Directors: Daniel Liatowitsch, David Todd Ocvirk
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 84 Minutes
Purchase: Amazon [affiliate link]
This product was provided to us by Arrow Video for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own. Score is based on the product as a whole, not only the film.
Although it may not be a widely known title, Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk’s Kolobos is an interesting spectacle of a horror film, one that reveled in its gory slasher roots despite releasing during a time when such titles were out of vogue, in favor of more supernatural spooks and scares.
Had it come out a few years later, it may have been able to cash in on the torture-porn craze, but, alas, it ended up competing with The Blair Witch Project, which took the wind out of its sails. Twenty years later, though, it has gained cult status, and new audiences are discovering this scrappy little psychological slasher all over the place, myself included.
Kolobos plays out like a 1990s version of Saw by way of Argento, blending elements of ’70s Italian horror with a torture-loving, black-gloved killer who, in addition to old-fashioned hands-on murder, sets up his killing floor with high-tech traps to dispatch his bratty victims.
Clearly inspired by such reality shows as The Real World, the film involves five twenty-somethings chosen to be subjects in a new TV series where they’ll be living in a house together and filmed “on VHS” 24/7. We see the audition videos of each person, giving us the least amount of backstory possible before gathering them in the house.
In true Real World fashion, the group meets one another and looks around the house, which they lose it over for some reason. You might expect the house to be some trendy modern slice of paradise like in most of those shows, but instead they’re housed in what appears to be a grandparents’ home that hasn’t been updated since the ’70s.
Each character is a standard ’90s archetype, including a the horny comedian, troubled artists and a bubbly club kid. This makes for one of the most appealing aspects of Kolobos: the absolutely perfect encapsulation of the ’90s held within.
After the first guest ends up getting killed from a hidden trap in the kitchen, steel walls drop down over the doors and windows, and the youngsters find themselves trapped inside the house.
Kolobos attempts to inject psychological horror into a standard slasher flick, with the lead character, Kyra, (Amy Weber), seeing strange, faceless creatures that may or may not exist only in her mind. We’re left questioning what’s real, if anything, and the resulting violence is so ambiguous that I question if even the filmmakers had any idea what’s going on. But that’s what makes Kolobos so fun; its methods are so obtuse that, not only does nothing make sense, it goes so over the top that it no longer even matters.
In celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary, Arrow has released a newly restored version on Blu-ray and packed it full of features. Having not seen the original VHS or DVD versions, I can’t attest to the improvement in quality, but the new 2K transfer from the original camera negatives looks very good, with nary a blemish to be seen.
Bonus features include a director commentary, an all-new making-of featurette, interviews, image galleries, trailers, and a short film from director Daniel Liatowitsch that he made when he was 12 years old. Like all of Arrow’s releases, there’s a reversible cover, and the first printing comes with a booklet featuring essays and technical specifications regarding the restoration.
Kolobos isn’t a great movie by any stretch, but it’s a fun relic from the not-too-distant past and accurately represents a tumultuous time for the horror genre. Bog-standard, straight-to-video horror movies were a dime a dozen in the ’90s, and while Kolobos may unfairly be lumped into that category, there’s enough creativity here to set it apart from the rest.