Gruesome isn't a bad film, it really isn't. It shows admirable restraint, maintains a nice, creepy vibe for a lot of the runtime, and tries to be a bit different from so many of its peers. Unfortunately, there's enough going against it to stop it being really good.
Lauren Currie Lewis plays Claire, a young woman who starts to have nightmares that involve a nasty man named Duke Desmond (Chris Ferry). The nightmares aren't always exactly the same, but the common thread running through them is Desmond wanting to kill Claire. Claire is terrified, thinking that somehow Desmond really IS out to get her. Her boyfriend (Jimmy, played by Cody Darbe) doesn't believe her, of course, and thinks that she's going a bit crazy. The local police (headed up by Dectective Miller, played by John P. Miller) think the same way. IS Lauren crazy, or is Desmond going to get her?
Written and directed by Jeff and Josh Crook, the biggest thing going against Gruseome is that it's not as clever as it thinks. The ending, while enjoyable enough, will be spotted by horror fans within moments of the movie starting. The next main thing going against it is the inane soundtrack. Sorry, I know low budget movies struggle, and they can't licence any well-known songs a lot of the time, but the tunes that are played here, often repeatedly, are distractingly irritating. Then there's the pacing. Although the film runs for just 80 minutes it feels a bit too long, mainly because the main portion of the runtime is devoted to a number of moments that simply repeat a variation on the opening scenes. Claire meets Desmond, gets scared, and tries to get away from him. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Lewis is okay in the lead role, and Ferry is suitably menacing as the man making her so scared, but nobody can shake off that low budget, amateurs trying too hard, vibe. It's a hard thing to pin down, but it's a self-conscious feeling that comes from actors. You don't know it until you watch a movie like this, and then you can't help but notice it in every scene. It's as if people aren't engaged in conversations, they're waiting for their cue to speak. People don't rant, they deliver dialogue with the level of emotion that they think is appropriate. You can see the wheels turning. The worst offender in this instance is a scene in a police station that involves two sniggering deputies. Unfortunately, one of those deputies is played by Jeff Crook, which tells me that he should stick to the writing and directing for any future projects.
Having listed the pros and cons, Gruesome still manages, just, to be watchable enough. Some people might like it more than I did. But some people might be even less forgiving. Give it a watch if you have the time, and let me know what you think.