XII (Twelve) (2009)
R2 DVD Release Date: 27 September 2010
Distributor (UK): Chelsea Films
Directed by: Michael A Nickles
Starring: Mercedes McNab, Steven Brand, Emily Hardy, Jeremy Fitzgerald
Review by: Ben Bussey
Five years have passed since Leonard Karlsson (Fitzgerald) was sent to the big house for child abuse. As we all know, kiddie fiddlers don’t tend to do well behind bars, and this guy was no exception; his fellow inmates beat and slashed him up beyond all recognition, leaving him without a face. Now a free man, Karlsson has only one course of action in mind; to track down all twelve members of the jury that found him guilty, and get his revenge by taking from them that which was taken from him: namely, their faces. And given that all twelve live in the same sleepy one-horse town, tracking them down and taking them out isn’t going to prove too tough a job.
A more difficult task, however, would be to convince the viewer that there is anything of value to be taken from this run of the mill, psuedo-edgy slasher. Sure, XII is by no means inept enough to be offensive, but neither does it have any ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ charm. It’s just breathtakingly bland, almost a masterclass in mediocrity. It’s a film so low on atmosphere and personality that, even when efforts are made to break with convention, it’s pretty much impossible to care.
Writer-director Michael A Nickles may well be striving for something more than your typical low-budget DV schlock-horror, and to be fair to his efforts are not entirely in vain. For one thing, XII does boast a somewhat stronger cast than we tend to find in direct-to-DVD cheapies, with the likes of Steven Brand (the big bad in The Scorpion King) as an FBI agent on the killer’s trail and Mercedes McNab (of Buffy/Angel and Hatchet fame) as a waitress and former juror on the killer’s shit list. Particularly strong is newcomer Emily Hardy as the fellow waitress/juror who, it rapidly becomes apparent, is set to be the final girl of the piece. But whilst her status in the narrative might not be hard to fathom from the get-go, some of the deaths are less than expected, and the film deserves some credit for this. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call such moments surprises. To be surprised necessitates a degree of emotional involvement, and try as it may XII never manages to be involving.
Matters may have been significantly improved if there was anything interesting about the film on an aesthetic level, but here too XII falls short. If said it before and I’ll say it again, DV simply doesn’t look as good as film, and as such DV filmmakers need to try doubly hard to make their work interesting to watch; to make things that bit more creative with the camerawork, the editing, the soundtrack. But on all counts, XII is never anything more than generic. Even when it comes to the face removal scenes and the various other ways in which the killer gets his vengeful freak on, it all just feels tepid, routine, seen-it-all-before.
And now the defendant will rise: the jury having delivered a unanimous verdict, I find XII guilty of being a mundane, boring, lifeless piece of filmmaking. I sentence you to be instantly forgotten by everyone that watches you, and may the movie gods have mercy on your soul. Next defendant please.