Needle (2010)

Ten Suspects. Six Clues. One Killer...
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Needle - Ten Suspects. Six Clues. One Killer...

Needle is an Australian slasher movie written and directed by John V. Soto (whose name you may recognise from Ozsploitation movies such as Crush... or maybe not). Soto takes a fairly original concept and some intriguing characters and slots them perfectly into the generic American slasher template. Despite the customary execution of the plot, Needle does bring some fresh ingredients to the pot and doesn't resort to comedic situations to keep the viewer interested. The movie starts in a way that could potentially open up some exciting avenues towards a supernatural epic but it soon becomes apparent that it is just a stalk and slash affair with a creative plot device.

The film seems to draw influences from a number of genre specific sources, from the elusive black gloved killer reminiscent of Argento villains, to the omnipresent threat throwing suspicion on the environment in the build up to some teen's death as so perfectly utilised by the Final Destination franchise. The underlying Voodoo premise works well and enables the story to involve some mystery solving by the meddling kids as they try to save themselves. While the death count is fairly low, when the characters do meet their demise it is always a gory spectacle and the build ups to the deaths are implemented in just the right way to make the splatter the star. A common objective in slashers but an objective not commonly achieved.

It is refreshing to see Australian culture experience the impending doom of an unknown killer rather than the usually selfish and obnoxious characters that deserve to die, as is commonly the case in modern slasher movies. The victims are just a bunch of teens but they still have enough depth of character and emotional conflicts to procure some care and attention from those watching their antics. Plus there is some lesbian action thrown in too in case the characters weren't captivating enough.

As previously mentioned, the plot device here is Voodoo. More precisely a box that makes little wax effigies powered by a photograph of the effigie's soon to be likeness. Archaeology student Ben Rutherford (Michael Dorman) receives the last of his recently deceased father's estate while at college, which just happens to be the aforementioned contraption. As any respectable student would he decides to go out, get wasted and bring all his friends back for a play with the device.

While impressed with Ben's box, no one knows what it is so they decide to pursue its origins with their lecturers. After a sizeable amount of more vodka, a chance encounter with his estranged brother (who just happens to be in the area and just happens to be a forensic photographer) and some failed sex, Ben discovers that the device is called "Le Vaudo Mort" and is probably worth a tidy amount of Australian gold pieces. Ben also discovers that the device has been stolen while he was drunkenly not getting any sex.

All of these revelations come soon in the movie and it is at this point that people start to die in horrific and unexplainable ways. The plot thickens from here on in and the various threads (see what I did there?) are brought together in a way that tidies everything up culminating in a not too surprising twist but a twist nonetheless. It wouldn't be a slasher without a twist but there is the obvious omission of that one last little twist which sets you up for a sequel.

After the initial setup of the background story, Needle does become fairly predictable but is crafted in a way that maintains appeal. The depth of the character interactions (despite some dubious acting in places) and the extremities of the deaths of these characters that have warranted our emotional investment puts this film a few notches above the standard mass manufactured horror from America. Good premise, good execution, good gore but an unfortunately conventional template stops this movie from being outstanding.
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