Directed by Sean McNamara.
Starring Elena Kampouris, Michasha Armstrong, Sean Astin, Jaime M. Callica, Karolina Cubitt, Daniel Cudmore, Travis Nelson, Adam Pateman, Jeremy Piven, Bradley Stryker, and Olivia Summers.
When a city is terrorized by a sadistic serial killer, a seasoned detective and a newly recruited paramedic discover the key to stopping the bloodshed lies in unlocking the truth of their own haunted pasts.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Vindicta wouldn’t exist.
The opening moments of Sean McNamara’s serial killer slasher Vindicta depict civil unrest protesting against politician corruption with all the theatrics and visual flare of a Purge movie, let alone something that resembles authentic activism. There is also a murderer on the loose, decked out in a generic white mask, inscribing Latin phrases into the city architecture and the bodies of his or her victims in what clearly feels like a script (coming from Ian Neligh, with Steven Paul receiving a story credit) stealing from Se7en and lazily replacing the seven deadly sins. Vindicta isn’t exactly inspired filmmaking, never conjuring up a sense of identity regarding what’s happening in this world.
The film stars Elena Kampouris as Lou, starting her first day as a paramedic, having gone down a long road to achieve that career. She has had unwavering support from her former police officer father, Patrick (Jeremy Piven), despite still carrying with her guilt over not reacting fast enough during her mother’s tragic death. As a result, her superior, Rick (Sean Astin), has failed her training for years and is still none too pleased about finally caving and giving her a chance in the field. This is also partially because, again, the city is basically a war zone. Nevertheless, he partners her up with 15-year veteran Jason (Jaime M. Callica), who is kind and patient enough to teach her the ropes during these dangerous times.
As they respond to calls and bandage up the wounded, the film reveals details and shows flashbacks to a burned building where innocents weren’t rescued and died in flames. That same building recently caught fire again. Sometimes, there are baffling flashbacks to scenes that happened five minutes ago, but primarily, Vindicta is telegraphing that the serial killer is connected to this horrific incident in some way, prompting his killing spree. These flashbacks are also presented in hideous monochrome cinematography.
The presentation is cheap and amateurish, with jarring editing, ADR in plain sight, unbearably dark lighting, and comical-looking deaths (the killer likes to use ancient torture devices, but the budget here is simply not enough to pull off brutality and dismemberment this graphic.) From the first head decapitation, it’s evident that this will be a rough watch visually. Then there are the major plot reveals, which are laughable and predictable, and can’t decide if they want viewers to still care about certain characters or instill hope they meet a barbaric end.
Elena Kampouris is the one saving grace here, making the most of the narrative’s third-act descent into cat-and-mouse survival sequences, transitioning the killer into traditional unbeatable slasher territory. That shift happens so suddenly that it comes across as cartoonish and out of place. Still, her performance at least tries to express grit and determination about proving her doubters wrong as a paramedic, also physically impressing during the climax that threatens never to end. She also gets to deliver an absolutely ridiculous final one-liner that is worth looking up online and should net her similar roles in better movies. It is unmistakable that she has a sincere affinity for horror as a genre, but that is not enough to save Vindicta.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is a dish lso the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com