Bruiser Review

The Film
Romero took a long break from directing after The Dark Half and returned as a fully-fledged independent once again with a $5 million budget under his belt and an odd little concept that he had developed.

Henry Creedlow is about as downtrodden as one man can get. His financial advisor who is his “best friend” is ripping him off, his boss has no respect for him and his wife, Janine is shagging his boss. Despite all this he simply lays down and takes it until one morning after a particularly trying day he wakes up to find that his identity has been taken from him completely. This cliché of a man who is non-entity is given an unusual twist, as here her is literally faceless with his visage being replaced by a blank white mask, which is moulded to his face seamlessly. The result is that he is a nobody and this loneliness and isolation drives him to revenge and inevitably, murder.

The plot and concept sound intriguing and they do lead to a fascinating little film. The whole idea of a man so downtrodden he literally becomes nobody is inventive and the script itself is well written and plotted. The descent into madness is handled well with some reality/fantasy line blurring going on. Unfortunately the script is far to derivative of Romero’s earlier work, Martin, and this film suffers by comparison. The whole idea of an outsider/loner who is different and angry is identical as is the blurring of the fantasies of the characters and the reality of their lives. Almost everything done here was done better in Martin… and when writing this I can’t help comparing this to Martin so you’ll have to forgive me.

The performances here are adequate but not outstanding. Jason Flemyng makes a decent stab at the faceless Henry but all the time I kept wondering how much better John Amplas could’ve played it. Nina Garbiras is fairly dull as Henry’s wife Janine… to be fair Romero doesn’t give her much to do except complain, strip off and shag. The other female main character, Rosemary played by Leslie Hope, is much better and her character has far more potential than is explored here, which is a shame. I have saved the outstanding performance until last… Peter Stormare does a fantastic job as Henry’s eccentric boss at Bruiser magazine, Milo. He is manic, perverse and denigrating in equal parts… he is everyone’s boss from hell…

Romero’s direction also helps to prevent this from becoming derivative tosh with some inventive camerawork and some new methods and ideas. His fast cutting and pacy disjointed action scenes are still there but now they are interspersed with long sweeping camera shots on dolly tracks… Maybe Romero picked up an idea or two whilst working on Two Evil Eyes… It is both this lively direction and the idea of Romero coming back to some sort of form that makes this film worth watching…

This film was pretty much ignored on release and it shouldn’t have been as it is far better than the majority of so-called horror put out by studios these days… So what if it is derivative of Martin? The film is still worth a look and anyone who professes to being a Romero fan should be tracking this down right now.

The Disc
Well Lion’s Gate have done their best with a film that hardly set the box office alight… the menus are functional and basic with 24 chapters available.

Given the useless transfer afforded Romero on occasions it is a pleasure to report that this one is well upto scratch. The film is framed at 1.85:1 anamorphic as originally presented. The print is clean and mostly free of scratches and marks. The transfer has been handled exceptionally well with plenty of shadow detail and the contrast is excellent. The colours are generally muted but this fits the purposes of the film very well so no complaints there. The only minor irritant is the small amount of grain present but this may well be due to film stock used so no need for alarm.

The soundtrack is a DD2.0 surround track… whilst it doesn’t have anywhere near the depth and breadth of a 5.1 track it certainly does its job well here. The dialogue is clear and the sharp music cues during the more horrific moments have a decent punch to them. Overall nothing to complain about here.

Given the films relative failure the lack of extras is not at all surprising… the only substantial extra is an audio commentary with George Romero and producer Peter Grunwald. This track isn’t a classic Romero commentary, as the man himself seems muted, literally as well as figuratively. His mic seems to be on a much lower volume than his colleague, which makes it difficult to make out what he is saying at times. It has to be said that whilst the track is pleasant enough it won’t be getting the repeat hearings that Martin, Knightriders et al get.

The rest of the disc is filler with a trailer and a music video from the Misfits neither of which are particularly interesting.

The film may suffer by comparison to Martin but it is far superior to those glitzy glossy Hollywood horrors. The disc itself is accomplished if unexciting with a good picture and sound and poor extras. Overall Romero fans and fans of subtle atmospheric horror will want to plump for this sooner rather than later.

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