Headed to Miami to celebrate winter break, four college students from New Jersey take a detour into the bowels of rural West Virginia. There, the unwitting friends uncover a grotesque legend that stains the fabric of a sleepy backwoods town: the legend of truck driver Ray Williams brutally beaten by a band of locals after stopping in town for a drink, his body left for dead in an empty cornfield and never found. They have a name for Williams now: Plasterhead. As those teens will soon learn, true evil has no face.
Too bad for writer-director Kevin Higgins that his debut effort came across more like a graduation project. I suppose the deadliest sin that a filmmaker could possibly do is to inject his film with cliches knowingly, and unless one has never seen a horror film before, it would be hard pressed not to dismiss this within the first 10 minutes as being terribly cliche filled.
Think about how many films you already have seen to have included the following: a blonde who gets naked just because, college kids, on a road trip, on vacation, taking unnecessary detours, no mobile phones / car ran out of gas, being loud/relative strangers/squabbling amongst themselves because of different ideals, one highly sexed individual who is probably going to be the first victim, and a house in the middle of nowhere. You know the drill, and this film exercised all those options and more, which made it look as if it's following a textbook of Do-Not's rather than the Do's.
Granted it's never easy to cook up yet another iconic horror legend such as the next big thing after Freddy, Jason, Myers, and in recent times, Jigsaw. Higgins had probably tried too hard in his Plasterhead, where his origin gets told quite low-budgetedly, through a drunkard's monologue in a bar, save for some flashes in the beginning which showed off some rather nifty make up for only one scene. Some boogeymen become stuff of legends, but this one pretty much bland and without personality. Even the anonymous villains roaming around the house in The Strangers would put to shame what Plasterhead failed to elicit when he does the same - that fear of someone being just around the corner.
The synopsis above would already give you an idea of what to expect, but execution wise it left much to be desired. Perhaps one shouldn't be so harsh on a newbie director, but I thought he would have been able to extract more credible performances from his actors rather than some very bad expressions filling up the screen. Production values look B-grade at best, and this film contains one of the worst soundtracks I have heard in a long while. It's a continuous, flat and almost monotone ominous music from start to end, and if you're listening to it by itself, you're likely to fall asleep like how one of the characters in the movie does.
For a horror movie, there is an extreme lack of body count, and those despatched by the villain also looked as if they had some cheap, fake blood poured on them. Worse of all, it had lacked a climax, chugging along on a flatliner devoid of excitement, thrills and spills, too proud to be opting to fall back on the usual bag of tricks, but never offering any other alternatives to make up for the lack of screams. What it does have is a little twist of irony at the end, but even that felt quite blatant, and left unnecessary room for a sequel which I suppose won't get made for quite some time.
Plasterhead should be expelled to the depths of cinematic hell for the sins it committed and the lessons it never learnt from.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD contains no extra features.
Despite its anamorphic widescreen presentation, the visual transfer gets a bit grainy at times. Surprisingly the filmmakers did not utilize the usual repertoire of audio tricks to elicit cheap shots at frightening the audience, and the soundtrack came across as rather dull since the 2.0 stereo was unexploited.
by Stefan Shih