Dir. Hope Madden (2022)
A girl with an overbearing, doomsday prepper father is desperate to prove herself and enrolls in a race in the world's most dangerous obstacle course.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
As a huge fan of indie horror and B-movies in general, I've been excited to check out Hope Madden's debut feature Obstacle Corpse for months now. I finally got the chance to see it, and I gotta be honest, it was nothing at all like I expected. I expected the film to be something along the same lines of Saw or Escape Room, the type of torture porn/brutal trap movies that we're all well acquainted with by now. What I got was a mixture between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale, a survival comedy horror where all those involved with the Guts and Glory Race of Death are tasked with killing their plus-1's and trying to make it to the end of the relatively generic (and not particularly dangerous) obstacle course as the last one standing.
To be honest, the subversion of expectations was a delightful change. Rather than being just another Saw-esque film, Obstacle Corpse plays with horror tropes and bizarre humor to deliver a fresh and fun indie horror with plenty of gore and some surprisingly brazen kills. There's nothing in the film that you probably haven't seen before, especially if you're a fan of the films Troma's been producing since the 80's, but that's ok: Madden took her idea and ran with it, delivering a film that fully fleshes out its unique premise while containing a depth of meaning that you don't usually see in films like this. The commentary on overbearing fathers and the internal need to please them is a good one and one that will probably ring true to a lot of the folks who watch the film.
The one area where I felt the film most needed help was the actual humor. Very little of it hit home with me, though I can see from other people who have watched the film that that wasn't the case for most. I felt that the humor was a bit juvenile at times and the main source, Donovan Riley Wolfington's murderous chef Mason, came across as more annoying that humorous a good bit of his screentime. That being said, he was also a delightfully psychotic character, one that made the film worth a watch despite the disconnection I personally felt with the brand of humor attributed to his character. There were a few laughs to be had even for me, however, and I found it to be about as funny as a rewatch of Student Bodies (though decidedly less offensive).
All in all, Obstacle Course is a worthwhile indie horror effort with some bright spots. Star Sylvie Mix is good as Sunny, the "final girl" character, as is Alan Tyson as her best friend Ezra. The star of the show for me was Gareth Tidball (who I previously enjoyed in Casting Kill), who absolutely killed her role as the deranged Shooting Range Stephanie. The cinematography was adequate for an indie film, and I didn't particularly mind the lack of score either, as what existed helped to further the film's comedic aspirations. While the gore itself was nothing too groundbreaking, there are some nice kills and a lot more blood than I expected from a lower budget indie flick. Kudos to the special effects team for knocking it out of the park.
Who this movie is for: Horror comedy fans, Indie horror lovers, Ironman Triathlon contestants
Bottom line: While I was surprised by the actual plot of the movie, it was definitely a pleasant one. Director Hope Madden does a fantastic job of carrying her vision to the screen, and while the comedy wasn't a hit for me, the action certainly was. The actors did a great job as well, especially Gareth Tidball as the lead's evil acquaintance and Donovan Riley Wolfington as the uninvited psychopathic chef. Check this one out and support indie horror!