a killer in a red truck approaches and blasts the groom's head off with a shotgun.
We then cut to the investigating FBI guy, who is treating this, we're told, as a suspected serial murder case. Whoever blasted the groom made off with the bride and, as in several other cases around America, removed her face. Some neat effects confirming this later, we're left in no doubt what is about to happen when we cut to a small town in the south and two naïve waitresses are talking about changing their lives for the better. And there's an ominous red truck in the area. Ahem, is that a plot signpost?
The FBI agent arrives in town in pursuit and it's not long before he bumps into that truck…in fact, a lot of truck-spotting ensues, and the town's residents are being kidnapped and picked off by whoever's driving. But why? - Eventually, the two waitresses Claire (Emily Hardy) and Vicky (Hatchet co-star Mercedes McNabb) realise that the people who are being kidnapped were all on jury duty together some five years before…It takes 48 minutes of screen time before the girls work this out, and by now killer Leonard Karlsson has nearly tracked them all down.
This isn't a badly-made film at all - it's always competent and there are some really nicely-handled close shots of the 'flesh masks' being made by the killer which lends the film a lurid 70s feel in places. The special make-up effects here are good, and deserving of more screen time than they get (it's always heartbreaking when you see the SFX team working so devotedly at their craft in 'behind the scenes' footage, and then getting little sense of that hard work via the brief shots in the film itself). I was also delighted to see the talented Nick Searcy in a small role.
However, the film doesn't really make the most of what it could have offered. A clutch of unconvincing characters (the troubled young man, the cackling barfly) mop up large proportions of scenes that never seem to go anywhere; the scenes themselves taking place in bars baffled me somewhat, although they are oddly compelling, and seem to be an idea of what bars are like formulated by someone who has never been in one. A pole dancer in a Santa hat idly swings round her pole in a deserted afternoon bar; Mercedes McNabb (who is by and large a fun genre actress to watch) flails around like a dervish in a deserted gig; a bar hands out free shots for turning in Alcoholic's Anonymous chips. This all seems highly odd, and diversionary.
As well as the fact that large parts of the film are dedicated to non-plot scenes which detract from the build-up of threat, the biggest sticking point is that the killer himself figures so slightly in proceedings. After a grisly entrée, the killer is largely absent until around an hour in; this is of course the greater part of the film and then it's hard to feel intimidated when he does show up, even though the closing scenes delve in Texas Chainsaw Massacre territory: women being pulled by the hair, nefarious goings-on, screaming, violence. Despite the fact that a few folk are being abducted during the course of the film, that initial promise of nastiness from the earliest scenes is not delivered upon. The premise of a vengeful ex-con is just not investigated - this is no Max Cady - we never get a sense of brooding menace, the killer never speaks, and you hardly see him close-up.
So, not badly shot, fun in places, but a film which blows its opportunity to develop an interesting 'in' to a serial killer flick, Twelve suffers mainly from the peripheral nature of its lead and the fact that gorehounds will be disappointed by the initial promise of splatter being put on hold for the majority of the movie, whereas crime-flick fans will feel little sense of involvement with Leonard Karlsson's story.
Sound levels here are clear throughout with decent bass tones and good overlay of incidental music. The picture itself has good levels of contrast and light, although with a slightly high red cast which gives the film a pinkish hue throughout.
The DVD release contains a 'Beneath the Skin' behind the scenes documentary, including interviews with the director Michael A. Nickles, actress Emily Duke, SFX supervisor Duke Cullen, producer Tim Montijo and producer Kurt Rauer. There is an SFX gallery (which shows just how much work was done here) and feature trailer, as well as an audio commentary with the director, Emily Hardy and Tim Montijo.
Review by Keri O'Shea
|Released by Chelsea Cinema|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|