By Kenny Hedges
A slasher flick – particularly one full of well-worn tropes – lives or dies by its characters.
While some go for the 80s practical gore and feathered hair, audiences are typically just there to watch the body count rise unless you give them something to latch onto.
Fortunately, for Blindsided, director Johnny Mitchell has stacked his cast like likable leads, a far cry from the cookie cutter archetypes that usually populate such cinematic territory.
Leading the cast is the blind Sloan (Bea Santos), a young girl who spends the weekend in a cabin reuniting with friends Toby (Erik Knudsen) and Mika (Melinda Shankar). Rounding out their crew is the unfamiliar Tom, an understudy of Sloan’s criminalogist father. For a film based around a body count, the cast is relatively small, leaving the actors some heavy lifting. Santos is particularly charming, especially considering her role is not dissimilar to the deaf/mute lead in the far supperior Hush.
Like the aforementioned film, the characters are a far cry from easy prey. They’ve seen horror movies before, but can’t help fall into the same traps.
The blind conceit is played primarily for scares – scenes of the character unknowingly being stalked – but early scenes manage to get a few laughs. An extended scene at a local party is particularly amusing.
But it’s all about fear and even at its most predictable, Blindsided grounds itself well, ratcheting up tension. Having a blind character should seem rote at this point, but the scares don’t come unearned. And her condition, for the most part, is more of an asset than a handicap. Subtly, her friends, family and adversary see it as more of a handicap than she does. The hunter/stalker trope isn’t relatively new or innovative, but it’s handled well here.
Which is why it’s such a shame that the film provides any motive at all. A perfectly simplistic story, minus the obvious twist, would have played out with the same level of intensity. The third act offers a break in tension right when events should be at their height. It’s tacked on and expository instead of capping off an already tense ride with a big finish.
It doesn’t hurt, then, that Mitchell has an eye, giving a clear sense of space with just a modicum of set-up. At 80 minutes, Mitchell’s economical storytelling doesn’t let up once the first body turns up. One moment, in which the killer is face to face with the blind girl, is almost remnant of Hush. But it ultimately makes one wish they were instead watching that film.
It ‘s not a particularly frightening outing, but at it’s a perfectly tense exercise.
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