Could be a new entry in the Down Under Genre Hall of Fame contest, or evidence that Hollywood finally has a firm grip on Australia. Either that, or they've been watching lots of Lionsgate horror lately, as Needle's slightly edgy slickness bears striking resemblance to modern American assembly-line horror. If it weren't for the accents, I never would have known this was an Australian production. (Well, duh, but you get my drift.) Nonetheless, Needle represents a nifty little stalk-and-slash picture with fun gore, a moody atmosphere, and good performances.
A group of young adults (natch) find their drinking and sexual tension (natch) interrupted by a few interruptions (natch). Ben (Michael Dorman) inherits a mysterious object from his recently deceased father, he also inherits an unexpected visit from his brother Marcus (Travis Fimmel). Ben and Marcus don't get along, but they're sort-of forced to work together as all of Ben's friends begin dying in gruesome and mysterious ways (natch). Could the mysterious object, known as Le Vaudou Mort, have anything to do with the fact that a poor dude has to get literally torn to shreds by an unseen force?
The trappings of Needle bear distinct resemblance to upscale DTV Horror, or all of those recent Hollywood remakes; with lush environs, expertly moody lighting, university atmosphere, and attractive 'kids' banding together to fend of an unreasoning attack from the 'other.' Minimal tweaking with formula jacks the plot a notch above standard fare, though ultimately it's just the usual revenge theme, filled with gory set-piece deaths.
An above average Aussie horror flick in no way represents a bad night on the couch, though, and Needle antes up a few more chips, too, in the form of some brief-but-delightful gore, and the truly disorienting element that is Marcus. Marcus at first comes across a tough-guy dick - and why should we want him in Ben's cozy collegiate life? As written, the character's way more complex than that, though, and Fimmel hides things deep behind Marcus' sandpaper surface. The brothers' relationship quickly deepens and mutates, while Marcus' position in the movie shifts unsettlingly - it's a true stroke of great acting and writing sold through Fimmel's quixotic, star-quality performance. Layered and sly, Fimmel's work (and his body) is in constant motion, he absolutely boosts the movie.
Plus, every ten minutes or so someone starts unexpectedly spurting blood . Clearly a huge draw in horror movies, gore is something viewers come to expect, and treasure when the quality is there. While Needle falters a bit, it's still nicely stout when compared to Prom Night 2003 or whatever. Enthusiastic limb snapping and multiple lacerations ensure mucho sangre is spilled. Unfortunately, (for the gorehound) these oozing phantom puncture wounds and such are often (I think) bolstered by CGI - which is a no-no in my book - and are also far to brief. Lingering aftermath tableaux are nice and all, but could you spare another half-second for the action shots?
No, it's not the Hellraiser wanna-be the cover would have you believe, but Needle is a well-above average more-or-less direct to DVD horror film (it appears to have had a theatrical run in Turkey) which is well worth a rent or blind buy for you high rollers. Looking slick, boasting exotic Aussie accents, delivering decent gore, and featuring Travis Fimmel's beautifully bewildering performance, Needle gets under your skin.
2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen video is pretty state-of-the-art for DVD. Details are solid, the image is crisp, black levels are good, and neither compression artifacts, transfer problems, nor poor film quality will trouble your viewing pleasure.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound in (Aussie) English is equally sturdy. The mix is right, never pushing any element unreasonably far beyond others, and dialog is discernible, if not always easily understood. (In truth, these accents are really pretty easy to get.) Active dimensionality seems to be employed most during the thick parts, while remaining more sedate in the quiet bits.
Stitching It Together: The Making of Needle gives ya 23 minutes of that good old BTS stuff you've come to know and love. The Needle Trailer and a handful of other Lionsgate Trailers, along with English and Spanish Subtitles round out the extras.
No, it's not the Hellraiser wanna-be the cover would have you believe, but Needle is a well-above average direct to DVD horror film which is well worth a rent or blind buy for you high rollers. Looking slick, boasting exotic Aussie accents, delivering decent gore, and featuring Travis Fimmel's beautifully bewildering performance, Needle gets under your skin. Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com