Fatal Images 1989 Review
Fatal Images 1989
Directed by: Denis Devine
Starring: Lane Coyle, Angela Eads, Jeff Herbeck
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Steve Jarvis is a perfect example of genre dedication. A fan of horror films since a young age, the ambitious author managed to do what many of us can only dream of – make his own movie. Along with his friend and director Dennis Devine, the pair launched Cinematrix films, a company that has steadily developed a decent catalogue of budget flicks. In 1990 they released Dead Girls; a credible slasher movie that underlined their talent and went on to become a favourite for collectors. I have spoken with Jarvis on various occasions and he’s an open and intelligent guy with a thorough understanding of the market. Despite his industry connections and hands-on experience behind the scenes, he remains first and foremost a fan of the category and he enjoys watching splatter flicks almost as much as he enjoys making them.
Early in 1989 Jarvis, Devine, Mike Bowler and Alan Goldstein put together the funds for a début feature. Shot on video in various locations, (including Jarvis’ home) the film sold significantly well and remains Cinematrix’s highest grossing effort.
It tells the tale of a psychopathic photographer that owns a studio in Los Angeles. In the opening, we see him slaughter an unfortunate undercover police officer, before bizarrely committing suicide in front of his camera. He had been wanted for sometime by Police, in connection with a spate of vicious mutilations across the city. After he takes his own life, detectives find piles of evidence littering his grimy apartment that relates to his path of murder.
Next up we meet Amy Stuart, a bubbly fashion photographer that uncovers the bargain of her life whilst in a small back-alley pawn store. She finds a V-Deluxe camera lying on the dust-covered shelves and after some extensive haggling with the cocky store proprietor, she manages to pick it up for a budget price. Things are not all as they seem however, as her bargain-buy used to belong to the maniac from the prologue and somewhat mystically his spirit has possessed the appliance. Before long, the malevolent killer has returned from beyond the grave and he begins methodically slaughtering the models that Amy captures on film in numerous gruesome ways. The Police are baffled and at first believe that it’s a copycat killer, but with an almost identical modus operandi, they soon realise that they are up against something far more sinister. With the body count rising, how can Amy stop someone that’s already dead?
Cinematrix films always bring to the fore an inviting level of creativity. Whilst Dead Girls boasted a compelling mystery with more twists than a chubby checker convention, Bloodstream took a standard slasher synopsis and injected some complex social issues to create an authentic juxtaposition. Fatal Images in no different in that respect, and for the most part, the plot adds invention to the standard slasher template. The idea of a mystic psycho has been attempted many times post-Halloween, but rarely has the plot been handled successfully. Ulli Lommel’s The Boogeyman was a decent entry, but efforts like Girl’s School Screamers and The Outing have failed to build on the obvious possibilities. Fatal Images captures the imagination with an inventive synopsis and a supernatural sheen.
Movies filmed on such a low budget rarely manage to escape the clutches of mediocrity, but Fatal Images does at least provide a few quirky thrills. There’s some decent gore on offer courtesy of Gabe Bartalos and Devine shows visionary flair with a few ambitious set pieces. Jarvis’ script successfully mixes everything from slasher platitudes to satanic ritualistic influences and the haunted camera idea was something of a novelty and a pre-cursor to the Project Zero survival horror franchise on the Playstation. Perhaps more importantly, the film keeps you interested and it’s worth staying tuned for the final pay-off.
I am not going to bring up the quality of the performances, simply because you will rarely find a hidden gem or a Robert De Niro on such minuscule funding. I feel compelled however to mention the actor playing the chief detective, because his bizarre characterisation produced some inadvertent humour. At one point, he tells his junior accomplice not to arrest the only possible link to the spate of murders and he says, “Never approach a suspect. Wait until the suspect approaches you!” (Since when has a serial killer made contact with the person that’s trying to lock him up for the rest of his life? And how many people are supposed to be killed whilst the Cops wait for such an approach?). He then blows his head off with a hand gun for *no* significant reason that I can recollect, signalling the unfortunate loss of a brilliant unintentional comic relief character. With that said though, there’s very little here to criticise and for the most part Devine’s slasher hits the right switches and sustains the exuberant momentum.
Fatal Images deserves recognition for its adventurous approach and fans of budget slashers will lap up the faithful use of genre clichés and the heavy eighties feel. The movie never takes itself too seriously and it delivers a new slant on the traditional formula. It reminded me in many ways of David Prior’s Sledgehammer, which is no mean feat. Although cinematically the films are completely different, I noticed a subtle similarity, especially with the supernatural ingredients. All in all it’s an enjoyable début and a decent introduction to the work of the Cinematrix group.
Final Girl √√