Directed By Tammi Sutton
2009 – 83 Minutes/Widescreen
DVD Provided by MTI Home Video
Article written by Craig Hamann

Six 20-something friends head out to a hunting lodge in the country for a vacation. As is often the case in horror films these days, it’s the kiss of death whenever young good-looking friends do this sort of thing. And guess what? The young friends begin being terrorized only moments after they arrive at their destination. Here they have the misfortune of running into Alexander Tatum. Dressed as if he’s just stepped out of THE MATRIX and behaving like a hybrid blend of Arnold Schwarzenegger from TERMINATOR and Javier Bardem’s Anton from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, Alexander is a body gatherer for Dr. Hopkins, who runs a black market body parts business. Before long, all the friends are prisoners and at risk of losing their lives, let alone vital organs that they’d prefer to keep. However, one of the friends, a med student named Sienna, might have the smarts and survival instincts to escape. Can she find freedom from the torment? Can she free any of her friends in the process? Who is the evil Dr. Hopkins and why is he doing what he’s doing? And who is this Alexander guy? Is there more to him than meets the eye?

There is little doubt that this movie borrows heavily from a lot of sources. The beginning is mostly constructed in a manner befitting almost any assembly line slasher flick. While there are moments that seem refreshingly different, there are also segments that are trite and worn, making the viewer moan, “I’ve seen this before…many times before.” During the second act, the plot takes a twist into torture territory and briefly surprises the audience with a twisted view of obtaining and selling organs on the black market. While this is definitely an unexpected direction for a slasher flick, by this time it’s apparent that this isn’t a slasher flick at all. After a strange opening, which looks muddy and washed out on the screen, and then the venture into 20-somethings being stalked by someone mysterious humdrum, the pictures jets the audience into a walk down HOSTEL memory lane. The creepy hallways, malicious tortures, psychopathic perpetrators getting off on their victims’ pain, yes, it’s all there.

Don’t get me wrong, SUTURES does try to be different and I think it does succeed on some levels. Director Tammi Sutton is coming into her own as a reliable B-budget filmmaker who knows how to creep her audience out, show just the right amount of gore but leave some things to the imagination, and make films that remain true to their genre fans. Aside from some streaky muddiness here and there, most of the visual work by cinematographer Kirk Douglas (no, not THAT Kirk Douglas – give me a break) adds to the moodiness and brutality of the piece. The art direction and production design is eerily convincing. Writers Brian Moon, Carlos Lauchu (who also effectively plays the role of Alexander), and Jacqueline A. Kelly make an admirable effort to spice things up. Too bad they sometimes complicate the plot with digressions that neither add depth to the story nor provide a better boo factor. For example, there is Police Detective Zane, who creates little intrigue in the plot but mostly serves as a convenient story expositional devise. As a result, experienced actor Jason London is wasted in the role. Another example is the confusing and, in my view, misguided tag at the end connecting two characters that were more interesting as adversaries.

That said, in my mind there are two standout reasons why genre fans might like SUTURES. The first is the bravura performance by underrated actress Allison Lange as Sienna. Lange is pretty and charismatic, but here she’s also one hundred percent sincere during every second of every scene that she’s in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lighter moment, or if she’s involved in a darkly dramatic scene, or if she’s unloading vengeful violence on her attackers, Lange handles the job professionally and unapologetically. I’m going to make a point of looking for her name in other productions to see if she can consistently turn in this kind of quality work. Another reason to check this movie out is veteran actor Andrew Prine’s spine-tingling portrayal of Dr. Hopkins. Even in his quietest moments, he offers a character that is cold-blooded, unnervingly smug and decidedly nasty. What’s amazing about all this is that unlike many other actors, Prine does all this without overacting or indicating anything. He plays it real and, because of that, it all looks real. Now that’s scary. The rest of the acting isn’t bad. As noted before, Carlos Lauchu is interesting as Alexander. The other 20-somethings occasionally force their trepidation, but some of that can be blamed on predictable dialogue and situations from the script, especially during the first act. Aside from that, they do a capable job.

The DVD I watched was for promotional use by MTI Home Video and offered no extras, so I can’t tell you what will be available on the discs that hit the stores. The picture quality was mixed, with some scenes looking as if they were part of an aging VHS dub while other scenes were clear and defined. The sound was average, being neither great nor poor. As for recommending SUTURES, I’m going to go ahead and say it’s worth a look. Despite the downfalls, and there certainly are some, the movie has its positives. The story tries to toss in plot twists (though some are unwarranted), director Tammi Sutton supplies an ample amount of horrific images, and the performances by Allison Lange as the lead and Andrew Prine as the bad guy are first rate.