A few weeks back, Lisa Marie blamed/credited me for the fact that she even watched, let alone reviewed, director/star/editor/cinematographer Darla Enlow’s 2003 shot-on-video, direct-to-DVD 68-minute opus Toe Tags, so I’m returning the — ahem! — favor by blaming/crediting her for the fact that I’m gonna do the same thing (well, I say “gonna do” only as it applies to reviewing this flick, since I first watched it several months ago, then gave it a second look last night). See, I kinda think it would be amusing to make Through The Shattered Lens the only site on the entire internet with two different reviews of this movie. Granted, I haven’t checked every single website in the entire universe to make sure this claim holds water, but it’s a pretty safe bet, since I doubt that more than a few hundred people have even seen this thing — and most of them were probably either friends with, or related to, somebody who had something to do with its production.
Shot for around $30,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma — where SOV slashers got their start with Blood Cult way back in 1985 — the “action” in this film centers around a series of murders at the supposedly high-end Valley Creek apartment complex, where the dynamic police duo of Detectives Mark Weiss (Marc Page) and Kate Wagner (Enlow) are investigating a grisly series of slayings, with a twist — every corpse that comes into the morgue by way of Valley Creek ends up with its titular toe tag going missing somewhere along the way.
One thing that really stands out here : the movie was quite obviously all shot in the same apartment complex, with one notable exception —- it’s evident that the landlady’s supposed “apartment” is actually an honest-to-God house and is located elsewhere. So that leaves us with a rather incongruous bit of easily-noticeable movie less-than-magic — while the “police station” where a good chunk of this story takes place is almost without question an office in an apartment complex, the supposed headquarters of the actual apartment complex is not in the apartment complex! Hey, when ya only got 30 grand ta play around with, ya do what ya can.
Enlow doesn’t have much eye for style or perspective when it comes to the camera work, but I do give her points for at least trying to do something more other than simple point-and-shoot stuff, even if her attempts are largely failures, and she’s definitely to be lauded for managing to convince a steady stream of generally pretty attractive women to drop their tops in front of her camera for probably little to no money, but beyond that Toe Tags doesn’t really stand out in any way, shape, or form. The script, by one John Overbey (about the only thing Enlow didn’t do herself when it comes to this flick is write it), takes a pretty straightforward story and messes it up by heaping a bunch of ex-love-interest drama on both of the cops (it turns out they had both been sleeping with separate victims of the killer previously — and Kate makes it clear to Mark that she’s fair game if he feels like taking a crack at her during their off-hours) and having some seriously unconventional, if not downright illegal, police procedural shit towards the end when the captain thinks he’s got the identity of the murderer sussed out, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief beyond its usual, already-stretched-thin levels for this one. As for the “twist” finale, well — you’ll not only see it coming a mile away, but it’s waving its arms in the air, wearing a helmet with a flashing light on it, and setting off road flares.
On the splatter front (hey, admit it, that’s pretty much what you’re watching a movie like this for, apart from the tits), Enlow and her shoestring crew do a pretty nice job with the gore EFX all told, and considering the whole thing runs barely over an hour, the body count is fairly impressive. My best guess is that most of the budget for this one was consumed in an effort to make the numerous murders look reasonably realistic, and by and large it pays off, so hey — credit where it’s due.
Toe Tags is available either as a stand-alone DVD from Brain Damage Films (as pictured at the outset of this review), which probably contains a fair amount of extras (assuming you actually want to know more about how this was made), or you can see it like I did, as part of the “Crazed Killers” six-movie, two-disc set from Mill Creek’s sub-label specializing in microbudget/ homemade horrors, Pendulum Pictures. It’s presented full frame with stereo sound, both of which are unspectacular but perfectly adequate considering (which probably isn’t such a bad overall description of the film itself).
The folks who made Toe Tags obviously had a pretty good time with the whole thing, at least if the rather self-indulgent little “blooper reel” that plays during the end credits is any indication (without it the film would clock in under an hour), and I’m glad they enjoyed themselves — I just wish I had as much fun watching it as they did acting in, shooting, and directing it. I’ve certainly seen far worse fare on these Pendulum compilation discs, but often the clunkers are so bad as to be truly memorable, even if for all the wrong reasons. This one just kind of comes on your screen, tries to do its job, and calls it a day. It doesn’t make a mess of you home while it’s in it (like, say, its disc-mate Las Vegas Bloodbath), but it’s not the kind of interesting, unpredictable guest you’re likely to invite around again.
I appreciate all the effort and energy Enlow put into just getting this thing made, and she’s certainly to be commended for that alone as well as for busting her tail to make the financial pittance she had to work with go farther than it probably had any right to, but at the end of the day, the Toe Tags title is an appropriate one — this flick is dead on arrival.