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A group of hot goths and punks descend upon an abandoned warehouse to make it into a space where they can hold their party later that night. Unfortunately for these folks (and the crew before them), they've stepped into the lair of a hulking, sledgehammer-wielding psycho known as "The Beast", who has two vicious minions to boot. Please Hammer, let's hurt 'em!
I'll be honest. I'd heard next to nothing about SWEATSHOP, other than it having a comic book prequel that involved folks meeting the business end of a hammer. The minimalist plot didn't exactly set things off for me, either. Things changed once I popped this sucker in, though, as I was pleasantly surprised (for the most part) at what I witnessed.
What struck me the most about the film (no pun intended) were the effects. These weren't the dime-store amateur appliances and such you would see in some low budget flicks. These were some truly heinous and well-executed deals. What was even more impressive were the CG effects, which didn't come off as being cheesy at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. They hurt. I should point out that The Beast's hammer is actually a pipe that's been soldered, hammered and wielded to an anvil (yes, the same type that gets dropped in Warner Bros. cartoons). It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to see just how messy things can get when this guy starts swinging.
As for the acting, it's a case of actors playing up their roles to the point that it almost becomes parody, adding some humour to the dark surroundings. From Brent Himes' southern redneck character Wade, to his counterpart Peyton Wetzel, who plays Wade's punk brother, Scottyboy. Of course, you can't forget the guy behind the gore, Jeremy Sumrall. The guy took a page or two from Kane Hodder, since the mannerisms of The Beast are similar to how Hodder played everyone's favorite hockey-masked mongoloid. The exaggerated deep breaths. The slow yet deliberate movements. It's all quite impressive for a guy wearing a wielder's mask.
While the look of the film shares the gritty, sepia-toned visuals of HOSTEL and the like, there's still a contrast in some scenes, which do a 180 and feature colourful rave-like imagery. Add to that a score dominated by ambient industrial music as well as featuring bands such as Genitorturers, the film certainly has an edgy feel to it. I also liked the moments where you had shots through the wielder's mask, which are always cool.
On the downside of things, SWEATSHOP needed some air conditioning in spots. There are some moments where lapses of logic take place (namely the ending) that while you could see what they were going for, it still didn't work. Also, the film delves a bit into the 'torture porn' arena in a couple of spots, including a mock crucifixion (complete with barbed-wire crown) which didn't make sense in this context. Also, as you could probably guess, the plot isn't exactly what you'd call 'deep'. Then again, when do films about a masked psycho smashing goths and punks with an anvil hammer have to be deep?
Once you get to the cleanup, SWEATSHOP is a gorehound's fantasy come true, especially those who detest the types of characters found in the film. While I was more impressed with the effects than the acting, there were moments where I chuckled a bit at the obvious larger-than-life portrayals. If you're looking for another HOSTEL/SAW mashup with a bit more humour thrown in, and don't mind the 'huh' moments, then dig in.
SWEATSHOP for me was more of a chance to sit back and watch folks get knocked over one after the other, more than anything. The film doesn't rely on much backstory or much of a plot, but instead relies on the visuals and gore to get things through. Still, it was fun to see, and has me wondering just what director Stacy Davidson has in store for an encore.