Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hazmat Movie Review – When Reality Shows Go Wrong

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: August 16, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Lou Simon

Hazmat opens with two young woman trapped in an old abandoned hotel. They reach the only exit only to find that it's locked, and a killer approaches them from behind. One of the women struggles with the man over a gun. He stabs her before getting shot. Just as the other one flips out, they reveal that it's all a set up for the reality television show Scary Encounters, which is pretty much that show from SyFy.

We then meet three new people planning a prank on their friend Jacob. His father once worked for a chemical plant in town and claimed that it was haunted. After his dad died, he went a little crazy and started believing his old man's stories. They decide to play a prank on him, bring him into the plant, and make him think it's haunted. What could possibly go wrong?

Things go well at first. The camera crew lock themselves in the former office and place hidden cameras all around the building. There's David AKA Scary David the host of the show, his girlfriend Brenda, and two camera guys. Adam, who set up Jacob, and their friends Melanie and Carla show up with Jacob. They convince him to sneak inside and see if it really is haunted.

David told the girls to hide and just try to stay out of the way and helped Adam pretend that the ghost killed him. Instead of hiding, the two girls wander around and spend far too much time talking about their problems, including how Carla apparently becomes a clone of the men she dates. Isn't it funny what random crap you can remember from movies? Jacob finds an old hazmat suit, which Adam recommends he ignore, and after slipping it on, he goes a little crazy.

It doesn't take long for Jacob to go from shaking and holding himself to going on a murderous rampage. He kills the actor who typically plays the killer on the show before attacking and killing his best friend. The camera crew watching from behind the scenes realizes what's going on long before the other characters do, but as they're locked in a room and aren't sure where Jacob is, they don't know what to do.

Hazmat does something really smart in the beginning. David tells everyone to leave their cell phones outside to focus on the show. You know how you watch films and wonder why no one doesn't just call the cops? At least in this one, you know why they can't call for help. The director also makes it clear that the reception on their walkie talkies is bad too, which explains why they can't get in touch with workers outside the building.

Unfortunately, other moments in the film don't make nearly as much sense. At one point, Jacob is tracking Melanie through the building and she manages to make it to the locked office. The other characters spend several minutes talking about whether they should let her end while he's at the complete other end of the building. By the time they finally do decide to let her in, Jacob is practically behind her.

They also never take the time to explain what made Jacob snap. The film crew thinks that he spotted the cameras and decided to enact revenge on those who set him up. We never learn what happened though. He puts on the suit and just goes cray-cray. Maybe it's a possessed suit, maybe he's possessed by some vengeful spirit. Who knows?

Let's not forget the so-called "hidden" cameras. One of those cameras is actually a rotating security camera that sits right near the entrance to the building. Jacob literally spots it a few minutes after they get there. The film plays it off like he thinks it's just a security camera, but why would an abandoned building have a security camera or an entire system?

The one thing I did enjoy about the film was the acting of Norbert Velez and Todd Bruno. Bruno plays Scary David and did an admirable job. When first introduced, he seemed like just another sleazy television producer, but he later becomes the hero of the film tasked with saving his girlfriend and friends. Velez takes on the role of Jacob, the formerly normal man who becomes a serial killer. Both men did a great job, and I look forward to seeing them in other films.

Hazmat could have been a good film, but other than some good acting, it came across like something I've seen before.

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