I believe it was John F. Kennedy who famously said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but who you can kill for your country.” That might be a misquote, but the point is volunteering should be the duty of every young American. There are trails to be blazed, streets to be cleaned and naive young do-gooding ladies to be plowed.
A couple of those are the motivating factors behind the poor souls in this week’s horror flick… I Didn’t Come Here to Die. A group of six youths head into the woods to do their part for society, but they discover the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished.
Oh, and tree branches can be a real bitch.
Six volunteers go into the woods. One comes out.
There’s lots of talking here, but the words are broken up with splashes of bloody goodness here and there. We get not one, not two, but three eyeballs poked out, a glorious chainsaw to the face, a hanging, a rock smush and more.
The long legged and very cute team leader makes a pee run in her sexy underwear. She also changes into her pajamas offering a look at her underwear and bra again. Oh, and she also straddles a guy, removes her tee shirt and frees her two most attractive team members for a few seconds of air time.
Volunteering is not for the weak of heart.
Sophia (Emmy Robbin) is a team leader for a group of young people spending their summer working for Volunteers of America. They each have their own motivations from the truly altruistic to the hormone-induced, but none of them expect to have anything less than a good time. Miranda (Madi Goff) is the nerdy go-getter who pictures herself as the Dwight Shrute of this outdoor office, but she’s sick of being the odd girl out. Julie (Indiana Adams) is a cute hipster excited to handle chainsaws for the first time. Tim (Travis Scott Newman) has a career and a girlfriend waiting for him back home. Danny (Kurt Cole) is a nice, average guy who happens to have a crush on Sophia for obvious and ample reasons. And finally there’s Chris (Niko Red Star). He’s an asshole and a powder keg just waiting for someone to light his fuse.
The land they’re attempting to terraform was donated by the family of a young girl who was murdered, but instead of heeding the obvious warning inherent in that story these kids are real troopers and proceed doing good work. At least they try to, but it isn’t long at all before someone loses an eye. It’s after the chainsaw accident that things start to really get weird.
Writer/director Bradley Scott Sullivan got the idea for the film while volunteering in a legitimate organization that actually mandates chainsaw safety and forbids campground fornication. Happily he defers to genre convention on both of those counts though and delivers a fantastic chainsaw injury as well as a pair of breasts worthy of belonging to a team leader.
He opens the film with a jittery, intentionally shaky scene of terror, and the first instinct is to suspect fake grindhouse shenanigans. Apparently though the opening film footage was physically damaged unintentionally causing the weathered look. Thankfully, everything returns to normal post title screen.
Sullivan gets enough right here with his bare bones production from the gore effects to the hot leading lady, but more important he has some fun with expectations. It’s no post-modern examination of the genre a la Scream or Cabin In the Woods, but it still circumvents the expected plot turns at almost every opportunity. From who dies when to how they actually bite the dust the script never drags or feels obvious. And sue me, but I love what he does with the tree branches.
While some transgressions are forgivable two big ones stand out to the film’s detriment. The first is in the script as Sullivan tries unsuccessfully to balance the film’s tone between the horror and the laughs. It works roughly half the time meaning the other 50% of the movie will leave you groaning. The second issue is on the technical side and concerns the film’s “night” scenes. That’s in air quotes because the scenes actually appear to be day shot then darkened with some terribly obvious digital work. Whole images look to be filtered with the shifting exceptions of actors’ faces that are inexplicably better “lit” than their surroundings. It’s distracting.
While both budget and the talent involved keep the film from accomplishing anything truly great I Didn’t Come Here to Die deserves credit for moving beyond it’s own generic idea to some occasionally fresh ground. Most low-budget horror follows a standard plot with an even more by-the-numbers follow through, but Sullivan’s script takes some interesting turns. That and the killer chainsaw gag make it a worthwhile watch for genre fans.
I Didn’t Come Here to Die hits DVD and VOD on January 15th