Michael Biehn is a living-legend of an actor, having starred in countless classics over the years. The Terminator is easily my favorite film of his, but it was only a matter of time before he stepped behind the camera completely and directed his first solo feature. The Victim is the result of a passionate actor wanting to make a film with a bunch of friends and even his wife. The result is far from the campy grindhouse-styled film that the trailers marketed it to be, but there still lies a semi-watchable story underneath all of the pointless nudity and obvious plot twists.
Annie (Jennifer Blanc) goes on what seems to be an innocent trip in the woods, full of drugs, sex and guys. What starts out as a casual get together with some friends turns into a cold case of murder. She’s now on the run from two men that may have killed her friend by accident and she winds up at the cabin doorstep of Kyle (Michael Biehn); an older gentleman just trying to enjoy his peace and quiet.
Worried and confused Annie begs for Kyle’s help and out of stupidity or loneliness, Kyle decides to help her get away from the two men. Their plan is kind of simple and dumb, but it involves finding the body of her missing friend and avoiding death by the two madmen chasing them down. While doing so the two run into said mad men and more of Kyle and Annie’s shady past is revealed.
The Victim isn’t a grindhouse film like it so heavily advertises itself as, but it isn’t a complete throwaway film like most low-budget directorial debuts. Michael Biehn’s first solo trip behind the camera doesn’t completely fail because of his lack of direction, but more so his need to fill the project with all of his friends and family. The film comes off feeling more like a weekend vacation project than an actual full-fledged film and that severely damages its credibility as an actual film.
There’s plenty of gracious nudity and blood, but there’s never an actual point to any of it. Kyle and Annie trek around the forest for an hour and a half and stop frequently for sex, or squeezed in flashbacks that play out more like a second-rate porn than an attempted grindhouse feature.
Directing the film with such carelessness gives off a strong vibe that Michael Biehn doesn’t actually understand the grindhouse genre that the film claims to fall under. Instead he’s simply made a very low-budget horror film that isn’t scary enough to be deemed effective and doesn’t contain enough gore and kills to be praised for its practical work.
The Victim just kind of balances between being a shitty porn film made for HBO and a DTV horror flick that would run on a cable channel late at night during October. It’s too bad, because Biehn’s direction is steady and never too serious, but it never goes anywhere and instead hangs around the sex for a little too long and never bothers revealing actual plot details that might enhance the overall enjoyment. There’s also an apparent twist reveal at the end that is the most obvious thing in the film, if only because it’s re-introduced as a possibility over and over throughout the film.
Anchor Bay brings this one to Blu-Ray with a 1080p video transfer that holds detail and structure in up-close shots, but becomes rather bland and unattractive whenever the camera pulls back and allows for more of the scenery to be absorbed. This isn’t a particularly stunning transfer, but it does hold itself together for most of the film’s short running time.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio mix isn’t as impressive, with most of the activity staying up on the front channels. The rear channels come in for occasional beats from the film’s musical score to help build up tension, but aside from those brief moments the track is mostly a dialogue-oriented mix that stays harbored on the front channels.
Here’s a list of the bonus content featured on the disc:
- Audio Commentary with Director/Writer/Actor Michael Biehn and Producer/Actor Jennifer Blanc
- The Victim: Behind the Scenes (HD): a 24-minute documentary that spends most of its time on the cast and crew discussing their involvement with the film. Biehn discusses his approach as a director, while other cast members comment on his aggressive directing style and commitment to the project. It’s a good viewing for those looking to learn from an experience like this, but it also shows why it isn’t always a good thing to work among your friends and family.
Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray is a barren wasteland, with only one real special feature that takes up a lousy 24 minutes. The disc looks fine and sounds a bit below par, but it’s the real lack of bonus content that makes this one something I’d barely even suggest as a rental, if only because the film is essentially a wasted opportunity by someone who has been in the game long enough to know how to make a good film.
Michael Biehn will always remain a great actor that has starred in some classic films. His directing career might be another story, because The Victim isn’t the most notable debut. It could have been a lot worse, but it also could have been a lot better, if only Biehn focused more on the script and the characters and less on the pointless sex and need to insert some of the dumbest humor in a film that could benefit from being a little more thrilling or suspenseful.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.