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Blu-Ray Review: The Victim

Michael Biehn directs 'a strong, tightly paced first feature' on a low, low budget in just twelve days.

 

From formidable husband and wife team Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc, critically lauded low-budget horror movie The Victim hits the streets on Blu-ray this week, courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. Recognized for years by attentive movie fans for his roles in seminal James Cameron classics Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss – and having appeared recently in Xavier Gen’s visceral and disturbing post-apocalypse meltdown The DivideThe Victim marks Biehn’s behind-the-lens debut as writer, director, and producer. Likewise a veteran performer, Blanc is best remembered by genre geeks for her long-running participation in cult sci-fi series Dark Angel. Blanc and Biehn co-star in the film, in addition to sharing a producer credit.

Biehn plays Kyle, a reclusive ex-con living deep in the woods, sequestered from the harsh realities of civilized culture. His solitary existence is disrupted late one night by the sudden arrival of Annie (Blanc), who shows up on his doorstep, red-faced and hysterical, claiming she’s being chased by a pair of police officers whom she just saw murder her best friend. Hardened by his previous experiences with the criminal justice system, Kyle is reluctant to get involved, but when the two officers in question show up at his doorstep with a mug shot of Annie, demanding to know her whereabouts, Kyle has no choice but to pick a side and hope his instincts are correct. As the situation gets messier, and the stakes are continually raised, the question of who’s truly in danger, who’s truly posing a threat, and who’s playing everyone else for a sucker becomes increasingly muddled, with the threat of violent retaliation and betrayal looming constantly.

The Victim was shot in twelve days using just a few locations, and although it doesn’t skimp on gore and nudity, it’s the strength of the story and characters that really make it stand out as a low-budget DIY effort. Biehn seems to have a good feel for when and how much to disrupt viewer expectations without straying too far from tried-and-true genre conventions that allow the film to remain cohesive. Considering how little he had to work with and how harried the production schedule was, that the film plays as well as it does is truly impressive, despite occasional hiccups.

Anchor Bay’s disc unfortunately doesn’t include many special features, but the behind-the-scenes featurette is hilarious and adorable, featuring the entire micro-cast and crew and outlining the entire process of the production. Aside from turning out a solid low-budget genre piece, it’s clear Biehn, Blanc, and the friends and associates who successfully completed the project with them had a great time banging it out. With such a strong, tightly paced first feature under his belt, it should be no problem for Biehn to continue working in an auteur capacity in the future, though hopefully his future contributions as a B-movie actor won’t be tampered with by his snazzy new credentials.