Landmine Goes Click, 2015.
Directed by Levan Bakhia.
Starring Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Dean Geyer, Helen Nelson, Kote Tolordava and Giorgi Tsaava.
An American backpacking in the former Soviet Union steps on a landmine and is forced to watch as his girlfriend is tortured and abused.
People trapped in unusual circumstances can make for interesting movies, mainly because the filmmakers have to spend a feature-length running time trying to build suspense and make the situation unbearable to watch. Landmine Goes Click is, at times, unbearable to watch but for many different reasons, and boredom is never one of them because it tends to shift focus every so often so that what you thought was the initial threat/plot point is merely a setup for what will come later.
The film begins with three young Americans backpacking through Georgia, Eurasia. Daniel (Dean Geyer) is engaged to Alicia (Spencer Locke) but Alicia has had a previous dalliance with Daniel’s friend Chris (Sterling Knight) and thinks that Daniel knows nothing about it. Their friendship is tested, however, when Chris steps on a landmine whilst having a photo taken and the film becomes a ‘person-in-peril’ story as local ranger Devi (Giorgi Tsaava) disappears to find help and Daniel offers his friend support as they try to figure out what to do.
However, the story changes gear when it is revealed that Daniel has known about the affair between Alicia and Chris all along and has set this situation up for revenge, exiting the scene (and the film) soon after and leaving Chris stood on a landmine with Alicia helpless to assist. This is when the film moves again and local hunter Ilya (Kote Tolordava) arrives on the scene and offers his help but only in exchange for Alicia performing humiliating tasks for his amusement, culminating in Ilya brutally attacking Alicia while all Chris can do is stand dead still and watch. But by this point the film is far from finished and once the act of Alicia’s defilement is over things take a really bizarre and disturbing twist.
Taken at face value Landmine Goes Click starts off as a potentially tense thriller but moves into grubby torture porn territory fairly quickly and this is what is most likely to put a lot of people off. Clocking in at around two-and-a-half minutes, the rape scene isn’t especially graphic but it is very uncomfortable to watch and then the film moves off into I Spit on Your Grave/The Last House on the Left-style revenge, which would be fine if Ilya was the only antagonist in the movie but he isn’t and the plot thread of Daniel trying to get his own back on Chris is dropped very quickly. The final scene of the film, while quite affecting and poignant in its own way, is unsatisfactory as full retribution has not been dished out and it all ends on a bit of a downer.
But for a film that has quite a few flaws to it Landmine Goes Click also very much follows the grindhouse/exploitation tradition of giving you violence and shocks just for the sheer bloody hell of it and that is what makes it appealing to those of a hardened disposition. Once the film does away with the fairly tense but admittedly limited idea of stepping on a landmine the tonal shift into darker territory is actually a more pleasing prospect than an hour or so of whiny American teens trying to figure out how to get out of the mess they’re in (see Bakhia’s previous movie 247°F for a more generic example of that). The late Kote Tolordava makes Ilya an interesting villain, at first seen as a bumbling oaf just out to get what he can off the out-of-their-depth Americans but his moves are very calculated and although the dialogue may get a little contrived to get the plot to where it needs to be his general presence gives the film the threatening edge it needs to make the absurd situation escalate into something more dangerous. Spencer Locke’s role as Alicia is fairly thankless but she handles what she has to do very well, the only real weak point being Sterling Knight who is fine in the scenes where Ilya is abusing Alicia because all he has to do is stand still and shout but in the final act of the film he plays it a little too camp, like a moustache-twirling villain from a pantomime, to really pull off the weighty performance that is needed.
Overall, Landmine Goes Click is not going to please everyone due to its subject matter and often improbable delivery but, just like the exploitation movies it has drawn influence from, this can be ignored and/or forgiven for the sake of entertainment and keeping things moving along. With a running time of 100 minutes it could have been trimmed down a bit and tightened up here and there but it is never boring and Levan Bakhia does have an eye for making what is a fairly bland –looking landscape a bit dynamic with some fancy camera swoops, so if you found recent attempts to relive the glory days of sleazy grindhouse trash-fests somewhat mediocre then Landmine Goes Click, whilst far from perfect, does deliver the necessary nastiness to keep that particular flame burning and offers up a grimier take on the relatively slick and clinical post-Taken revenge thrillers we have been getting over the past few years.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★