When you are younger it almost becomes second nature to envy and covet what other people have – success, love, perceived happiness, wealth, extravagance, friends, whatever – because you have not seen enough of the world or lived enough of life to know better. If you’re lucky, and wise, you generally get past that stage in development (though we all have our lapses) and I can happily say that it’s not often that I find myself looking at someone envying something they have that I don’t. I can say in utter confidence that I don’t envy one bit the fate of someone like actor/stuntman Kane Hodder, who had done film work for years but who most famously portrayed Jason Voorhees in several of the latter the Friday the 13th films and has become a fan favorite because of this. He is a rarity in that he was one actor playing what was essentially a part for stuntmen (which he was at the time) and a character that had no speaking parts. Ah, but Hodder made this character his by making Jason a physical character, one of defined movements and defined motives. After Jason was killed off and re-cast though it left Hodder without an identity. He has made a name for himself as the ghostly killer in the Hatchet films but the man isn’t that old and still wants to act. Ah, but sadly he still gets cast as the killer, either by choice or by fate, and as good as he may be in that role, well, this film is not one of his shining moments.
Exit 33 is the last chance for gas on a lonely stretch of rural road and its owner is a cold man with little to say and less to offer. What he has though is gas and when he’s the last stop for miles there isn’t much choice. When several travelers happen across Exit 33 over the course of a few days that the owner, Ike, is celebrating hunting season and the travelers are the prey. The secret that drives Ike though and what might stop him may lie in the visions of a dead woman that he keeps seeing but unless one of the victims can figure out his secret no one will survive.
Playing out like yet another killer on the loose movie this one takes the tact of rooting for the killer, where the victims are pretty mindless, very useless, and little more than window dressing. In fact, the plot has the same effect, being discarded as soon as Ike is set loose. There is a vague attempt to cling to the plot but it is about as important as the characterization. No, this is a movie about Ike, and his madness. I have to admit that it bummed me out to see Hodder as an even more mindless killer than Jason ever was. When you find out what he’s doing (sort of) and why, well, it just doesn’t mean anything. There is no effort to make him or the victims people, they are just pawns in a film. This is well filmed (though there are some poor editing and music choices early on), and shows a lot of promise for the filmmakers. And there are a few story touches that almost work, they are so close, but overall this just feels unfortunate. Too much time is spent on Ike murdering and tormenting his victims and the rest of the movie feels like the thin reason why he is doing it.
A lot of Hodder fans will get a kick out of this film and certainly some horror fans will as well but I was hoping for a lot more. Too often horror focuses on the monster and unless the monster is genuinely sympathetic we lose the connection to the horror, the danger, and to the reason why we are watching. Monsters and killers are interesting in films but they are not meant to be the stars, not in the movies that last for years and years.
5 out of 10