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Film Review: Maximum Violence (AKA Popular) (2011)

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SYNOPSIS:

A killer stalks a girls boarding school, killing those she deems popular.

REVIEW:

If ever a film didn’t live up to it’s name…

Maximum Violence is essentially a standard slasher movie, taking place at a boarding school for a group of rich and fabulous girls. Unlike most slasher movies, the kills contained within are neither bloody, nor particularly “maximumly violent.” The girls who live at the school, like most teenage girls (I own one, I should know), only care about being popular and the material things that they need to acquire to attain those levels of popularity. They drive fancy cars, they wear fancy clothes, they want to be seen with just the fanciest boys. Their heightened need for popularity, unfortunately, draws upon them a vengeful spirit who wants nothing more than to see them suffer.

When the film first starts up, you can tell that production quality is actually quite good. And it really was, throughout most of the movie. The acting isn’t all that bad, the locations vary between beautiful and foreboding, and the killer’s backstory is actually fairly interesting (abuse, molestation, and murder, oh my).

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Unfortunately, either due to time constraints or just the fact that the plot is laid out rather hamhandedly, we don’t find out what’s going on with the killer until the end, and that’s really more of an afterthought than anything else. There are kills aplenty, to be sure, but none of them are violent, with little to no blood throughout most of the film. When I sit down to see a slasher movie, I want creative kills and copious bloodshed, and this film had neither, resulting in a disappointing film whose plot could’ve come out of a Dario Argento movie had the people making it known what they were doing.

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That is part of what’s very frustrating about Maximum Violence. The boarding school plot, the vengeful (female, interestingly enough) killer, the presence of a purple balloon whenever shit was about to go down… it all seems like something out of Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy. The art just wasn’t there, nor was the storytelling. It all seems forced together, as if they had to find a resolution to the backstory of the killer (which is shown after she lays her hands on another girl’s face, sharing with her the psychic vision of her terrible demise) that would fit (supposedly) neatly into the very, smack end of the movie.

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What’s interesting is, the lack of substance in this film is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Very few slasher films have much of a real plot to speak of, and most that try to shoehorn in a more meaningful plot fall flat. In fact, some of the really good, classic slashers have very little substance at all besides a masked killer murdering teenagers in, usually, one specific location. One major difference in this film is that the killer isn’t masked, save for one murder scene in which she tries to hide that she’s not who the victim thinks she is.

She’s out in the open for the entire movie, which actually makes her much less effective than a Jason or Michael Myers creepy killer facade. As I’ve previously stated in my review for Hush, the removal of the mask takes a lot of mystery out of something that, by its very nature, should be mysterious. It takes the viewer out of the film, removing the “it could happen to you” element that good horror needs to scare the viewer.  And that’s unfortunate, because if they had designed a creepy mask, and then revealed the backstory, this could’ve been an entirely different movie. Instead, it winds up just being about a spoiled girl who is mistreated, and wants to take her misfortune out on a lot of other spoiled girls.

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The killer is eventually vanquished because one of the girls strangles her to death, which I really am not sure why other slasher victims haven’t thought to do before. Because she’s a vengeful spirit, she disappears, and that’s pretty much the end of that. It’s a rather uneventful ending to a rather uneventful movie, one that could’ve been a lot better had it been more formulaic, which is a very odd thing to say about a movie within a genre where people bitch consistently about movies following too much of a formula and refusing to branch out. When you branch out, though, you have to maintain what people loved about the genre to begin with.

The girls in this film, as par for the course, are pretty sexy, but there’s very little skin besides the occasional “wearing a towel because they just got out of the shower” look. Strike two against the slasher norm, I suppose. The almost total lack of gore is strike three, making Maximum Violence an ineffective, though fairly stylish, amateur film.

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