Kolobos (1999) Movie Review

The phenomenal success of “The Blair Witch Project”, and its micro-budgeted, cunning use of digital filmmaking techniques, rejuvenated the horror film industry and unleashed a rapidly overcrowded subgenre based around high tech voyeurism. Although this theme, and the direct implication of viewers into the proceedings through the use of the camera as a personalized eye, is obviously nothing new, these recent films have been transformed by the presence of modern technology, notably CCTV and Internet web cams. This influence is still strong today, and has crossed over to the mainstream in big budget efforts such as the amusingly awful “Halloween Resurrection”, and more interestingly in “My Little Eye”.

As with “Eye”, “Kolobos” concerns itself with another recent fad of popular culture, the reality television show, in which a number of strangers are locked away in an isolated location and attempt to live together in harmony. The two films share another striking similarity in that both are set in a large house surrounded by a snowy wilderness and rigged up with cameras in the manner of the popular television program “Big Brother”. However, whilst “My Little Eye” strove for creeping tension and psychological horror, “Kolobos” instead goes the route of the old Euro-slasher film, throwing in some confusing surrealism and extreme gore effects. Despite the fact that in hindsight it actually makes very little sense, the film is intriguing, shows a good knowledge of its genre influences, and stands above the drudgery of most direct to video horror films.

“Kolobos” begins with the discovery of a young woman in an alleyway, hideously mutilated and barely alive. The woman, Kyra (Amy Weber), is taken to hospital where she is questioned about her ordeal, and the story is gradually revealed through flashbacks. It appears that Kyra had been a participant in a video project, which brought together five strangers to live in an isolated, mysterious house, with their every moment captured on film. Unfortunately, soon after the project begins, the house’s inhabitants find themselves imprisoned and at the mercy of not only a series of deadly booby-traps, but a psychotic killer. As they try to escape, the dreadful nature of the project becomes clear, and secrets from the past are unearthed, leading them to suspect that one of them may be the vicious murderer.

Although “Kolobos” is thematically focused on its use of modern technology, right from the start it is apparent that the main influence on directors Daniel Laibtowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk come from the classic European horrors of the 1970s and 80s, in particular the works of Dario Argento. As well as through William Kidd’s musical score, which is a blatant copy of the main theme by Goblin from Argento’s “Suspiria”, this influence can be seen in the fact that Laibtowitsch and Ocvirk borrow many of the Italian master’s favorite visual tricks, such as loving, fetishistic close ups of objects and of the maniac’s hands.

The plot itself echoes older ‘Giallo’ films, throwing in a number of dream/reality sequences and some surreal scenes that give the filmmakers the chance to utilize some disturbing, sadomasochistic imagery. Unfortunately, whilst this does give the film a welcome injection of style, it does tend to drag down the pace, and leaves the viewers asking many unanswered questions. In this way, “Kolobos” most resembles the Japanese “Evil Dead Trap”, suffering the same frustrating lapses in logic, and with a similarly left field ending.

The influence of the generic 1980s U.S. slasher film is also clear, as the young inhabitants of the house are isolated and gradually killed one by one. However, to the film’s credit, the characters at least try their best to stay together, and generally make fairly intelligent decisions rather than showing the usual predilection for wandering off to have sex in dark places. It is at this point that the house’s traps come into play, and these give the film a real boost, being cruelly inventive, and giving the viewer a few unexpected, grisly surprises.

“Kolobos” makes up for its slow pace and often confusing narrative in part through the inclusion of some startling gory death scenes. These killings are long, drawn out and sadistic, and the use of the grainy CCTV footage gives the viewer a genuinely unsettling feeling, as if watching some kind of snuff film. As with the rest of the proceedings, these scenes seem to pay tribute to other films, including a nauseating teeth smashing straight out of Argento’s “Deep Red”, and a gooey eyeball puncture that recalls the bloody classics of Fulci.

The main problem with “Kolobos”, and which threatens to ruin the viewer’s enjoyment, is the acting. Apart from Amy Weber (who would later become a mainstay on the WWE wrestling circuit) who gives a reasonable central performance as the confused Kyra, the rest of the cast are absolutely awful. Although a film such as this may have benefited from some kind of naturalistic acting style, what we actually have here is a bunch of talentless people who simply cannot act, and whose grating performances slow the film down further, leaving the viewer begging for their swift demises. On a bright note, genre fans will enjoy seeing an all too brief appearance by scream queen favorite Linnea Quigley.

Thankfully, the dreadful acting is not enough to sink the film as a whole, and whilst not a classic by any means, “Kolobos” remains a worthwhile viewing experience. It is definitely one of the better examples of voyeuristic web cam/CCTV horror of late, and despite losing the plot a little towards the end, it provides enough gory shocks and twists to please genre fans.

Daniel Liatowitsch, David Todd Ocvirk (director) / Nne Ebong, Daniel Liatowitsch, David Todd Ocvirk (screenplay)
CAST: Amy Weber …. Kyra
Donny Terranova …. Tom
Nichole Pelerine …. Erica
John Fairlie …. Gary
Promise LaMarco …. Tina

Buy Kolobos on DVD