Sharon Ferranti wades into straight-up slasher terrain -- but this time, the doomed, screaming, hardbodied female victims (and suspects) are all lesbians. That novelty as well as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek treatment and smooth low-budget production are enough to keep pic entertaining. After brief theatrical spin, impact is likely to be in rental.

Sharon Ferranti’s “Make a Wish” wades into straight-up slasher terrain — but this time, the doomed, screaming, hardbodied female victims (and suspects) are all lesbians. That novelty as well as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek treatment and smooth low-budget production are enough to keep pic entertaining, though not enough to ultimately make it more than a routine genre effort. After a brief theatrical spin, primary impact is likely to be as a rental item.

Principal characters are introduced as they ready themselves, with varying degrees of reluctance, for the annual weekend spent camping with everybody’s “ex” Susan (Moynan King). Being on good terms with your former lover is a nice idea, but Susan is so caustically cruel, and everyone else so backstabby, that one might well wonder why they bother.

Unaware that one expected camper has already been offed the night before, invitees gather at a remote Texas wilderness spot. They include Monica (Virginia Baeta) and her bratty, younger current g.f. Andrea (Amanda Spain); aggressive vegetarian Chloe (Lava Alapai); bisexual Linda (Melenie Freedom Flynn), whose possessive boyfriend Steve (Eric Vichi) secretly follows her, a decision he’ll soon regret; and New Age wiccan Dawn (Hollace Starr), the one ex here who was rudely dumped by Susan, rather than the other way around.

Taking little notice of telltale mutilated animal corpses, or even of their party’s rapidly dwindling number, the women don’t really start worrying until the last half hour. To Ferranti and co-scenarist Lauren Johnson’s credit, the killer’s identity turns out to be a modest surprise (and the fade adds some fresh ambiguity).

But too little else rises above basic slasher conventions. Dialogue, situations, characters and behaviors (the usual reckless-separating-of-forces-under-threat, etc.) are ordinary, and the not-especially gory violence is rotely staged. The pic doesn’t take itself wholly seriously, but humor is undistinguished. Individual scares and menacing atmosphere fall short in a package that needs to build more urgency as it goes along.

In the time-tested slasher tradition, there’s room between murders for topless makeout scenes. The usual sense of male-gaze horror misogyny, however, is distinctively absent.

Perfs are decent given the material’s limitations. Jessica Gallant’s lensing makes the Texas Hill countryside look pretty, but the mostly broad-daylight scenes lack visual menace; Jay Ferranti’s synth score screams “direct to video!”

Make a Wish

Production

An Open Circle Prods. presentation. Produced by Lauren Johnson. Executive producers, David R. Daily, Shari Heyen, Angela Martin, Lawrence Silverstein. Directed by Sharon Ferranti. Screenplay, Lauren Johnson, Ferranti.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Jessica Gallant; editors, Bill Moore, Ferranti; music, Jay Ferranti; production/costume designer, Michael Fitzgerald; special makeup f/x, Heather Attra; sound, Will Golden, Drew Waters; assistant director, Kristin Mente. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Festival, June 25, 2004. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Moynan King, Hollace Starr, Virginia Baeta, Melenie Freedom Flynn, Amanda Spain, Lava Alapai, Eric Vichi, Neil Wilson, Bob Peterson, Nora Stein, Susan Durham.
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