Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Release Review - Cyrus : Mind of a Serial Killer



Ambitious television reporter Maria Sanchez is investigating the disappearance of over 200 Midwestern University students when a local man contacts her with information that reveals details of the serial killer and his crimes. His name is Cyrus and the murders themselves were brutal. What happened next was horrific - but the worst is still yet to come.

I gotta say, there's nothing about that bland and generic plot and cover art that would have ever compelled me to see this movie. But the reason I picked it up from Walmart for $10 the other day was because of the two actors names in parentheses that came after "Maria Sanchez" and "a local man" on that back cover description; Danielle Harris and Lance Henriksen. As most horror fans are, i'm a big time fan of both Harris and Henriksen and will pretty much check out anything that has either of their names slapped on the cover, a compulsion that at times results in me sitting through some pretty crappy movies. Unfortunately, as with many a star who mostly works within the horror genre, those two can fairly frequently be found taking on less than stellar material for a paycheck, oftentimes only appearing in short cameos despite being boasted as the stars so that the directors can pay them little and still draw in DVD sales from their diehard fans. It's a sad truth, but I guess that's just the nature of being a genre star. While i'm happy to report that both of the stars are given ample screentime in Cyrus, and while it is better than many of the films the two of them have individually appeared in, i'm kinda wishing I had saved that 10 bucks so I could head over to the local 7-11 right about now and instead buy myself a tasty 6 pack on this lonely Saturday night.

Cyrus starts out as a very promising and smart film about a sympathetic killer whose identity has seemingly been protected by the small town he killed in for years so that no negative attention would be brought their way. The story of the killer is being told to Danielle Harris (and us) by Lance Henriksen, a smart choice that allows Henriksen's iconic voice to serve as the voice over narrator of the film. At the beginning of the story he tells us, and we see, that Cyrus killed his wife and the man she was cheating on him with, but then Henriksen snaps us back to the town's look the other way attitude, explaining that the way they choose to see it, the wife and the man simply left town. At times, you're even made to wonder which telling of the story is the truth. Maybe it's just me who interpreted it that way, but I was highly engrossed in the film in the early stages both because I was interested to find out who Cyrus really was and because Danielle Harris and Lance Henriksen were on screen for the majority of the first half of the film. Always like to watch them do their thing, no matter the quality of the films they're in.

But then something happened, which totally lost my interest. The film went from a well thought out and intricate setup into a totally generic and by the numbers torture flick, a torture flick without too much of Harris or Henriksen in it. Cyrus changes over from that sympathetic and mysterious killer into your typical torture movie villain, totally batshit crazy and killing anyone that he can find to kill. I get that the movie was trying to show that progression of the character from good guy to pure evil motherfucker, but I couldn't help but feel that things became all too typical as the character grew before our eyes. When that change took place, and a CGI kill even waltzed into the proceedings, the movie for me became just like any other horror movie of the sort, with the torture and gore replacing that solid story and characterization from the first half. It was at this point that I realized that Harris and Henriksen were in another stinker. A stinker that didn't smell too bad, but a stinker nonetheless.

Aside from a few memorable moments, including the most disturbing breast feeding scene ever committed to film and some really artistic and almost beautiful faux crime scene photos, as well as solid acting by Henriksen (as always) and the always pleasant sight of Danielle Harris (as well as brief appearances by Doug Jones and Tiffany Shepis - yep, she shows the goods), Cyrus is a film that ultimately went in one side of my head and completely out the other by the time the all too predictable "twist" ending ushered us into the end credits (you probably already figured it out just by reading the above plot). It's certaintly not a terrible movie, and I appreciate its well thought out story and the intention of writer/director Mark Vadik to take us inside the mind of a serial killer, but Cyrus simply felt far too familiar to me throughout much of its runtime. It's one of those films that sadly just can't seem to figure out what kind of horror film it wants to commit to being. The ambition was there and the setup was solid but when all is said and done, it's just another mediocre and forgettable horror film. Then again, most of the films I see these days seem to be far less than mediocre, so I guess mediocrity isn't such a horrible level to be on within the genre.

Oh and as for this being "based on true events", the only relation it has to anything that actually happened is that the character of Cyrus is a sort of mish-mash of several real life serial killers from the past, many of whom are quoted in a strange post-credits sequence.

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