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The Victim

2011 | 80 min | R | 1.78:1

The Victim


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Theatrical release date

 24 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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The Victim


Screenshots from The Victim Blu-ray

The Victim Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 25, 2012

“The Victim” has been routinely referenced as a classic grindhouse production, out to charm fans of sleazy, violent entertainment. However, writer/director/star Michael Biehn doesn’t put his best perverted foot forward with this lackluster, budget-minded suspense picture. Underdeveloped and occasionally directionless, “The Victim” is actually quite tasteful for the genre, preferring windy dialogue exchanges to wrathful acts of bloodshed. While not without a few highlights, the feature is disappointingly tame, missing a grand opportunity for screen insanity. Biehn has a germ of an idea here, but lacks the sickness needed to bring this tale of murder, sex, and feverish uncertainty to life.

Kyle (Michael Biehn) is an ex-con trying to find inner peace inside a remote cabin, away from the disappointments of life. One night, a frantic stripper named Annie (Jennifer Blanc) appears at his front door begging for help, sharing a wild story of a country outing gone horribly wrong. Witnessing the aftermath of her friend Mary’s (Danielle Harris) murder at the hands of Sheriff Harrison (Ryan Honey) during a bout of rough sex, Annie needs a place to hide, placing her trust in a stranger who prefers seclusion. When Sheriff Harrison and Deputy Cooger (Denny Kirkwood) make their way to the cabin to question Kyle, the night takes a series of violent turns, finding the loner growing to trust Annie while working to remain one step ahead of the cops, using whatever methods he can to extract the truth out of the situation and locate Mary’s body.

Made for lunch money and shot in 11 days, “The Victim” doesn’t have much in the way of visual might to support its unsavory business. It’s a painfully cheap-looking film marking the solo directorial debut for Biehn, the veteran actor who’s been involved with his fair share of violent pictures. With a plot credited to Reed Lackey, “The Victim” feels like a short story stretched to feature-length demands, finding the central focus of suspense lacking urgency, diluted by extended conversations and a primary mystery that’s no mystery at all. The lure of the premise is understandable, spotlighting the survival efforts of an amorous stripper and the stranger she’s depending on for protection, yet Biehn plays it safe, toning down the luridness of the movie to keep tight on flaccid characters. There’s a pronounced directorial restraint about the production, which appears almost fearful to rear back and really sock the viewer in the jaw.

At the heart of “The Victim” is a question of honesty, or at least there should be a question of integrity somewhere in the mix. Biehn doesn’t show much interest in developing a mystery around Annie’s accusations, keeping the tale straightforward in terms of trustworthy characters. “The Victim” seems aimed to exploit doubts and conflicting stories surrounding the death of Mary, yet the screenplay avoids confusion as much as possible, dropping games of manipulation to simply trust Annie, using numerous flashbacks to support her account. It’s deflating to watch Biehn ball up and throw away the one storytelling element that might’ve spiced up the narrative flow, amplifying what little here passes for legitimate suspense.

While “The Victim” offers scenes of genital torture (not as graphic as it sounds), beatings, and the use of oral sex as a tool of survival, there’s no chokehold of transgressive behavior to keep the picture alert. Biehn doesn’t push on the senses hard enough, losing sight of the grindhouse tradition with his concentration on tedious characters. The actual ending of the movie also lacks bravery, electing cuteness over a cutting final twist. “The Victim” has the ingredients to conjure up a sufficiently disturbing tale of deception and manipulation, yet it seems determined to stick with mediocrity, resembling a production that was more interested in surviving the filmmaking process than creatively participating in genre demands.

Starring: Michael Biehn, Danielle Harris
Director: Michael Biehn

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