After Googling around the interwebs a bit, curiously researching what other critics thought about Old 37, I found out that my opinion appears to be in the minority. A lot of fans dug this homely slasher-abduction hybrid, getting lost in the legendary teaming of Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley. Hell, that’s what drew me in like a moth to a searing flame – but I got burned, unfortunately. There’s gore, and death, and evil paramedics, but a lazy story rarely remains coherent, and characters struggle to be more than crude outlines. Welcome to Horror 101, where kills rule all, and other cinematic facets are cobbled together with rusty spare parts. That bastard Alan Smithee strikes again!
Hodder and Moseley (Jon Roy and Darryl respectively) star as two brothers who have been warped by their father’s violent upbringing. Thanks to years of abuse, the boys patrol an open stretch of highway, posing as paramedics so they can abduct wounded victims who call 911. It’s on this deadly roadway that a new victim, Amy (Caitlin Harris), finds herself being stalked by the brothers after she “betters herself” with a few surgeries. The brothers are convinced that Amy killed their mother (because of her re-vamped look), and where backwoods justice is concerned, that’s all that matters – truth be damned.
There’s actually a ton more going on in Old 37, but none of it ever matters. “Smithee’s” tale is haphazardly assembled with more attention paid to its “Top 40” soundtrack than cohesive tension.
The film opens on Darryl and Jon Roy, as their father shoves his hand into a (now deceased) woman’s gushing wound, and then licks the blood off of his fingers. You’d think such an act would lead to themes of cannibalism, but neither Darryl or Jon Roy address similar tendencies. They just repeat their father’s line, “Don’t worry, I’m a paramedic” whenever we try to make sense of their murderous intentions – a line that’s an utterly ridiculous excuse. Corpses pile up, but without much explanation.
Adding to the murky motives of both killers are a cast of characters who exist in their own confusing, oh-so hateable world. They’ve all been accomplices to murder, exceed the bitchiness of Mean Girls stereotypes, and blend together in ways that make them annoyingly interchangeable, yet completely characterless. The promise of Moseley and Hodder had me hopeful that salvation would come in the form of two horror veterans, but we spend the first thirty-some-odd minutes solely with these future Greek life superstars, begging for SOMETHING digestible.
Even Amy, the supposed hero, becomes forgettable by undergoing a high-school boob-job/makeover because that’s what she thinks boys are into. I get it – it’s a social commentary on the immense pressures “everyday” girls feel when compared to bitchy, dominant mega-sluts who steal all the hot guys, but lordy is it overplayed. Hell, the first two kids crash because they’re HAVING SEX WHILE DRIVING. Not even road head. Full on straddle-while-never-breaking-eye-contact boning at 60+ MPH. Because, you know. Teens will be teens! With their bad judgement and all.
Paul Travers and Joe Landes craft the heart of a slasher in their first-ever horror script, but unfortunately, it also reads like an inaugural effort. Scenes rush together with too much coincidence, nondescript characters are killed without batting an eye, and the very best parts of Old 37, Hodder and Moseley, are drastically underused (not to mention their weightless backstory).
Darryl and Jon Roy are hillbilly hellhounds just for the sake of being raised evil, and despite a gory second half (that’s distractedly dark and cheapened by cutaways), the brothers just simply aren’t prevalent enough. Even with that said, when Moseley IS allowed to drop some cheesy horror lines, they’re a bit cringe-worthy – and not in a good way. Moral of the story here? Old 37 wants to be grimy slasher fun, but doesn’t earn its place at the big kids table through good intentions.
Old 37 makes you reminisce about better times in horror, but fails to recreate those memorable experiences (that both Hodder and Moseley have been a part of). It’s the kind of film that has its hottest character Skyping naked, because it’s a horror movie, and you need to flash skin – right? There are so many rules Travers and Landes think they HAVE to play by, but this strained effort to mimic past successes creates a boxed effort without proper storytelling mechanics. Splatters of blood coat heavy machinery, but lackluster efforts unfortunately make this a slasher worth skipping.
You can trust me – I’m a paramedic. Not sure if I’m using line that right, but everyone else is saying it!
The promise of an all-star horror teaming is lost in this slasher throwback to better times, as kills are traded for fluidity and detailing.