I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer

Thursday, 18 June 2009 06:54

“Runs” is definitely one of the more left-field offerings in the horror genre. The simple pitch, if you will, is that an Australian school boy who was horribly bullied twenty years ago has grown up, and gone bonkers. Our nemesis seeks bloody revenge against members of a cricket team who carried out the spiteful act. After the first handful of grisly deaths, detectives from the New South Wales Police Force figure out the modus operandi, and quickly gather up the remaining team members. Once transported to a ‘safe’ house, the cricketers and their police escort must lie low. Of course, the bat-wielding fiend finds out about the house, and so - one by one – like wickets in a cricket match - the erstwhile bullies succumb.

Like so many horror films, “Runs” is a decidedly low-budget affair. It is overwhelmingly the work of two people: Stacey Edmonds and Doug Turner. Amazingly, the duo wrote, directed, produced and starred in it, and that is just for starters!

Runs Last Summer DVD coverHowever, despite the extreme financial limitations, they have made a decent stab at a feature film. Most notably, some excellent location scouting contributes heavily to its atmosphere. Rather than placing the safe house in an inconspicuous, busy neighbourhood, it lies in the Australian countryside, surrounded by derelict buildings overrun by creeping vegetation. In addition, as the DVD extras attest, technically adept “grading” of the digital film stock produces a much moodier, dingier aura than some budget films attain.

Location is not everything, of course. Without a decent baddie and a lovable/hateable group of hapless victims, a horror film will crumble. In this instance, the cricket team are not drawn out in much depth, but they do establish sufficient macho stupidity before the deaths commence to satisfy the audience’s blood-lust. As is the intention, only the police hero (Jai Koutrae) invokes a small measure of support – everyone else is fair game! It is perhaps a little disappointing that most of the manly bragging witnessed earlier in the film results in typically easy fodder for the killer. These days we like to see our victims put up more of a fight!

And so we move on to the cricket-mad murderer himself and his bizarre array of weaponry. In some respects, the novelty of a killer who dresses up in cricketer’s gear and butchers with souped-up cricket equipment brings some freshness to the film. For most of the 75-minute duration, the killer’s face is masked beneath a wide-brimmed hat, and he has the requisite stature to tower over his victims. This helps to maintain some much-needed mystique. In contrast to his uniform, the weapons he uses are anything but cosily familiar. At the forefront of his arsenal are some cricket stumps with metal spikes that he uses to stake his victims like a bizarre, antipodean Buffy. He also has a penchant for nails, bowling balls spiked-through with them, and – for the male viewers, at least – an excruciating crotch guard that really does not bear thinking about! Last, but by no means least, there is the iconic cricket bat, which is always handy for rending your targets senseless.

If there are deaths, then there must be gore, and “Runs” once more belies its tight finances. The special effects “team” shower us in blood and intestines, and make limited but seamless use of CGI to embellish the arterial splatter.

These aspects bring some effective ingredients to the table, but they are undone somewhat by other aspects of the film. Firstly, the budgetary constraints do expose themselves in terms of a weak dialogue track that is sometimes tinny and difficult to make out. The sound effects are mixed competently, though the almost unbroken musical soundtrack should perhaps have made way for occasional stints of silence, or to let midnight cicadas create some atmosphere. As it is, there are few jump shocks because the music gives too much away. Another weakness of the movie is a jarring and horribly out-of-place shower scene featuring Miss Nude Australia (Arianna Starr) as a body double. Yes, many, many horror films feature sex scenes – especially before a grisly death, but in this instance the scene feels forced, incredibly exploitative and ultimately is completely lacking in sexual tension. As one of the special features is an extended cut of this scene, one feels it might have been included solely as a crude, back-of-the-box bullet-point to clinch the deal for horny young males! Utterly shameless!

All told, “Runs” is a stubbornly average horror film. However, despite feeling a little disappointed as the credits rolled, my subsequent exploration of the extras (barring the one mentioned above) did engender some more positive feelings towards the movie. In a few other reviews I have bemoaned the lack of special features in low-budget films. This DVD’s content reaffirms my belief in how entertaining and informative relatively amateurish film makers can be when they reveal their trials and tribulations whilst making their film. The list of extras covers all of the angles, including a moderated directors’ commentary, a “Bloody FX” featurette, a “Making Runs” making-of, a video showing the difference between raw and graded footage (it is quite effective), a “Joadja [location] Diary”, an “Audio Mix Diary”, an introductory presentation from Stacey and Doug for the Abertoir Horror Festival, and lastly a music video! All-in-all, it is a comprehensive package.

The DVD, certificate 18, is released on 29 June 2009, RRP £12.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Movie Review: I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer (AUS, 2008)

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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