A beautiful young woman wakes up in a dark basement, only to discover that she's being held captive by a pair of lunatics who...
Oh, you've seen this horror movie before? Fine. Let me finish.
...force young women to pummel one another to death in a series of bare-knuckle brawls that would make Chuck Norris cringe in fear.
Right. Josh Waller's stripped-down, admirably gritty, and very expeditious indie flick Raze is only about 25% horror -- and 75% down and dirty fisticuffs among ferocious females. The hook is that A) each fight is to the death, B) the final winner gets to live, and C) anyone who loses or refuses to fight can watch the death of their loved ones via hidden camera. Like I said, it's a pretty dark little action horror mash-up.
Zoe Bell, the stuntwoman-turned-actor who brings a nice sense of sincerity to even the craziest genre films, stars as Sabrina, a very talented fighter who (obviously) doesn't want to kill anyone, but neither does she want her estranged daughter killed by a sniper. It's that sort of Saw-style "damned if you do, damned if you don't" theme that brings a nice dash of horror to what's essentially a soul-bruising action-fest.
Let's be frank for a second: if Raze was a dark thriller about a bunch of men reluctantly battling to the death inside a dank prison, it might be fun or it might not be -- but that'd be a movie we've all seen before. The "novelty" here, and it definitely shines, is that, when push comes to shove, women can be just as tough, as calculating, and as heartless as men. And Ms. Bell is not the only one here who can fight. If you're going to make a tough, simple mash-up of Battle Royale, Fight Club, and a basic prison movie and cast it entirely with young women, be sure to hire women who can fight.
In that regard Raze is a blast; a kinetic, brutal, occasionally punishing, and sometimes visually impressive piece of low-budget action mayhem. The flick might just be a simplistic tale of non-stop fighting, but those fight sequences kick some serious ass. Throw in creepily weird contributions from Sherilyn Fenn and Doug Jones as the "fight master," and a dark, jumpy score that keeps things moving, and Raze is simply a gender-friendly twist on a very conventional tale, but it's still a rather fun way to spend 85 minutes if you're tired of the same old action.