Somewhere, in a warehouse, a group of people wakes up chained in cells. Soon, a madman comes on their screens to tell them they are battling for likes and for their lives.
Written by Michael Merino with Rolfe Kanefsky credited for doing revisions and directed by Michael Su, this film is a bit as expected in terms of a film titled Death Count. Most of the characters are here to be hurt and killed. There is a reason behind it, but to most viewers who love torture porn, this reason won’t matter all that much. For the others, it will make some sense and add a bit of background to the whole thing. Of course, this being a horror film about people committing acts of self-harm for the entertainment of others, it should carry a huge trigger warning and also clearly be for those who are not weakened by blood and pain on screen. Overall, the story is a bit on the thinner side, but the execution works. It’s not particularly scary and the final survivor can be guessed early on. However, the process is entertaining and it is well-executed in how it is brought to the screen.
The cast here is composed of many familiar faces to horror fans and those familiar with the work of the producing team, the Mahals. Here, the lead is quickly established to be Rachel, referred to as #3 and played by Sarah French. French has been finding her strength lately between this, Blind, and Pretty Boy. She shows evolution in her acting and really brings her talent to the game here. Playing a part some will wish had more screen time is Robert LaSardo as Jose Mendez, #6, who gives his usual strong, a bit in your face, performance which works great here. Also, in a part that could have used more screentime is Devanny Pinn as Selena Marshall, #5. She gives a strong performance here, going full on emotional and making it count. Playing the master of ceremony is Costas Mandylor whose face is mostly covered, but he still managed to give a good level of ominous presence and expressed threat to the other characters. The film has a bunch more familiar face, but these are absolutely the ones that should be looked out for.
On the visual side, we get an odd mix of things. In terms of special effects, they are unfortunately greatly uneven, most likely something due to budget. Some of the effects are fantastic, thankfully those are the majority, and a few gags just didn’t work, for example the arm being torn off just didn’t, well, cut it. Surrounding all these performances and special effects is the cinematography by the film director’s Michael Su who usually gives great images throughout any film he’s in charge of the cinematography for. Death Count is no exception. There are some images here that are lit just perfectly and shot at just the right angles. The conversation between Rachel and Selena through air shaft grates for example is shot in a great way, letting the setting be obvious and giving the actresses plenty room to work.
Death Count is worthwhile entry in its subgenre, giving the torture elements something to fall back on and proving that good visuals paired with strong acting can make a film fly. This is one of those films that looks a bit generic on poster, but is quite a good effort from cinematographer-turned-director Michael Su.
Death Count will be out July 19th, 2022 on VOD.