BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Cheryl Burniston, Katy Brand, Lee Latchford-Evans and Robert Portal
Written by Chris Regan
Directed by Darren Berry
There are many ways a film can be misleading. Through marketing, audiences can be misled as to the importance of a character, which we saw in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Other times, the entire tone of the movie might not be properly conveyed, like how Crimson Peak was sold as a ghost & monster movie but ended up being a gothic horror flick. Less often, though, do you get hoodwinked by the film’s title, which should accurately sum up either the subject matter or the theme of the film. You wouldn’t just call your film something barely related to the content, that would be crazy. Unfortunately, while PAINTBALL MASSACRE is ostensibly about a high school reunion set during a paintball match, so little of the film is about paintballing that it makes you wonder if they reworked the script because School Reunion Massacre was already taken. Even more unfortunately, the title is only one amongst a laundry list of things wrong with the film.
Jessica Bentley (Cheryl Burniston, The Dark Picture: Little Hope, Child) really doesn’t want to attend her high school reunion, asserting that the only people who attend are showoffs and those who peaked in high school. She’s urged to go by her high school sweetheart turned fiancé, who totally ends up bailing on her. As she’s about to call it quits on reminiscing over what’s typically the worst four years of people’s lives, she locks her keys in her car, forcing her to grab a pint and reluctantly attend the titular paintball event.
There are other characters, all competing to be more two-dimensional and annoying than the last, that don’t merit remembrance. There are trashy folks who can’t stop with the brutal honesty, overly militant paintball pros, and demure wallflowers with dark pasts. Basically if you can imagine a pale stereotype of someone you don’t want to run into at a school reunion, they’ve been shoehorned roughly into PAINTBALL MASSACRE. This isn’t to say that caricatures can’t be funny, especially when they get murdered. Ready or Not and You’re Next both do this effectively in recent years. Sadly, writer Chris Reagan aims at creating exaggerated “types” and just ends up inventing larger than life annoyances, with no charming lead to balance them out.
As expected, everyone starts dying, since the killer has knives, guns, and bombs, while the reunion attendees are armed with little balls of flimsy plastic filled with biodegradable paint. This doesn’t stop some characters from attempting to fight back with these simulated weapons, with predictable results. Everyone approaches self-preservation in the film with a sort of laissez-faire attitude, probably in an attempt to get out of the film itself. Even after more and more people begin turning up as victims of ironic punishments, the survivors remain more interested in making flat quips than escaping.
While the acting is wooden, there’s no reason to actually assume it’s the fault of the cast, since there’s no way to deliver cringe-y lines convincingly without selling your soul. If the script calls for you to zing one-liners instead of just walking away from a deathtrap through the easily accessible of English countryside fields surrounding you, an actor is under no obligation to suddenly turn into fucking Daniel Day-Lewis. They’re allowed to phone it in.
You’d expect a film titled PAINTBALL MASSACRE that fails to deliver adequate paintball would at least lean heavily into the massacre part. Sadly, this was not the case. The gore is cheesey, and not good cheese, more like Kraft Singles. You can constantly see where the makeup meets the actor on every corpse, something that isn’t helped by the fact that the entire film is set during the day. You know, classic horror stuff.
Without giving away the ending, it can be stated that it is one of the most unsatisfactory resolutions in recent memory. We all love an ambiguous ending, but there’s a limit. Leaving something to the audience’s imagination is great, but just slapping an unfinished script up on the screen and calling it “art” is lazy and insulting. Like, there’s an entire film around the ending of The Blair Witch Project and being robbed of seeing a killer/witch adds a bit of flavor. PAINTBALL MASSACRE’s flavor is burnt toast soaked in ditchwater.
PAINTBALL MASSACRE is available now from Uncork’d Entertainment.