The horror world was abuzz in late November when Paramount announced a brand new Friday the 13th installment. Immediately, speculation on where the film would pick up (or if it would be another reboot) began.
But then, like an machete to the head, we were surprised to find out that the studio was considering a found footage flick. Sure, Jason X was bearable during the military scene. Sure, found footage is dominating the horror genre. But you can’t mix slashers with found footage…
Tell that to Hazmat‘s writer/director Lou Simon. She managed to make a faceless slasher film and infuse many of the elements of found footage we love while limiting the bad. The film kept the suspense levels high, and was a fun watch.
Hazmat introduces us to team Scary Antics, a reality show much like Scare Tactics. They scare the living daylights out of unsuspecting victims. (The host) “Scary” Dave (Todd Bruno) is struggling to keep the show on air due to falling ratings, and the budget for the show is continuously stretched thinner and thinner. He is joined by a few crew members, and an actor that is to portray a faceless slasher (dressed in a hazmat suit).
The victim is Jacob (Norbert Velez). Jacob’s father died in an accident at a plant, and he has been messed up ever since. Jacob’s friend Adam (Reggie Peters) sets up the Scary Antics encounter, and (together with a couple friends) they all enter the plant that has haunted Jacob since childhood.
As the cameras roll, the action starts but everything does not go by plan. Jacob is very tuned into his surroundings, and after finding (what he thinks) a dead Adam, he arms himself with an ax. He kills the actor, realizes that his friends set him up, and he becomes a slasher. He stalks the actors through the facility, and their only reprieve is in the fortified homebase of the show.
Hazmat is not a true found footage film. It’s more of a found-ish footage film. The film feels like Grave Encounters initially, but that feeling quickly fades as we are shown many traditional camera angles as well. This continues throughout the film, and works quite well actually. Whenever somebody is wandering the darkened hallways of the plant, they are either watched by hidden cameras or forced to carry a camera with a light. Whenever it gets to the obligatory point where everybody sits around in a circle wondering “What the hell?”, I cringe. I never understand why somebody is taping that. However, they dropped that here and it felt more natural.
The big question I had with Hazmat throughout the viewing was if it was going to go “Final Girl” (slasher) or “Everybody Dies” (found footage). The movie seemed to teeter on the fulcrum so much, this question lingered and created an effective finale.
The action was good, and there were few slow periods. The actors were good for the most part, and the story seemed fairly believable. There was one scene where Jacob somehow bars a door from the outside somehow, but it is drowned out quickly. There’s blood, but it’s not a particularly gory film.
If the new Friday the 13th film is found footage, it needs to take a cue from Hazmat. Don’t fall into the same formulas as the films, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Hell…go found-ish footage. I liked Hazmat, and I could watch an installment like this film.