Dwayne Hopper (Patrick O’Kane) is a cop in a small town, intensely haunted by the abduction of his son. Ten years to the day of his boy’s disappearance, Hopper comes to believe that a man currently held in the local jailhouse – Ronald Perkins – is connected to those events.
Perkins (Richard Brake) is a man with a grudge against the police, and is proven culpable not only for the abduction of Hopper’s son, but the children of 13 other families – all of them the sons and daughters of cops.
Imprisoned for the past decade, the 14 children have been tortured and exposed to Perkins’ pharmacological experiments, with the intention of turning them into preternaturally strong and savage killers. Of course, their inevitable release on an unsuspecting small-town population gives copper Hopper more than he can handle, right alongside with the fact that his own son is now one of the maniacal murderers.
Development with Director Craig Singer and Screenwriter Lane Shadgett
First off, let’s put this in context of it’s development, seeing as Perkins 14 is something of a first. The idea itself came from an online competition at Massify.com, with the winner chosen from a selection of concepts (and credit goes to one Jeremy Donaldson for the winning pitch, who gets to be credited as a producer) while actors were encouraged to audition for roles in what would be an ‘in-house’ production for After Dark Films and Massify.
Director Craig Singer – who worked on a previous year’s ‘film to die for’ Dark Ride – was brought in along with screenwriter Lane Shadgett to develop the concept. Given the relative obscurity of it’s limited production (in terms of time as well as money), the result really isn’t half bad. The trouble is that it’s only half good and that mainly because of the original concept.
Some reviews across the web have highly lauded the efforts of all involved, particularly the director and cast, and while there are grounds for that support the film as a whole could’ve been so much more (which, of course, is easy to say in hindsight).
Despite a handful of well-composed shots, the film is a little visually flat and unambitious and you’d have to be generous to see anything else. The cast is more than passable, but they’re really not working with much by way of a script whose sense of direction is opposed to what the concept was crying out for. And that’s where the film disappoints most.
As an in-house production, one might’ve thought that Lane Shadgett will have had no restrictions on developing the script and that something unique could have come out of this, but the result feels like a studio-tampered production, forced to take a path that will leave some viewers wondering what might’ve been.
In this opinion, focusing more explicitly on the decade-long plight and eventual freedom of the 14 abductees would have been the way to go, because their stories are surely more interesting than the more run-of–the-mill events we’re left watching. It’s why several reviews out there describe the 14 as ‘zombies’, which is clearly not the case, but then, for all intents and purposes, that’s pretty much all they are in their rampant lust for destruction.
Perkins 14 Cast
Small-screen veteran Patrick O’Kane carries his role as a tormented father very nicely, helped by a script that avoids melodramatic characterizations. Instead, we see only the terse dysfunctional family-life that has driven his wife (played by relative newbie Mihaela Mihut) into an adulterous affair and alienated his goth daughter (Shayla Beesley).
O’Kane’s scenes with Richard Brake give us the standout dialogue of the film and while Brake is also convincing in the film, his role is too limited to fully appreciate how his dementia will have shaped the 14 abductees.
There are no complaints to be made about the rest of a cast placed in a fairly typical set of characters, which in itself is quite an accomplishment given the general standard of minor horror flicks. Mihaela Mihut shows that she can pull off a dramatic performance, while Shayla Beesley – one of the competition winners’ given a role – also deserves her plaudits for creating a believable character.
Perkins 14 Summary
Any fan of the small-time horror film will find Perkins to be a worthwhile watch and might well find something more to admire than this reviewer found. Then again, the possibilities promised by the concept will nag anyone who considers the alternatives.
Taken off it’s conventional leash, this film really might have been something dark – real dark. So dark that it would’ve had more sensitive viewers up in arms and running to the censors (which is fine, because they shouldn’t be watching in the first place).
Instead, we have a decent horror film with a few gory scenes substituting an implied history of torture and suffering on a vastly more disturbing scale (with implied violence often being the better option, but not here). The lack of a happy ending, consequently, does little for the overall result.
Here’s a film that really could use the oh-so-popular re-make treatment, but of course that won’t happen because only an already successful film tends to get re-made. Then again, old concepts get re-hashed all the time, so maybe a few years down line we’ll see that alternative version. In the meantime, you could do worse than watching Perkins 14.