Review: Junkyard Dog

Viveca A. Fox plays an FBI agent with psychological troubles stemming from having to use her gun. Her concerned boss John Kapelos assigns her the task of following up on missing college girl Galadriel Stineman (yes, that’s the actress’ real name). Stineman, headed to a Halloween party, doesn’t quite make it, after her car goes kaput somewhere in Squeallikeapigsville, USA. Enter baby-faced caryard owner Innis Casey, who offers her assistance, and takes her back to his junkyard home...and puts her in an underground cell to be raped, tortured, and held captive for as long as he wants. Did I mention that Casey is a cannibalistic serial killer who cooks his victims and gives the ‘leftovers’ to his dog? Brad Dourif plays the county sheriff also looking for the missing girl, will either he or Fox get to poor Stineman before she becomes the next morning’s bacon and eggs?

Released in 2010, this real life-based serial killer flick from writer-director Kim Bass (writer of the African-American centric romantic comedy “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate”, and awful African-American centric TV shows like “Kenan and Kel” and “Sister, Sister”) gets a few things right, but there’s a whole lotta wrong here too. It’s sometimes gripping, awfully disturbing, and Elvis-esque Casey (especially that voice!) makes for a most unsettling (if not physically imposing) and handsome serial killer, but the script and direction are mostly the pits. It’s far too clunky, as if it were originally a miniseries that has been hacked to pieces, though I did like the twist with Fox’s predicament and semi role-reversal. Meanwhile, the characters played by Fox and Dourif (playing the role of Richard Farnsworth) take way too long to appear in the main narrative.

Fox’s performance is way too abrasive and brave given the situation she ends up in (I know she’s a trained agent, but does she want to die and be eaten for breakfast?) and since she shows off some badass martial arts moves late in the movie, it makes one wonder why in the holy hell she and Stineman didn’t escape earlier. Casey ain’t exactly Steven Seagal or Brock Lesnar, for crying out loud (though he does have the most intense stare I’ve seen since Wes Bentley). But I won’t blame Fox because, although I’m not a fan, she’s just doing what the screenplay requires of her and her one strong attribute as an actress is her ability to portray strong, slightly bitchy women (Kinda like Pam Grier, but with ¼ the charisma). She does that just fine here, I just found the character too abrasive to be believable (and frankly a bit dumbski, unless she had a death wish I didn’t know about). She’s not helped by the dialogue either, at one point actually shouting ‘We are NOT going to die!’. Yeah, haven’t heard that line in a movie before. Dourif is better, but his role is minor and isn’t exactly a stretch for the talented character actor, though some might argue he’s a little cast-against-type (especially if they haven’t seen him on TV’s “Deadwood” or in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” and “Halloween II”, or don’t know that he’s a talented, versatile Academy Award nominated character actor). Like I said, he’s got the Richard Farnsworth role (“Misery”, in case you’re a bit slow), and I found it awfully bloody convenient that as soon as a certain someone gets locked up, Dourif comes knocking at Casey’s door (or gate to be exact), looking for that person. Really? That fast? I don’t think so.

The look of the film is interesting, as the production design seems like a slicker, blue-grey version of  “Saw”,  except that those films are ugly, whereas this looks good. Despite not being vibrant, and a little too reliant on blues and greys, it’s impressive. If this was shot on DV as I suspect it was, it’s damn good, grain-free DV, so for once you won’t find me complaining about digital video. Although most of the murders take place off-screen or are obscured, the film is still surprisingly grisly and bloody, so the faint of heart are duly warned. And the film actually finds a genuine use for quick-cuts. It’s used in a montage of Casey brutalising poor Stineman, and if these scenes were allowed to play out naturally, they would be unbearable. But by using quick cuts, the director gets the message across and a reasonable amount of impact, without going overboard with nastiness (It’s still pretty damn disgusting).

This film is plenty harrowing and disturbing, but it’s been so horribly written, with a really bizarre, clunky narrative that ultimately sinks it. I like serial killer flicks, but this one just didn’t make the grade. Nice touch regarding the title though, with Casey working at a junkyard and having a ‘junkyard dog’ to boot. 

Rating: C


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