“Raze plays like a cheap, choppy fetish video, with women forcibly beating the hell out of one another.”
Raze is another entry in the ongoing, hit-and-miss subgenre of horror that goes by the name of exploitation films, this time giving a nod to the women in prison type films of the 1970’s. While echoes of Caged Heat and Chained Heat ring a bit, Raze feels tired and destined to be dismissed on-sight by genre-purists who want a bit more, or can’t muster up the ability to care anymore.
The problem some exploitation films face is that they get caught up in their genre so-much-so that they begin to repeat themselves and become a muchness. Last year, the release of Machete Kills, the sequel to 2010’s Machete, based off of Robert Rodriguez’s fake-trailer made for the three-hour long homage Grindhouse in 2007, drummed up nothing more than a soft whimper in theaters and effectively did everything its predecessor did, only with a new band of actors. The film became monotonous rather quickly, despite its pleasantly corny vibe and clearly-spirited array of actors.
The slender plot involves a secret society that works to kidnap women of all different ages so they can be cooped up inside prison-like conditions, fighting in white tank-tops and gray sweatpants. Director Josh C. Waller’s focus, however, isn’t on the inerworkings of the secret society, nor is it really on the women either, but rather, on the brutality of it all. Dozens of shots showing blood splattering on the tank-tops of women, the brutal sounds of bones crunching, skulls being hit against medieval-style brick architecture, and women screaming in pain and in pleasure when fighting exist rather than the two other themes could’ve been explored.
Raze plays like a cheap, choppy fetish video, with women forcibly beating the hell out of one another. Its only saving grace comes in the name of Zoë Bell, an immensely gifted stuntwoman who made a splash in Death Proof, which played alongside Planet Terror in the aforementioned Grindhouse. Bell does all her own stunts, and possesses the strong, toned body, frightening grimace, and brooding presence that this particular film needs. However, Bell’s presence doesn’t elevate a story that gets winded well-before the hour mark.
This is Waller’s second film in only a few months, with his debut being the adequate but almost entirely forgettable McCanick, which boasted the likes of David Morse and Cory Monteith in his last film performance, but not much else. Between McCanick and Raze, Waller seems to know how to get the best out of his lead actors but become at the mercy of a lackluster screenplay that offers little other than monotony and exhaustion. In this case, watching Raze is a bit like living the predicament the women in the film are – what is the reward in the long run?
Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film Critic