I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Dead in 3 Days (plus bonus mini-review: Lost Things)

DEAD IN 3 DAYS is Austrian young people horror from 2006. The box art for the American release of it from Dimension Extreme makes a big deal about how a group of teens all get the same text message saying they’ll be dead in 3 days, so I thought maybe it was gonna be influenced by the Japanese phone related pictures such as THE RING and ONE MISSED CALL. Instead it’s a very solid whodunit slasher with alot of subtle distinctness in the ways it handles material that seems generic on the surface.

I don’t know if this is on purpose, but the basic themes are set up in a meta kind of way in the opening, because of the way it resembles the opening of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The hands of an unseen man are building something sinister in a dark basement… but no, it turns out he’s not making a bladed glove or anything. He’s hanging himself.

Then it’s one of those “skip to the climax” deals where one of our characters is bloody in the street and asking for help, and we jump back 4 days to see what led us to that unexplained situation of horror.

And then we get the opening of THE POOL: group of young friends getting their final exams (you really have to meet with a board of teachers and convince them you learned something? We don’t have that here), one did worse than the others, then school’s out and they all celebrate and drink beer and drive around fast and listen to pop punk music. Notably, every one of these actors looks ten years younger than the ones in THE POOL, so I stand by my complaining about their ages.

The kids go drinking and dancing, one goes to the bathroom while his girlfriend waits for him, and he never comes back. The pixie-ish girlfriend Nina (Sabrina Reiter) becomes our lead I guess just by virtue of not having had to take a piss first. She tries to convince first her friends and then the police that something is going on here, but only her friends believe her until they find the body. And then the rest of the people who got the message are in trouble, and they have to figure out who the hell is doing this so they can stop it.

We don’t know that much about Nina and her friends, but they’re very sympathetic because of very natural acting and believable reactions. I think this movie takes death a little more seriously than most slashers, so the grieving feels very real and all the family and friends come together to try to support Nina and the police try to protect her. It feels very different from SCREAM but I guess it’s kind of similar in that these murders take place over a few days in a community as opposed to out in the woods or the boondocks somewhere with nobody knowing.

It’s not Rob Zombie rub-it-in-your-face violence, but it’s not FRIDAY THE 13TH fun kills either. The horror showdowns are limited, but when they happen they’re tense, well constructed, beautifully shot and painful. You don’t want these people to get it, and you feel it if they do.

I would like to give a special appreciation to the moment early on when a character complains about the sharp edge on a fish tank at work and says someone is going to cut themselves on it. This is not something that would usually be set up, and if it was it would usually not be until the scene where somebody’s gonna get cut. But this movie fiendishly leaves it hanging for like half the movie. I love it.

Like in many movies there’s a cop they know who they first go to (Andreas Kiendl), who doesn’t believe them and acts like an asshole. What’s cool is that after the kids turn out to be right that their friend has been killed he feels hugely guilty and makes it his mission to find the killer. It’s not really his fault, it was probly too late by the time they went to him anyway, but he carries this “oh shit, what have I done” look on his face throughout the movie, and it made me sympathize with him.

PARTIAL SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH. Just yesterday I was talking to a buddy about the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER movies and how he found himself rooting for the killer, because these kids ran over somebody and lied about it, how were you supposed to side with them? Well into DEAD IN 3 DAYS the kids start to suspect this has to do with an accident that happened when they were little asshole kids. But by this point we’ve already connected with these kids, and we don’t even find out the specifics of what happened until later, so maybe this would work better for my friend. The backstory also leads to one of the most original parts of the movie: when they finally come face to face with the killer they feel so guilty they have trouble defending themselves, they just want a peaceful solution. And the ultimate scare in this is being guilty and looking into someone’s face and seeing no sign of understanding or chance of forgiveness.

I definitely recommend this one, this is solid. It turns out there’s a DEAD IN 3 DAYS 2 from the same director. Not sure how that would work, but I hope I can see it. (Not available in the U.S. as of this writing.)

SPECIAL BONUS MINI REVIEW: LOST THINGS (2003)

I also watched a code 4 import of this Australian movie, but I don’t have that much to say about it so I’m gonna tuck it into this review.

LOST THINGS is also about the young people. Two boys and two girls sneak away from their parents, go on a trip to an isolated beach to surf and hang out. These actors actually look very young, almost too young for a horror movie, one of the boys is walking around shirtless with no chest hair. But they really look and act like normal people, not actors, only one of them is particularly good looking. So that makes it kinda relatable I think.

They think they’re all alone until they run into an older, more macho dude who tells them they shouldn’t be there and scares them about some kids that were murdered around there, but they decide to stay anyway.

Some weird things start to happen, but mostly editing tricks: they will see one of their friends standing further down the beach, wonder what they’re doing there, look at something else, then look back and the person is gone. This gets repetitive, I think it happens at least four times in a short movie, each time less effective. But it does set up a pretty cool trick later on when they mess with the timeline and sort of explain what happened there.

The photography (digital I believe) is nice and shows off a part of Australia I don’t remember seeing in other movies. It looks different from American beaches at least. It’s pretty clever in some of its reveals of what’s going on, and some people might find its simplicity and minimalism refreshing. It’s kind of like an Australian BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but more colorful (it mostly takes place in daylight) and thankfully not found footage style. Also I’d say it has a touch of CARNIVAL SOULS, which is a good thing.

But for me it was kinda too small, too little. I was with it for a while but didn’t feel like the pay off was enough. And then I wrote a short summary of my feelings about it at the end of a review of a movie I liked alot better. The end.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 at 12:48 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Responses to “Dead in 3 Days (plus bonus mini-review: Lost Things)”

  1. The Original... Paul

    October 31st, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I will definitely check out “Dead in 3 Days”. Sounds like just my cup of tea. Thanks Vern.

  2. Di3D sounds a lot better than it’s cover looks. Though I do like the big 3 on the phone.
    I watched Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness for Halloween. Great movie, with excellent elements of demonic possession, zombies, slashers, and science. I really appreciate that the there were so many characters, it led to a lot of death and chaos. I also liked the fact the “heroes” were these scientists who had to work through their natural skepticism to see what was unfolding before there eyes and deal with it.

  3. I liked DEAD IN 3 DAYS, but the sequel is a even better movie. DEAD IN 3 DAYS 2 is a great thriller with some backwood horror elements. They basically continue the story of the survivors from part one, but no longer with the slasher formula. Instead they’ve created a very atmospheric, very suspenseful, very intense thriller with outstanding cinematography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjlVvZXOhow&sns=em

  4. Wow, I’m absolutely thrilled that you discovered this nice little slasher-movie from Austria. I saw it in the cinema back in 2006, and while it’s not the most original horror movie, I really liked it, and enjoyed it more that the typical Hollywood entry. However, I have to agree with Andreas, in my opinion, the sequel is even better – despite a terrible last minute revelation that is far too silly for my taste, and didn’t really make sense. But those 90 minutes before it deliver one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years. So I really hope you’ll get a chance to check it out someday!

  5. The Original... Paul

    November 14th, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I’ve got this one on order but it’s not due to be delivered for another week. Boo…

  6. The Original... Paul

    November 20th, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Ok. I got it, I saw it, and I don’t entirely agree with Vern on it. HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD so watch out.

    So what I think we have here is a slasher movie with high production values that clearly wants to “elevate itself” beyond the usual slasher quality but doesn’t really have the ideas or originality to back it up. It looks great and the performances are definitely above-average; my issue is that the actors don’t really have that much to do. This was a frustrating film for me. I liked it ok, but I wish it had done more than it actually did do. The high production values but lacklustre story reminded me in a way of “Detour”, another European horror movie that didn’t impress me as much as it did some other people.

    So the plot is pretty much exactly the same as “Prom Night”, Terror Train”, “Sorority Row”, and a bunch of other “mystery slashers”: a bunch of kids accidentally kill somebody, they grow up, somebody else wants revenge. Two major differences: this film isn’t a whodunnit (frustratingly, since we don’t see who the killer is until the end, and then it turns out to be a complete stranger), and the “original crime” is shown at the end of the movie, not at the beginning. I’m guessing that the second decision was taken to help make the kids more likeable, but it doesn’t work since it’s very obvious from very early on that they were responsible for drowning somebody. (All the deaths in this movie have to do with water, and the killer goes to great lengths to ensure that that’s so.) Without knowing what happened, we’re free to imagine what they did, and that doesn’t help make them any more sympathetic.

    It doesn’t really help, either, that we know very little about any of the characters in the story, and what we DO know of them sometimes seems contradictory. Why is the police officer such an asshole in the opening scene? He can’t do much for these characters, but does he have to be so dismissive about it? How on earth is it the guy’s girlfriend who finds his body in the lake? Was it put there for that purpose? Who exactly is Patrick and, other than having a crush on Nina, what exactly did he do to make the main characters despise him as much as they do?

    This is also another of those movies where you have to accept that the police are basically incompetent, and I find that hard here. They don’t take some basic measures to either find the killer or protect the kids, all of whom have received death threats, despite the fact that they clearly have the resources to do so. Near the end of the movie the police officer says he’s going to investigate the house where the killer turns out to live, and his boss basically tells him that he can’t sanction this. One question here: WHY? You have exactly one suspect, who moreover turns out to be the killer, with a house in town – why WOULDN’T you investigate it? Isn’t this basic police work?

    I also don’t understand why you’d have the killer, who’s the shortest person in the movie with their mask off, be played by somebody who looks practically giant-sized in the few scenes where they appear in costume. We don’t see much of the killer’s fight with Patrick, as it’s shot from Nina’s point of view through the window, but the killer is clearly physically larger and stronger than him – and Patrick, as shown in the nightclub scene earlier on, is no weakling. I know that they’re kind of going for the Betsy Palmer “Look, this terrifying killer is actually a middle-aged woman” thing, but that worked in “Friday 13th” because you don’t KNOW that Palmer is the killer when she first apears. There’s no doubt about the killer’s identity or motives by the time she appears in “Dead in 3 Days”.

    And apart from the asshole cop and the false-suspect-with-sympathetic-death, the movie contains a lot of other horror movie cliches that don’t really work for me. For starters, people don’t sit bolt-upright when they’re waking from a nightmare. It also left an instantly sour note when the kids hit a deer because they’re not concentrating on the road (I mean, really? They’re going to pull out that old chestnut?) which doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose in the movie. Can they not establish character without resorting to this? And while I absolutely agree with this from Vern’s review…

    “The backstory also leads to one of the most original parts of the movie: when they finally come face to face with the killer they feel so guilty they have trouble defending themselves, they just want a peaceful solution. And the ultimate scare in this is being guilty and looking into someone’s face and seeing no sign of understanding or chance of forgiveness.”

    …they again resort to a tired and overused cliche, the person with the gun who lets the known killer get way too close to them. Dude, if you want to stop somebody without killing them, SHOOT THEM IN THE DAMN LEG! I think this scene would absolutely have worked if the guy had had a knife instead of a gun, hesitates because he’s not a killer, and gets stabbed because of it. But with the gun, it just gets idiotic.

    So there’s a lot that didn’t work for me, but there’s plenty that did as well. The filmmakers do a great job of portraying Nina’s paranoia – specifically in a dream she has about her nurse, which creeped me the hell out. The dialogue is realistic and mostly works, the sound design is good, and the cinematography is far above average for a normal movie of this kind. I would have liked a chance to get to like the central characters before the deaths started (yeah, I know some movies take it to the other extreme and we spend way too long with characters we don’t really like, but this one HAD potentially likeable characters and I would’ve liked to have seen more of them).

    All in all… I’d say this movie is very well-made, but also quite frustrating to watch. At least it was for me. Far too many little things that were “wrong”, and too much reliance on cliche for no good reason. I liked it – I’d say it’s worth watching – but it’s not a great one. Sorry.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>