The Hazing review by Matt Fuerst


I really like it when movies are fun. Obviously not all movies can be fun, a documentary on the war in Iraq, not fun. Bette Midler movies, not fun. But there are a lot of movies out there that take themselves too seriously, or play their role too somber and end up just being a bummer. A pretty serious deficiency in this matter occurs in the horror genre. Far too often what's happening onscreen is completely ludicrous (killer tomatoes? killer condoms?) but the people in the situations are playing it completely straight - sometimes too straight. Rolfe Kanefsky's The Hazing doesn't take itself very seriously at all, and once the story gets rolling delivers 90 minutes of enjoyable classic horrors.

The story is a straight throwback to 80's horror. Group of 5 college students are pledging to a sorority and fraternity. As part of their initiation, they are given a set of items to collect via a road rally and told to report with the items to the scary haunted house in the neighborhood. If they are still alive in the morning with the goods, then they are official members. The pledges don their mandated costumes, notably Delia (Nectar Rose) wearing a delicious bunny outfit and Marsha (Tiffany Shepis) in a skin tight space suit, and get to collecting. The big kahuna on the list of items is a Evil Dead inspired-Necronomicon like book, which Professor Kapps (Brad Dourif) keeps locked away in his house. Marsha and Doug (Philip Andrew) break into Kapps house to get the book, and happen to interrupt him engaging in some freaky activities with the beauty he just knocked off as a sacrifice. Rightfully so, Marsha in turn knocks off Kapps, unleashing the demon which will haunt all the pledges.

We make our way to the house for the freakiness to begin. The scares in the house are doubled, since the fraternity and sorority have set up a series of scares for the pledges to freak out, along with the book-demon distributing death inside the house as well. You never know if the next scare is going to be the benign one from the frat/sorority, or a deadly one from the demon spirit.

There is a major, serious problem with The Hazing and it smacks you in the face as the movie starts. It is truly plagued with what felt like the worst 10 minutes that has ever been committed to celluloid (though I imagine this was shot on DV, more on that later). The opening credits are bad, real bad. I'm in love with independent cinema and am glad movies like The Hazing get made and completely understand a credit sequence with voiceover isn't real high up on the budget list when deciding how to spend money. But man, this was especially bad. The writing on the voice over was horrific. Without any context, I had no clue what the dude was talking about (book, book, mumbo jumbo, book, blah, yak) and even with context it doesn't make much sense. Hey I guess it was cheaper or easier than some synthesized score. I survived and was greeted with our opening scene involving Professor Happs and his hapless, nubile student Jill (TV's E! Party Girl Brooke Burke). I took a "film" class in college, and I swear they used the exact same set we had in TC 210 for shooting this scene. On one hand it's a pretty promising beginning since it has Dourif, a pretty big name (especially after Lord of the Rings) and Burke (Playboy and Television exposure) in the scene but again, the set and writing is bad. Real, real bad.

But things heat up in a pretty big hurry. Once the fraternity/sorority storyline kicks in we get all the horror goods. Some self-parodying, check. Homage to Raimi and Bruce Campbell, check check. Homage Quentin and Reservoir Dogs, triple check. All good stuff and real fun. Gallons of blood spurting out from hacked off limbs and melons; Rolfe, you're talking my language buddy. Did I mention the ladies already? Ah yes, I did, calling them delicious. Yes, the casting was superb between Nectar and Tiffany. You get the blonde and the brunette. Pick your poison, both deliver the nibblets in the flick and neither are hard on the eyes.

Oh yeah, I mentioned previously the DV recording. Again, I appreciate that the technology behind DV allows more movies like this to be created, going with film can wreck havoc on a little budget, but man can watching a DV film be irritating. I'm not expecting Lawrence of Arabia when I watch a low rent horror movie, but DV recording really wrecks havoc on the darks in a film. I don't have a superb TV or DVD player but it is a noticeable effect. Not all DB has this effect, Episode II didn't have these artifacts, but I don't know if Lucas just threw money at that problem, if the difference is in cameras or what.

Last but not least, the DVD. I gotta say the DVD does get A+ treatment, good job by the DVD production company MTI Home Video. Present and accounted for are two commentary tracks (!), a serious one with director Kanefsky, then a slapstick commentary with the cast. Also presented is a behind the scenes featurette and a video diary segment filmed by the delicious Tiffany Shepis (how many times can you mention delicious before it's creepy? Oh, I already went over. Damn). Also present are some delete scenes and a blooper/gag reel which I always appreciate. I also want to take a minute to say: the trailers on present on this disc for other movies rock. This is usually the one menu element that is universally skipped over (who gives a hell which new JLo movie is getting pushed by some exec) but honestly, there were 7 trailers on the disc and I tried to add all 7 movies to my Netflix queue. Only like 4 were out on DVD and in the Netflix system, but I am really looking forward to getting them (another score for independent cinema).

I try to aim my reviews at Joe/Jane Everyman film goer, and honestly I feel that The Hazing transcends the usual horror goofs to be a flick that everyone can enjoy. If you can make it through the first 10 minutes or so, then I think a 70 minute fun ride awaits you on the other side.

8 out of 10 Jackasses
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