[review by JA Kerswell]
|Janelle (Hannah Rose May) and Brian (Jordan Ver Hoeve) try to uncover the identity of the gimp stalker in EXPLOITED.|
Jon Abrahams’ EXPLOITED flirts with the slasher movie conventions (enough for inclusion here), but is more interested in the sexual exploits of a small group of university students - who find themselves targetted by a gimp mask-wearing figure who exploits and blackmails them for his or her own dark needs. Obviously inspired by the relatively recent spate of online horrors, such as UNFRIENDED (2014), EXPLOITED doesn’t feel as oppressive as it might. Directed with a light touch and likeable leads, it plays like a Scooby Doo slasher without much stalk-n-slash - but with more dildos.
A Freshman, Brian (Jordan Ver Hoeve), arrives for his first day at Starling University and is assigned his shared room with another student Jeremy (Andrew Matthew Welch). He is soon also introduced to Jeremy’s girlfriend Lexi (Makenzie Vega) and her roommate Janelle (Hannah Rose May). Brian is given a USB stick with orientation information on it but mixes it up with an identical-looking one he finds in a draw. Initially confused (as it appears to be empty), his brother, Jacob (Will Peltz), helps him recover a folder that he is surprised to find is full of videos of sex acts on a webcam. Initially, Brian is turned on to see another college student (the rather appropriately named Colin Bates) pleasuring himself to whatever is streaming on the other side of the split screen. However, later - after he is dragged to a party by the others - he looks again and discovers a darker side. He uncovers a video that looks similar at first - but ends with the unnamed student appearing to be beaten to death by the gimp-masked killer, as a sex worker watches through the screen and screams for it to stop. The video corrupts before he can clearly see how it ends.
|Jacob (Will Peltz) finds that snooping can be dangerous in EXPLOITED.|
Brian delves deeper into the hundreds of videos and discovers the sadistic nature of the mysterious gimp-masked figure - and realises that there are potentially more victims. With his brother’s help, he tries to repair the murder video to get a better idea of what actually transpired. He also tries to uncover the identity of the victim in the video. However, it soon becomes clear that the killer doesn’t want him snooping and that he and his friends are not only under constant surveillance but are being manipulated to turn on each other - and could be in imminent danger …
Abrahams - a self-declared horror fan - has some slasher movie pedigree, as an actor he appeared in the HOUSE OF WAX remake in 2005. Perhaps more tellingly, he also appeared in the broad slasher spoof SCARY MOVIE (2000). He said of the latter: “It's enjoyable to make fun of those movies because I think they're just silly to begin with. They're just so serious that everything becomes a joke.” He plays EXPLOITED relatively straight when it’s needed - and enough to get involved in the plight of the characters. The film is also refreshingly unfazed by the sexuality of its characters. However, Abrahams finds humour in the inherent silliness of some sexual webcam situations, be it a clown masturbating a balloon or a group of Plushies dressed as bunnies literally fucking like rabbits. Perhaps surprisingly, where the subgenre norm has been to revel in the female form, there is a lot more male nudity in EXPLOITED - including a number of full-frontal scenes.
|The sleuthing college students - including Lexi (Makenzie Vega) - find themslves in over their heads.|
Whilst this bacchanal approach is certainly different it does rather overshadow the thriller aspects of the movie. The central mystery is solid and the journey to the, er, climax is engaging - but a chase scene or a few more kills would have gone a long way to up the ante. If I have one more criticism, it would be that the identity behind the gimp mask was far too easy to guess (and I’m usually rubbish at guessing these things!). Still, the ending takes place in a dimly lit mansion and at least gives us a taste of what slasher thrills would have potentially benefited the rest of the movie.
Leah Pipes makes a welcome return to the subgenre as a lecturer who might have something to hide. She had previously been in the slashers FINGERPRINTS (2006) and SORORITY ROW (2009). Spencer List rounds out the main cast as the college tech support who has the hots for Lexi. He also appeared in the retro summer camp horror SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS (also 2022). Andrew Matthew Welch had a small role in MA (2019). Makenzie Vega had previously been in the original SAW (2004) and FENDER BENDER (2016).
EXPLOITED was filmed at Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky, USA in 2019. The film’s release was delayed for a couple of years because of COVID.
EXPLOITED is a fun ride for the less prudish, but would have worked better if it had played up the thriller aspects a little more.
female: 2 / male: 1
1) Female killed with shotgun
2) Female bashed with a rock
3) Male shot through chest
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