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TOOTH AND NAIL
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Mark Young

Starring:
Robert Carradine
Michael Madsen
Rachel Miner
Rider Strong

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

The world runs out of oil, and instead of relying on solar power or anything like that, electricity and civilization itself go bye-bye. A group of folks take refuge in an abandoned hospital in hopes of eventually starting over, when one of their patrols rescues a mysterious girl from a gang of cannibal survivalists (who look like they just walked off the set of MAD MAX) called the Rovers. Said gang takes exception, and we have ourselves a party! Well, maybe.

Is it good movie?

Fresh from After Dark Horrorfest 2007 comes TOOTH & NAIL, which from the outset, sounds like a neat concept. Problem is, once the film gets going, you have a rehashing of 28 DAYS LATER (substitute cannibals for the zombies) and ROAD WARRIOR (see above) thrown into a blender with Rider Strong, plotholes, predictability and allegories out the wazoo on the side.

Now, I will give the film credit with the fact that almost everyone involved does an admirable job. I say almost due to the fact that one of the survivors decides to paint herself up like Sandahl Bergman a la CONAN THE BARBARIAN and goes into warrior princess mode, topped off with one bad delivery of line as she was about to dish out some punishment. Problem was, it looked as though she almost forgot to say it (no joke). The rest of the cast includes the above-mentioned Rider Strong (who also stars in BORDERLAND, which was shown at the same time during the festival as this film), Rachel Miner, Michael Kelly and Robert Carradine, with Michael Madsen aka Mr. Blonde and Vinnie Jones (I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!) in the shortest cameos I've seen for actors with billing for a film. Seriously, the two are in the film for seven minutes at the most.

Aside from the acting, the gore is delightfully fun. We get a mummified corpse at the start, a wicked slashed throat, a meat cleaver in the head, an impalement, an arrow in the eye, an axe to the back, some beatdowns, two types of baseball bats to the face (it's nice to have variety), Vinnie Jones being called a retard and more. Unfortunately, some of the action sequences at the end of the film are in the dark, so we don't exactly get to see much, but the atmosphere makes up for it.

Editing-wise, the film was a tad slow for my liking, which wouldn't have been too bad if there was more in terms of character development. But no, these folks just sleep and mope about the place. Luckily, the tension sequences benefited from this pacing, so it wasn't a total waste. Still, the whole thing felt plodding, even at 94 minutes. I will say that for a budget film, it certainly doesn't look it. Writer/Director/Editor Mark Young certainly made the most of the abandoned hospital setting, giving the isolation inside and the realistic desolation outside (just because there's no oil doesn't mean all plant life dies and buildings crumble) that much more believability.

Now onto the bad side of things, namely that the story has been done before, the characters are predictable as hell (seriously, you can tell who lives and who dies from the first 10 minutes of the film), with the plot being equally as predictable (including the twists), and the fact that the whole idea is that the whole world went to pot because we ran out of oil? Not only that, but we no longer have electricity? Anyone ever heard of solar/wind/hydro power in this apocalyptic future?

To further drive the above subtext home (no pun intended), the protagonists of the film are named after makes and models of cars (Neon, Viper, Ford, etc.) all save for the leader named Darwin, in a film which boils down to survival of the fittest? Someone please tell Mark Young that his underlying messages and allegories are about as subtle as a poke in the eye with a rusty fork. Better yet, give the writing duties to someone else next time, dude.

Overall, the film is neither here nor there when it comes to being a complete was of time or an overlooked gem. It's merely okay. From the sounds of things around the 'net, folks were pretty divided on this one, too. It might tide you over until DOOMSDAY hits DVD, though don't bet on it.

Video / Audio

Video: Going back to the idea of making the most of what you have, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen looks okay, save for some glaring annoyances. Haloing creeps in at times, and details in the background can get fuzzy in some spots. Grain is an ever-present entity, while video artifacts pop in at times. Black levels are solid, with washed out colours making the film look that much more apocalyptic.

Audio: The English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio is strong and clean, with clear dialogue and an adequate punch during action sequences. The score is forgettable, but it sounds fine. The rock music that closes the film is a little too punchy for the end credits, but that's just me.

The Extras

For extras we have the same as every other Horrorfest release this year (save for BORDERLAND and MULBERRY ST.): trailers for THE EYE remake and the festival itself, and 20 minutes worth of webisodes of the Miss Horrorfest Contest, which aren't exactly chock full of information on the film. The ladies do look pretty damn sexy, though. Still, I would've liked to have had something pertaining to the feature rather than this gimmick of an extra.

The slipcase depicting the artwork for the film and the festival are pretty cool (skull butterflies never get old), even though the billing is as deceptive as a pre-op transvestite hooker.

Last Call

While the film sounded like a fun ride on paper, it quickly falls apart once you realize that it's the same song and dance you've seen before, the only difference being this one's on a budget. If Mark Young hadn't stretched himself so thin with this one, and given the writing and editing duties to folks who are experienced in those areas, this might've been a good one. Rent it just to see Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones dressed in furs and leather.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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