cast: Steven Brand, Michael Leydon Campbell, Jeremy Fitzgerald, Emily Hardy, and Mercedes McNab
director: Michael A. Nickles
81 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
Chelsea DVD Region 2
review by Matthew S. Dent
Thrillers about serial killers are a dime a dozen these days. In the days when Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho, they were original. Even when Silence Of The Lambs, and the first of the horribly overdone Saw films, hit our screens, it was possible to get excited about them. Nowadays, however, it takes a little more effort to make an engaging serial killer film. And all this, apparently, is an effort it seems Michael A. Nickles, director of Twelve (aka: XII), couldn’t be bothered to put in.
Twelve is, unsurprisingly, fairly basic fare as far as this genre goes. A nameless, faceless (literally) man returns to the small American town he originated from, in order to reap a bloody revenge against members of the jury who sent him to prison for some sort of child-sex offences.
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As a reviewer, it feels a little deficient to use only one short sentence to explain the plot, but that’s genuinely all there is.
Now, I’m not especially a fan of this sort of film. The vast majority are simply by the numbers films, made as cheaply as possible in order to rake in a little cash off those with a penchant for human butchery. But this example is something of an extreme. As I mentioned, the resident psychopath really is a non-entity. If any name is given to him, I missed it, and his past is explained really only in a few lines of tangential dialogue between the rest of the equally unimpressive cast. Essentially he’s little more than a device to move the plot along.
(As a side point, the supposed backstory is explained in the special features, where the director dwells upon the character at length. However, I think it’s worth pointing out to the director at least that nobody bar reviewers and strange obsessives with too much time actually watches the special features, so in the end it counts for nothing.)
And, aside from the killer, the rest of the cast aren’t up to much else. All the performances seem half-hearted, and the characters two-dimensional. The highest calibre of actor we can hope to see here is Mercedes McNab (of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Angel fame) and even she can’t conjure up a sincere performance. When the general clichés of the genre are coupled with a cavalcade of other implausibilities – such as the fact that there only seem to be 12 people and a couple of coppers in the town, and the ridiculously unbelievable yet entirely predictable climax – it descends into the depths of farce.
In the end, this isn’t a truly awful film, but through sheer bland insipidness it isn’t far off. Between clichéd skin-wearing killer, unsympathetic victims and poor storytelling, the whole thing just felt like it didn’t care and, as a viewer, I found it hard to either.