Wicked Games (1994)
Wicked Games is an amateur production in every sense of the word. At that, however, it is far from the worst film I've seen. Yes, the performances are terrible, the editing frequently nonexistent, the sound often difficult to hear, the poorly written score is performed on cheap keyboards, it's shot on video tape (which makes it look like a home movie), the lighting is bad, etc., but there are a few worthwhile elements here.
Director and writer Tim Ritter (who is persistent enough to have seven films behind him to date) has created a decent story that holds your interest and keeps you guessing until the end -- as long as you can stick it out for about the first 15 - 20 minutes. The beginning of the film looks more like a really bad, amateur porno with no pay-offs.
Once the deaths start, things become more interesting. Yes, on one level, this is yet another film featuring a guy in a wacky mask on a serial murder spree during which he tries to creatively outdo himself. On another level, Wicked Games is a decent, almost suspenseful flick with twists that create a vacillating sureness in the viewer that "He's the killer . . . no -- that guy is the killer . . . wait a minute, he's got to be the killer," etc.
On yet another level, this appears to be a film about mental illness, but unfortunately that never comes across very clearly here. Wicked Games is a follow-up to Ritter's 1986 film, Truth or Dare, which presumably sheds more light on the mental illness angle. Watching Wicked Games in isolation, however, just gives you the impression that there's more to this story that you'll never get unless you see the other film -- especially once the very last scene arrives. While that may be a clever way for an indie-indie filmmaker (like "off-off Broadway") to get you to check out their other work, it doesn't exactly create satisfaction with the film at hand.
Besides the whodunit factor, the other thing that works in Wicked Games are the deaths. Sure, the special effects are kinda cheesy, and most horror fans will know how they're done, but the deaths are pretty gruesome and creative. My favorite was the sprinkler impalement, which allows a nice blood spray effect. A close runner-up is a death by shredded beer can.
Ritter has some good ideas, and given a proper budget, he could possibly turn out a classic or two. He seems aware of the low budget nature of Wicked Games and thankfully embraces it rather than adding an air of pretentiousness. I certainly can't recommend this film, but it's not without merit if you're trying to see every horror film you can get your hands on.