It’s utterly fascinating how little actually happens in Michael Biehn‘s directoral debut, low-budget, retro-stylled thriller The Victim.
Once James Cameron’s boy wonder, appearing in The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss, Biehn popped up in Robert Rodriguez’s yawnsome Planet Terror and clearly picked up the neo-grindhouse bug – allured by wallet-winning combination of sex, violence, cheapo (intentionally in Rodrigeuz’s case, unavoidable in Biehn’s) effects and a value system so skewed that bad films become reborn as good films – the latter conceit being where all of The Victim‘s chips are stacked.
Opening with corrupt sheriff Harrison (Ryan Honey), whose peevish demeanor and idiot moustasche make him look for all the world like the pervy older brother of Scream‘s Deputy Dewy, accidentally killing Mary (Hatchet II and Halloween II‘s Danielle Harris) in the woods when some sexytime goes awry, it cuts to an excruciatingly long intro where grizzled loner Kyle (Michael Biehn) leaves small-town America to return to his isolated cabin and self-help videos. Cut back to Mary and her friend Annie (Dark Angel‘s Jennifer Blanc) and said corrupt sherrif and his buddy, the unbarably sleazy looking Cooger (Denny Kirkwood) having a sexy woodland party, we get to watch Harrison lure Mary off for some private sexytime and kill her all over again. Annie then legs it, begging our rugged loner for sanctuary.
An exploitation movie in the sense that it exploits what little is on screen for all it’s worth – sex, violence, Michael Biehn’s craggy face – and grindhouse in that ploughing through all the laughable, telenovela dialogue and constant is an utter grind. Biehn loves directing himself because it gives him the freedom to deliver his lines straight into the lens, with one bizarre early exchange in which he apparently holds a conversation with someone, but instead romances the camera like a drama student recording a showreel. Annie just can’t hold back her obvious attraction for Kyle, and they have Eighties movie sex while a rock ballad struts in the background. Adding to the whole air of self-indulgence is the fact that Blanc and Biehn are married in real life, so the whole thing feels like some sort of kinky friday night role-play that we’ve wandered in on.
The film purports to ask just who is it that’s the real ‘victim’ here. It’s looking like we are, lured in via the promise of ‘grindhouse’ splatter and thrills, though we’re left with nothing but a clichéd TV movie potboiler to be getting on with – the sort of thing that Channel 5 used to show before they scraped together enough pennies for Batman Forever.