March 28, 2018 The Executioners (Movie Review)
Directed by Giorgio Serafini (Puncture Wounds 2014, My Boy 2015), The Executioners stars Natalie Burn (The Expendables 3 2014, Awaken 2015) and Jemma Dallender (I Spit on Your Grave 2 2013, Armed 2018) as two of four women who think they are headed to a secluded retreat, only to find that there is danger waiting for them that may just bring out some of their own darker instincts…
Arriving on DVD, Digital, and On Demand Tuesday, March 27, 2018 via Lionsgate, The Executioners is both an absolute product of its time and a response to it in that its intention is to be subversive and yet tends to only execute this in entirely familiar ways. That is to say, this is a film that fans of Slasher Horror will probably be familiar with by now – indeed, films of its style almost have their own sub-genre. This sub-genre would be the small but growing collection of Horror films that flip the table on the audience, playing at subverting expectations by having the victimized become the victimizers, dabbling in gory revenge fantasy. It is an ever more familiar trope by now, especially if you have seen a film like 2007’s Hostel: Part II, but naturally that should not count as an immediate strike against it – the question is not if the mechanics are entirely fresh, but if they are presented in a fresh way.
Unfortunately, The Executioners often fails to present its story in much of a fresh way at all; more often than not, it comes across as professional but predictable. This is not low-budget schlock, or at the very least does not seem like it; the shooting style is usually sleek and there is a baseline competence to the cinematography that can be unfortunately missing in similar films. Although, when it comes to narrative engagement, it seems to put all its eggs in shocking the audience with the protracted sexual violations of its leading ladies.
To be clear, there will be some who will certainly be offended by the sexual violations you see in The Executioners. However, it is important to note that the sequence we see in the film is intended to act as something of an emotional and mental breaking point for the characters, a real point of no return, and if it can feel exploitative then it is likely that this was the very purposefully crafted intent. This sequence is the high point of the characters trauma, the emotional justification for everything that follows, and interestingly it is something of the high point of the film’s editing too. It manages to be long and tense at the same time, and by not cutting away, the director displays a fearlessness that is not going to win him fans from all walks of life.
On a broader scale, The Executioners has its visual ups and downs. Right off the bat, it plays with light and darkness well, with that dynamic playing an important visual role through the film – it serves as something of a clunky and obvious visual metaphor for the film’s themes, but this is not a subtle film and an effective technique is an effective technique. There are just as many visual blunders throughout the film however, such as a flashback sequence earlier on that looks so lazy it could have been ripped straight from the B-roll of a Lifetime Original Movie – the issue here is shot composition directly, with the production crew opting for the most predictable visual signifiers to tell the audience that they are now watching a rosy memory.
That said, the film has a few moments like those mentioned, and these are demonstrably worse than the more harmlessly predictable things you otherwise see throughout – while ‘competent but uninspired’ is not a huge drawback from the film generally, some moments are worthy of an eye-roll that draws the audience out of the film entirely.
Interestingly, the music chosen for the piece often takes on the vibe of a more techno Thriller than a blood-and-guts Horror flick, and it works well – particularly in the first act. This mash-up of genre conventions works well in films like this, and actually does give it a shot of originality it so sorely needs.
In the end, The Executioners is generally a better produced film that it needs to be, but not hugely so. The performances are good, and occasionally very good. The content is predictable, but packaged well enough. The visual production is sometimes hokey, sometimes dynamic. If you do not have a problem with sexual violence, you will likely have seen worse, but you will also likely have seen better. For this, CrypticRock gives The Executioners 3 out of 5 stars.