If you ever want to really cheese my goat, all you have to do is mislead me. For instance, when I sat down with first-time director Daniel Maze's thoroughly disappointing convenience store slasher "Cornered!", I expected to see some direct-to-video shenanigans featuring "Police Academy" alumni Steve Guttenberg. After all, he does receive top billing, which is generally a clear indication that said individual will have a prominent role in the film. And while revealing more about Guttenberg's role in the film may shower you with sticky spoilers, I will say that the man's contribution to this lackluster shocker is nothing more than a glamorized cameo. That, dear readers, is how you irritate my inner Mahoney.
To make matters worse, Maze didn't bother to deliver anything close to resembling an enjoyable motion picture. I suppose there are a few effective moments of comedy and horror spread around this dismal little outing, but none of them ever really come together for the sake of entertainment. Not even Guttenberg's wooden portrayal of mild-mannered delivery guy Morty could save this thing from finding the bottom of my trash can as soon as the end credits made their way across my television screen. I suppose, in a way, I deserved this. After all, in our current economic climate, blind buys don't make much sense, especially given the start of the direct-to-video horror market.
Specifically, the film chronicles the exploits of a group of losers -- the prototypical donut-obsessed fat guy, the hooker with the heart of gold, the recovering junkie, an overweight phone sex operator, and a wise-cracking Hispanic stereotype -- as they gather for a fun-filled evening stuffed with booze, tomfoolery, and poker. Their night soon takes a significant turn for the worse when a serial killer targets the group for systematic termination. Naturally, the body count starts to rise, the blood begins to flow, and the jokes never seem to stop. And by jokes, I mean unfunny one-liners penned by someone who doesn't seem to understand the basic concept of humor.
However, it's just not the comedy that falls flat: Maze also seems to have forgotten that his movie is also supposed to be horrific. The kills -- a sad, soggy collection of poorly-executed gore sequences -- weigh down the bottom half of the feature, which may explain the film's abnormally sluggish pacing. At barely 85 minutes in length, "Cornered!" should have been brisk, breezy, and fairly straight to the point slasher. Unfortunately, the film feels as if it's at least two hours long, and that's being somewhat generous. I know I checked the "time remaining" feature on my DVD at least three times. I almost never do that.
Although the actors -- including "The Doom Generation" weirdo James Duvall -- certainly aren't the cream of the proverbial crop, their tepid performances can be partially blamed on Darrin Grimwood's cliché-ridden script. Every character is a cartoon, a running gag, something designed to spout horrendous dialogue and, eventually, become fodder for the masked maniac hiding somewhere in the convenience store. Watching their cornball antics becomes tiresome after the first ten minutes; I honestly didn't care whether they lived happily ever after or died a violent, stomach-churning death. Apathy, I'm told, is never a sign of quality entertainment.
"Cornered!" certainly had potential. The idea of a serial killer running amok inside a derelict food mart is definitely intriguing, and had the concept been handed to someone with the ability to properly develop it, the film may have been a bit more enjoyable. Even if Maze and company had increased Steve Guttenberg's screen time tenfold, I still wouldn't be able to recommend this slop to anyone who hasn't devoted their entire existence to the exploration of the slasher subgenre. This is just another subpar direct-to-video clunker powered by two notable actors who appear to be slumming it for the paycheck. My advice: Watch Scott Spiegel's "Intruder", instead.