Writer/Director Lou Simon’s film HazMat tells the story of a failing hidden-camera prank show called “Scary Antics,” where people put their friends in horror-film-styled situations before letting them in on the joke. Their latest episode is centered on Jacob (Norbert Velez), an odd young man whose friends have invited to investigate the abandoned chemical plant his father died in. After some investigation and spooky noises, his friend will then pretend to be murdered by a maniac. Jacob’s friend, Adam (Reggie Peters), hopes that by giving Jacob a good scare he can break him of his obsession with the chemical plant and the various rumors of it being haunted. Things take an unexpected turn when the unstable Jacob finds out he’s the butt of the joke and snaps. Donning an abandoned HazMat suit and wielding a fire axe, Jacob is out for revenge on his friends and the television crew trapped in the building with him.
These days it takes something very unique and outside-the-box to actually put a fresh spin on the slasher film sub-genre. Take a look at our review for 2013’s Maniac for an example of that. It wouldn’t even be worth the pun saying straight-forward slasher films have been done to death. The campy sex-and-death romps of the 1980s, the self-awareness of the 1990s, and the desperate remakes and reboots of the 21st century have pumped the sub-genre’s well so dry that all anyone can scrape from it now is dirt. Hazmat is that dirt.
Writer/Directors are a dangerous thing in the world of indie films. As seen many times, not everyone is going to be the next Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith when they direct their own script. There is nothing new, fresh, or remotely original about the story that HazMat offers; all key elements that Tarantino and Smith had in their films. Every twist and turn the story takes is terribly generic and insipidly predictable. While some may see HazMat as having a Midnight-Movie-schlock-quality to it, the film fails to ever even reach so-bad-its-good territory. HazMat’s one glimmer of redemption is the only legitimate acting job by Aniela McGuiness as Brenda the make-up artist. Thankfully it seems this blemish will not be too daunting for Ms. McGuiness. The rest of that cast feels like a weekend class at a community rec-center. The music used in the movie feels like it was hastily added in because movies need music, with no effort put in to mixing and balancing levels.
The direction makes no effort to make up for all the script is lacking. The shaky-cam and security-cam shots poorly attempt to capitalize on an already diminished influx of found-footage movies, and even tricks like seeing a murder from the killer’s point-of-view seems hacky after Maniac made it far more polished and innovative. Poor lighting, jumpy editing, and boring camera work make for a film that is impossible to find accessible and is truly a task to sit through.
HazMat is a poor attempt to capitalize on concepts that have already been done far too often. With a rough-draft script, wooden acting, and no originality it is a chore to watch and impossible to enjoy. There are plenty of movies that find a home and an audience in the Midnight Movie scene, but for everyone’s sake, HazMat should be locked away in quarantine.