Decoys (February 29/04)
Decoys is the first Canadian made horror film to hit theaters in ages (excluding the recent Ginger Snaps II), so it's a little bit disappointing that it turns out to be somewhat underwhelming. Though it's certainly not a bad film - it's consistently entertaining and well made - it's highly unlikely that Decoys is going to revitalize the Canadian horror industry.
It probably doesn't help that the film was partly financed by Space, Canada's answer to the Sci-Fi Channel, as the movie seems ready-made for a direct-to-TV premiere (there's a little nudity, but hey, this is Canada after all). Set in a New Brunswick college town, our heroes are a pair of easy going roommates named Luke (Corey Sevier) and Roger (Elias Toufexis, whose resemblance to Elijah Wood borders on disturbing). After sneaking into a sorority girl's room to return some quarters, Luke spies the girl sprouting tentacles in front of her friend - who's casually huffing liquid nitrogen. Luke reasonably comes to the conclusion that the two are, in fact, aliens - though none of his friends believe him (he was drunk at the time). After a pair of suspicious deaths, Luke becomes convinced he's right and begins investigating.
Decoys is packed with all the elements required of a horror flick - ie stereotypical characters, fake scares, etc - yet the film is somehow lacking in the violence/gore department. This is not to say that films of this genre must contain copious amounts of blood, but with a premise like this, it's odd that not a drop is spilled. Director Matthew Hastings does a fine job of keeping things moving, though he occasionally makes a few odd stylistic choices (star wipes? Did Homer take the reigns in the editing bay?)
Hastings also wrote the script (along with Tom Berry), and the two never quite exploit the full comedic potential of the whole aliens-disguised-as-sorority-sisters concept. In fairness, the film does seem more comfortable in the realm of straight horror/sci-fi - but such an outrageous premise essentially cries out for an off-kilter approach. The actors are surprisingly effective, particularly leading man Sevier and co-star Meghan Ory (who plays Luke's plucky best friend that's been secretly harboring a crush on him for a while). The only weak link in the cast is Richard Burgi as a detective who suspects Luke of the murders; though he's not a bad actor (he was fantastic in a bit part on 24), his over-the-top portrayal of this determined cop sticks out like a sore thumb (really, would any police officer continually refer to a suspect as "puppy"? I somehow doubt it).
For what it is and for what it could have been (Species, anyone?), Decoys works. It's not the most frightening or creepy horror flick out there, but it's also far from the worst; it's a perfect afternoon matinee type of movie, enjoyable but almost instantly forgettable.