Dir. Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk (1999)
A group of people agree to be filmed in a groundbreaking reality show, where they must live in an isolated lodge. They find themselves locked in with a serial killer in this late 90’s slasher cult classic.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Slashers were presumed dead by the mid-90’s, only to experience a legendary resurgence with 1996’s Scream. This topic has been beat to death, so I won’t go into it too much further in this review. What I will say, however, is that the deluge of slashers since have been a mixed bag of good, bad, and incredibly ugly, with very few rising to the level of great and none surpassing Craven’s classic. Every filmmaker with a camera was trying to replicate Scream’s slasher formula, and while there are many films that have become fan favorites from this era of horror, it’s difficult to make a good film that critiques both the medium and the method of other films in the genre. In 1999, however, directors Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk managed to bring Kolobos into the world, a film that is just as interested in creating “meta” film as its much more famous predecessor. It’s relatively unknown, which is a shame, because it’s a really good film that’s worth watching for those who haven’t seen it before.
The premise of the film is sort of a Real World: Horror, borrowing heavily on the groundbreaking reality television show from when MTV was worth watching. Kolobos suffered greatly from “not being the first:” Scream brought slashers back and The Truman Show nailed the critique of reality television. It also suffers from some subpar acting, which isn’t abnormal in the land of indie horror (or horror in general for that matter.) It does, however, nail the aesthetic of the 90’s, though it doesn’t feel like a film that comes from as late as 99. It really should have been made a few years earlier, and it definitely feels like it was. It also does a great job of creating an atmospheric slasher film that puts the audience in the isolated shoes of the film’s victims.
Which makes it heads above other films of the era.
The score is very clearly giallo-inspired (and I’ve read that it was straight ripped off from Argento, though I can’t verify personally), and the opening credits are intercut with a black gloved hand performing various acts. The kills have the bright-red blood from those Italian films, but they’re often more brutal and bloody than giallo tends to be. The dreamlike atmosphere The faceless, straight razor-wielding killer is another throwback of the genre, and those influences from films of previous generations run throughout the entire film. However, one of the largest differences between Kolobos and other giallo films is that it’s actually fucking good and scarier than I expected during a lot of its runtime. It blends giallo with the American slasher in a way that keeps the entertainment and logic of the slasher film while retaining the visual and sonic appeal of giallo.
There are some truly great shots in this film, and some of the kills are much more violent than you usually see in mainstream slashers. The creepy ambience in the house, as well as the twisty plot, makes Kolobos better than most of the slasher films of the time, and while there are some serious flaws and lack of publicity that keep it from elevating to actual classic level, those who have seen it are generally pretty rabid fans. The film does an outstanding job of presenting Kyra (Amy Weber), the main character, as an unreliable narrator, something most films fail to realistically portray. As Kyra’s loose grasp on reality unravels throughout the film, we begin to question whether the events on-screen are even actually happening.
How can mirrors be real if our eyes aren’t real?
The main reason Kolobos needs to be seen by more people is because, quite frankly, it’s creepy as fuck. It’s got some scenes with gorgeous cinematography to go along with its nightmarish color palette, and it’s an absolute mindfuck of a film as well. The end of the film is terrifying and shocking, especially for the era it was made. You don’t have to ignore that film’s shortcomings to appreciate it for what it is, which is a truly innovative and disturbing film with some incredibly effective scares. It may not be perfect, but it’s deserving of far more acclaim than it has received. Thankfully, with a 2019 bluray release from Arrow Video, it is finally receiving some of the attention it rightly deserves.
Who this movie is for: 80’s and 90’s slasher fans, Psychological horror aficionados, People who wish Argento made Scream
Bottom line: Creepy, effective, and genuinely scary at times, Kolobos is a nice mixture of giallo, slasher, and psychological horror. It has some limitations, namely in the acting department, and some of the film’s logic falls apart in the end, but it’s a nasty little film that needs to be appreciated more than it is. Give it a watch if you like giallo and modern slashers jammed together into a bloody mess. The Arrow tagline was “The Real World meets Saw by way of Suspiria,” and it’s an incredibly apt description.