The seemingly-unkillable slasher is virtually the default horror icon of modern times. The hulking, slow-walking masked menace cutting a swathe through teenagers has been a standby of the genre ever since Michael Myers first stepped out in Autumn in Haddonfield. These figures, like Freddy and Jason, are the poster boys for horror and the memorable ones arrive with their own mythos.
The eponymous killer in Legacy of Thorn is one such figure.
Every four years, on February 29, Thorn prowls the night. His arms covered in tribal tattoos, his face covered by a metal skull mask, he not only poses a threat by himself, but has apparently inspired a secret cult of support for his murderous activities.
A handful of teenagers survived his 2008 rampage and swear a pact to finally kill Thorn off in 2012. But they quickly discover that it is a plan easily formulated, but one much harder to execute.
Legacy of Thorn is a prequel to director MJ Dixon’s previous feature, Slasher House. While Thorn was a supporting character in that flick, here he takes centre stage as the legendary killer with decades of mayhem under his belt. His prime target, it seems, is Jess (Jade Wallis), a young blonde girl with a prediliction for very short shorts. There is some kind of connection between her and Thorn – but, of course, anyone who has seen a slasher film will immediately guess what that connection is.
That is perhaps the biggest problem with Legacy of Thorn. Whilst no doubt aiming at being a love letter to the slasher sub-genre, it wallows too much in the cliches of that most narrow of categories. Aside from the masked, machete-wielding villain, we also have the usual stereotypical teens (nerd, comedy duo, bitchy girl, et cetera) and a lot of people thinking the killer is dead just long enough to say something like, “Everything is okay now” before promptly being impaled on something.
And if you were to drink every time someone trips over when being chased by Thorn, you’ll be thoroughly drunk way before the credits roll.
It is testament to the obvious passion onscreen that this, combined with some wobbly acting performances, does not drag the film down. Because Legacy of Thorn is a work of inventiveness and a masterclass in wringing the most out of every penny of its budget.
A micro-budget film, Legacy of Thorn punches above its weight thanks to some cunning filmmaking on the part of Dixon. As with Slasher House, coloured lighting adds style to the prowling camerawork and by carefully shooting using a lot of close-ups, tension is created by closed framing with the added bonus of obscuring any ropey FX work – allowing the audience to think they see more than they actually do.
This skill lets the story take the front seat, where again, some shrewd decisions in the script get great mileage out of a threadbare and somewhat over-familiar plot. The film jumps around in time between the events of 2012 and those of 2008, backstory being deftly filled in only as and when needed, providing elegant exposition while also racheting up the suspense as we await each time to return to the present.
Ambitious and aimed squarely at die-hard horror fans, Legacy of Thorn is a worthy successor to Slasher House. Extreme resourcefulness beefs up an understrength script with a great look, excellent staging and a remarkable ability to make the most of every asset. With this calibre of work on display, one wonders just how good Dixon could be with a larger budget behind him.
Read Matt’s interview with MJ Dixon here.
Director: MJ Dixon / Country: UK / Year: 2014 /Studio: Mycho Entertainment / Run Time: 97 Mins