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Stream to Scream: “SWEATSHOP”

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While having a conversation with my brother about low budget filmmaking, he asked me in all earnestness why, of all the genres someone with limited means could tackle, most filmmakers choose to go down the red road of horror and exploitation. It’s a fair question, and one that I admittedly needed to ponder a minute or so in order to give him a satisfactory response. Ultimately, the explanation I cobbled together was that with horror, more so than any other genre, you could do the most with the least. A few buckets of fake blood, a single creepy location, some hard work and vision, and you can potentially make a crowd favorite with a fraction of the resources that the average Hollywood comic adaptation requires.

Directed, co-written, shot and edited by Stacy Davidson, SWEATSHOP stands out as a film that, while far from perfect, still manages to succeed in this manner. Taking place entirely within the confines of an abandoned warehouse, the film follows a group of underground rave organizers as they break into the place to set up for one of their many happenings. they’ve got all the essentials: DJ equipment, booze, exotic dancers, a kissing booth and… a roll of blue tickets for a somewhat sketchy purpose. And as if all the in-fighting and drunken antics between a bunch of ornery party planners wasn’t making enough noise to echo off those metal walls, the group soon falls prey to the homicidal urges of a giant madman wielding a cartoonishly large sledgehammer (along with two mutilated female companions).

If you’re looking for a movie with “likeable” characters, then you probably won’t get much out of this film. They all come of like the bottom barrel attendees of a horrorbilly show; all tattoos and piercings and dyed hair on the outside and wanton selfishness on the inside (some of the actor’s line readings also come off a  bit…contrived, to say the least). But if you like characters that are at the very least interesting, you might be in business, because their hijinks are nothing if not entertaining. The most memorable dialogue exchange comes from two dancers, Jade and Mika, as the latter schools the former on “The BJ Rules” (essentially, fellatio is only to be employed in “extraordinary situations”).

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The digital cinematography is serviceable, but the camera tends to shake a bit too much during the best bloodletting scenes, and the inconsistent lighting makes it appear as though the filmmakers were never entirely sure as to whether they wanted to make a film with a saturated, almost Giallo-like look or stick with the bleak, grey-blue-green rust aesthetic of many 2000’s gorefests. Still, the film does manage to feel like a romp through a raw and grimy place one shouldn’t tread, and the red-tinted POV shots from the enigmatic killer’s welding mask do manage to create a distant, inhuman effect that makes the viewer feel as though they are tagging along with a pure killing machine.

The film titillates and disgusts in equal measure, but is overall light on the real scare factor, save for a tense cold open involving a surviving victim and a cop covering his beat (featuring a cameo from FANGORIA magazine’s managing editor, Mike Gingold). Still, every film has their place, and this one lands comfortably in the “grab some beers and some friends and laugh your ass off” home-viewing experience. It starts and ends in chaos, and will no doubt have you and your companions shouting “What the f**k?” as you take in all the coitis and viscera.

Davidson’s 2009 “smasher” flick SWEATSHOP might not look like anything special from the poster art you’d see scrolling through the titles on the horror section of Netflix, But if you’re looking for an indie flick with enough gore and sex appeal to rise above some of its low budget trappings, I recommend giving it a watch.

SWEATSHOP is currently streaming on Netflix Instant.

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About the author
Christopher La Vigna
Christopher La Vigna is a writer, filmmaker, and the newest batch of blood to be welcomed into the haunted halls of FANGORIA. He’s a graduate of Hunter College*, and can be found lurking around any movie theater or comic shop near his person. You can argue about movies with him on Twitter: @Chris_LaVigna
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