“Perkins’ 14” begins decently enough. We meet Dwayne Hopper (Patrick O’Kane), a police officer from the small town of Stone Cove. He has been detached from his wife and daughter ever since his son, Kyle, was kidnapped some years earlier along with thirteen other children, and now he’s consumed with finding the culprit. Whether or not his son is still alive, he doesn’t know. All he does know is that tonight is the tenth anniversary of the first kidnapping, and he begins to suspect that one of his inmates, pharmacist Ronald Perkins (Richard Brake), is responsible. Hopper then coerces one of his fellow officers to search Perkins’ home for evidence. This leads to the discovery of a secret cellar, which is hellishly dark and dank, filled with medication vials and stacks of videocassettes.
But before I go any further, let’s examine why the first part of this film works. There were hints that the relationship between Hopper and Perkins would develop in much the same way as the one between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. Perkins methodically probes Hopper’s mind, trying to find his weak points so that they can be exploited. Hopper tries to be strong, but it’s obvious that the pressure is getting to him, which is understandable given his one-track mind. And then there’s the relationship between Hopper and his remaining family, which is strained to say the least. He doesn’t get along too well with his daughter, Daisy (Shayla Beesley), who dresses a bit punkish and is dating a much older guitar player named Eric (Michale Graves), who apparently has a criminal record. As for Hopper’s wife, Janine (Mihaela Mihut), she’s been having an affair for who knows how long. Given her husband’s inability to move on, her actions are somewhat understandable.
Then, without warning, “Perkins’ 14” shifts gears, veering away from psychological drama to become a gory zombie film. It begins when Hopper’s assistant discovers the aforementioned secret cellar; along with the meds and cassettes, he also finds filthy teenagers locked in cages. He opens one of them, thinking the girl within is desperately in need of help. Rather than clinging to him like a helpless child, she savagely attacks him. It isn’t long before the other wild teens are released, which quickly plunges Stone Cove into chaos. The townspeople are brutally attacked and killed by mindless, violent teens, which under different circumstances might have worked as satire. It soon becomes a life or death struggle, with Hopper and his family barricaded in a police station.
I did not like the last three quarters of this film. For one thing, the idea behind the killings is completely implausible, even within the context of a horror movie: As revenge for being forgotten when his parents were brutally murdered, Perkins used cult-like techniques and mega doses of PCP to brainwash fourteen Stone Cove children. Once they break free from his cellar, their new programming only allows them to do Perkins’ bidding. Does this sound a little far fetched to you? It sounds to me like a diabolical plot only a mad scientist in a grade-B movie would think up. Indeed, maybe this film would have worked better if it had gone in the direction of a parody. That would necessitate a complete rewrite of the film’s first quarter, but hey, at least the film would have been both consistent and fun.
There’s also the fact that the final twenty minutes or so take place in areas so poorly lit that there’s no sense of mystery or suspense. The Stone Cove police station is a maze of dark hallways and strobe-light effects, which is visually irritating.
But the biggest problem is the needlessly dark nature of the plot. There’s no sense of classic horror movie fun with this movie; there’s only a prolonged sense of hopelessness and grief, and that just seems a bit melodramatic. This movie ends on such a low note that it was impossible for me to feel thrilled, and isn’t that what horror movies are all about?
Now here’s the interesting thing: “Perkins’ 14” is the first ever fan-generated horror movie. Fans and filmmakers alike were asked to submit story ideas to Massify.com, where a team of judges would vote on the best one. Out of 400 submissions, Jeremy Donaldson’s story about fourteen mindless sociopaths attacking a small town got the most votes. I admit, the idea is intriguing, especially since it plays on our fears of what would happen after a dangerous criminal is arrested and put behind bars. But in the hands of screenwriter Lane Shadgett and director Craig Singer, the idea was turned into a complete mess of a film. “Perkins’ 14” is unpleasant and unfocused, and it doesn’t seem to value the possibility of hope. If another horror movie is made on the basis of an idea submitted by fans, I can only offer this piece of advice: Make sure you hire filmmakers who can actually make something of it.
– Chris Pandolfi (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)