When I found out that Arrow was releasing this mysterious, underrated horror film titled Kolobos, I couldn’t wait to pre-order the Blu-Ray and watch it. For those of you who don’t know, Arrow is a British distribution company specialised in cult movies, 70s and 80s horror, foreign cinema and, in general, damn cool releases. Due to their amazing releases, packed with extras and insightful featurettes, Arrow is my favourite distribution company (alongside, of course, Criterion).
Back to the movie, Kolobos is indeed a vastly overlooked and underrated slasher horror film, written and directed by Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk.
Although Kolobos (which means “mutilated” in Ancient Greek) is inspired by 80s slasher flicks and 70s Italian horror, the movie sets itself apart from the classic slasher template by being very meta, extremely smart and oddly surreal. Since it’s part of the ongoing I JUST SAW… series – where I recommend underrated and overlooked horror films – it goes without saying that I really loved this movie. In fact, it really blew me away!
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The movie starts off with an opening scene that easily would lead the viewer into believing Kolobos is just a thirteen-in-a-dozen slasher flick, but then the film completely changes in tone with a first part that’s completely shot from the perspective of Kyra, the main character, with the other characters addressing her as though she was the audience. Kyra has been injured and she’s now in hospital, where she recollects what happened before: five aspiring actors, including Kyra, have taken on a very odd job, which includes spending three months in a remote cabin on the mountains. They’d have to interact naturally with each other, with cameras placed all-around them to record their day-to-day activities. However, after they’ve been eased in, things take a dark turn… a dark turn filled with violence, gore, mystery, surreal frightening stuff.
As I mentioned before, Kolobos is a very clever and meta picture, where five young characters behave on screen just like their counterparts in the endless stream of 80s slasher movies. This is something that, at this point, we’ve seen in movies like Scream (which came out in 1996) and, more recently, The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and You Might Be the Killer (2018): unlike these other movies, though, Kolobos doesn’t feature any comedy and plays it straight, to make a proper terrifying film.
And even if you aren’t a fan of traditional slasher filmmaking, Kolobos features quite a few spooky scenes that don’t rely on jump-scares and yet will likely creep you out. Actually, there are a couple of moments when there are jump-scares (even a fake one), but they aren’t accompanied by loud, obnoxious sounds, resulting in more them being more effective rather than manipulative. Yet, for those of you who – like me – love classic slashers, there’s plenty of violence and blood fully on screen.
In fact, Kolobos is one of the most out-there slashers I’ve seen recently: the gory effects, which are all practical, are very well-done (like, Tom Savini-level of well-done!), with the “melting-face scene” taking the cake when it comes to inventiveness.
Another aspect this movie nails is the visual references to other horror movies that were popular at the time, some of which are still relevant now. Unlike movies like Scream (which, by the way, is one of my favourite horror films), the references here aren’t spelled out by the characters. Instead, the viewer is asked to recognise them when they’re displayed visually in the movie, something I find quite entertaining.
I mentioned before how, besides 80s slasher flicks, Kolobos is inspired by 70s Italian horror. This comes from a combination of score (which is very similar to the one Goblin composed for many famous Argento movies) and colour palette, very bright and crisp, with heightened saturation in the most extreme sequences.
The interesting concept, the parallels between what’s going on in the movie and the expectations from the horror fanbase, the unique visual presentation, the graphic violence, the fact that it was shot on film: all these elements make Kobolos a great movie and a very enjoyable watch, which is also due to its extremely fast pace with no dead air whatsoever.
I truly believe the only reason why this picture has been forgotten is that it came out in 1999. This was a very peculiar time for horror: movies like The Sixth Sense started to mix family drama with horror, The Blair Witch Project paved the way for popular found-footage flicks, and the slasher genre’s popularity was dropping. Kolobos was just an oddball, very out of place in that scenario.
Not to say that the movie doesn’t have any flaws. My main gripe with Kolobos is the acting, which feels wooden and forced for the most part: this is understandable, since a late-90s indie movie made by two first-time filmmakers could hardly do any better in this regard, but still I would have loved if the acting was on par with story, visuals, great scenes and themes of the movie. The other issue revolves around some minor continuity errors that are made clear at the end: if you think back at everything that happened, two or three moments are very implausible given the conclusion of the film.
Still, these shortcomings didn’t affect my viewing experience in the slightest and I can’t wait to re-watch Kolobos as soon as possible. This movie has everything: an original plot, unique visuals, great pacing, violence, genuinely spooky scenes and great entertainment values.
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