Cornered! (2009 movie) review…

Cornered! (2009 movie) review after the break…

Cornered! (2009 movie) review…

Say what you will about the horror movie “Scream”: That it blurred the line between homage and parody of “real” slasher flicks that became the template for dozens, if not hundreds, of horror movies; That it heralded in the modern-era of teenage horror movie slashers; That it introduced the “cool” serial killer that responsible adults hate and impressionable teens secretly want to become.

However, the movie “Scream” did at least one thing right: Almost immediately, the movie surprised the audience with a twist hardly anyone expected – “Scream” killed off one of the “lead” characters within the opening minutes. How many horror movies prior to “Scream” had ever done that? The movie “Cornered!” would have done well to have copied such a tactic.

“Cornered!” is a 2009 horror movie about an urban convenience store that is terrorized at night by a publicized serial killer while it’s employees play a harmless game of cards upstairs. The motley crew of employees includes an overweight stock boy, a drugged out cashier, an employee who masquerades as a phone-sex operator, a paranoid owner and a female friend of the stock boy who’s a begrudging prostitute. As the evening wears on, the serial killer picks off the card players one by one until, obviously, the remaining survivors get wise and a confrontation ensues. Who, though, is the serial killer and why has the killer chosen their convenience store?

There tends to be two main avenues for these movies to progress – It can either be a “Whodunit?” where everyone is a suspect or it can be a “Survival” where it doesn’t matter who’s doing it and that the survivors just need to, you know, survive the experience. Unfortunately, “Cornered!” can’t decide between the two paths to follow and, as a result, loses much of it’s potential impact. Immediately, we know that none of the card players is the serial killer because, obviously, they’re playing cards when the murders are taking place. The movie, though, sets up some very tantalizing suspects: Is it the kind Morty, just making another delivery of beverages to the store? The pimp demanding money from the prostitute who’s chased away? The drug dealer called in desperation by the cashier to get another supply? The shop lifter who bolts out the door? The shop lifting beggar who tries to use his dog as an excuse for his crimes?

The serial killer, though, is not killing the employees through any old method but killing them in the way that they had confessed to Morty how they would handle the serial killer. This revelation is immediately apparent and narrows the suspect list down considerably, diluting the film’s impact tremendously. By the time the survivors get wise to this development, the movie has all but given away any chance at providing an original story line or bringing in a fresh element of suspense.

The movie makes a considerable effort to ensure that cell phones, or any other form of communication, are not an option which stretches credibility beyond reason. It also ensures that our potential victims can’t leave which also requires a far greater leap of logic then most people would allow. While such constraints might be necessary for a movie of this type to be realistically feasible, it also creates a completely unrealistic environment that forces the viewer away. Why not a cell-phone blocking device, if the serial killer is so motivated? Why not block the exit from the outside?

The card game is meant to provide character development but it doesn’t make any fruitful attempts at doing so. The relations seem strained: The cashier is suffering from withdrawal symptoms; the prostitute knows that, as some point, the pimp will be waiting for her to seek revenge; The sex-operator too disinterested. For only a few minutes does the viewer see a genuine group of people playing a game of cards and it might have been to the film’s benefit to have humanized the players somewhat beyond their stereotypes.

There are too many conventions used in the movie concerning serial killers to be believable. For instance, at one point, the serial killer is hit in the head with a baseball bat. Only moments later, our serial killer exacts revenge. Really? How many people can survive a direct hit by a baseball bat to the back of the head? A hard hit? Even if they survived, would they be mobile enough to even walk? Also, why didn’t the person hit the serial killer multiple times to ensure their own safety? If someone hit you in the back of the head with a baseball bat, would you be able to recover?

By the time Morty shows up in the morning, the movie has lost both the mystery edge as well as the survivor edge. Even a novice moviegoer can smell that something isn’t right when Morty decides to investigate the store rather then heed the pleading words of the survivors and call the police. Since the other suspects have not been addressed at all, the survivors soon learn what most moviegoers had suspected all along: Morty is the killer. I’m not exactly revealing that Bruce Willis is a ghost and most who watch the film would agree to that statement.

Morty being the killer reveals the rotten core that this movie never addresses: It wanted to be both mystery and torture pr0n but could achieve neither. It didn’t develop any of the suspects sufficiently throughout the movie. The movie’s message is also muddled – That the serial killer thinks that he is better then the people who run convenience stores because they are all losers who dream but never do anything about their dreams. Yet, someone must run convenience stores… Someone must work the cash register and stock the shelves… If no one went to convenience stores, they would all close due to economic hardship so convenience stores must have some beneficial purpose in society.

By introducing Morty early on, having him be a minor character but having him played by such a prominent actor, the movie practically tips it’s hand as to who the killer was going to be. With most of the suspense eliminated, the movie is forced to rely upon the “10 little indians” tactic of murdering the card players one by one but even this aspect of the movie is not fulfilling. If the film makers were adamant about keeping the killer’s identity a mystery, they should have hired a less prominent actor for the role.

“Scream” got it right; “Cornered!” gets it wrong. What could have been a nice psychological thriller instead turns into a cliched affair that is neither suspenseful or horrific.

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