Over the past several years, I've been fortunate enough to visit film festivals and experience a ton of horror films from all around the globe. Not just France and Japan, mind you, but also Thailand, Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway ... you name a country, and you'll find horror geeks who both create and adore these movies. But the recent Dimension Extreme pick-up, Dead in 3 Days, might be a first for me: Anyone out there ever seen a slasher flick from Austria before? This can't be the first, can it? If so, that means the Austrian horror machine is about 25 years behind our own, because Dead in 3 Days has a screenplay that feels like it fell right out of 1983. Which is both a good thing, and a not-so-good thing.
I'm guessing that every country's cinematic legitimacy is contingent upon their ability to make the ‘formula slasher flick’. Like, before you can graduate to serious dramas or romantic comedies, a nation must first produce a film in which five young people are lost in the woods, only to fall victim to a lunatic who loves sharp objects. Obviously if you grew up in the States, then you got your fill of this concept by the time 1987 was over, but like I said: Austria doesn't seem to produce all that many horror flicks, so let's forget that this screenplay feels like something cobbled together from 11 different slasher flicks, and just focus on the good stuff.
The look of the film, for example, is quite a bit more polished than what you'd find in the Halloween sequels, and director Andreas Prochaska is clearly working above the scope of his relatively generic screenplay. In other words, the story doesn't offer many surprises, but the flick is graced with enough visual style and editorial craftiness to make the rougher spots seem a bit more forgivable. And if the movie struggles with a "slow cops" subplot that adds very little to the final product, the horror bits are both visually arresting and horror fan-friendly. (It's not an ultra-gory horror flick, but the red stuff is tossed around when it's needed.)
Like most of the American slasher favorites, Dead in 3 Days also wants to present a half-baked 'whodunnit' aspect, which would probably be more effective if the movie had more than a half-dozen viable suspects. The big surprise isn't all that surprising, but the effort can be appreciated. (Hey, at least a half-baked 'whodunnit' is better than just a bunch of random kills, right?) Prochaska also opts to wedge a cell phone divergence into his first act (as in: "oooh, we all got the same scary text message!") that doesn't really pay off all that well, but at least it helps lay the groundwork for its very basic character development. Each soon-to-be-victim has precisely one character trait apiece.
The final result is an Austrian import that feels like an affectionate mixture of Prom Night, One Missed Call, and I Know What You Did Last Summer -- only shot with a lot more creativity and style (and blood) than any of those flicks. If you're an old school slasher freak (and you recently took a chance on the Norwegian treat Cold Prey), then Dead in 3 Days is probably worthy of an optimistic Netflix rental. It's hardly among the best of the Dimension Extreme acquisitions, but it works well enough for a 90-minute time-waster.
Ah, and the DVD offers nada in the extras department. There is a half-decent English dub track, but I opted to stick with the subtitles and the German. It's not like it's a complicated flick to follow.