Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Director: Richard Turke
Writer: Richard Turke
Producer: Becca Jane Taylor
Stars: Jillian Murray, Tom Sizemore, Hanna Hall, Deja Kreutzberg, Dave Parke, Timothy Ryan Cole, Jonas Fisch, Obaka Adedunyo, Jon Van Ness
To escape her abusive boyfriend, a young woman seeks solitude in the woods only to be haunted by a tragic kidnapping and murder from the past.
“Visible Scars” is the horror movie equivalent of a precocious toddler indulging in a short attention span. Imagine a two-year-old bounding around a playroom, changing directions on a whim when the previous destination no longer holds interest. Or discarding a toy just moments after grabbing it, in favor of something brighter and shinier. “Visible Scars” bumbles about in a similar fashion, abandoning characters like action figures waiting to be stepped on, and forgetting plotlines when it runs out of ideas for what to do with them next.
To escape her abusive boyfriend, Stacy takes off to the woods for solitude and an opportunity to reflect. She learns that the area around her uncle’s secluded cabin is reportedly haunted, and has been ever since two girls were kidnapped and their mother murdered there in 1993. Detective Black, having been retired from the police force for a scant few hours, decides to investigate the cold case of the girls’ disappearance at coincidentally the same time as Stacy’s journey of self-discovery. Soon, the three stories intertwine for a grisly ghost story of mediocre proportions.
“Visible Scars” is noticeably confused about exactly how to portion out the screentime amongst its three major threads. The first 20 minutes develop the backstory of the kidnapped twins and their subsequent demise in a tragic house fire that kills their brainwashing captor. When the total runtime of the movie is only 96 minutes long, 20 minutes spent getting the initial exposition off the ground is a questionable use of real estate.
In its defense, those 20 minutes are the film’s best. Even with a nearly imperceptible tinge of camp, Tom Sizemore’s homicidal kidnapper sizzles with the actor’s distinct intensity. His more psychopathic moments are borderline cartoony, yet the icy stare and unspoken threats in between his words give his character a creepy air that is reminiscent of Sizemore’s most memorable roles. For better or for worse, those 20 minutes are remembered even more fondly when the film plunges into a spiral of increasingly meandering moments.
Eventually the timeline moves to the present day cold case investigation with the recently retired detective. After the police captain pointlessly discourages pursuit of dead leads for several minutes, Detective Black finds fresh dead ends to jam himself into. Black enlists a fellow retiree to help perform background checks on several suspects. They even waste time interviewing one of the uninvolved suspects in a scene that lasts for four sentences before the detectives move along.
The second detective then apparently confuses himself for one of the ghosts and disappears completely, never to be seen or mentioned again. And he is not the only one. When the end credits roll and count off the 36 characters featured in the film, there is an overwhelming feeling of having woken from a half-forgotten dream. It is the kind of dazed state where one vaguely remembers people and details that served little to no purpose before wondering whey they were even there to begin with.
In the mad race to stuff three dozen mostly unnecessary personalities into the plot, character traits are reduced to generic stereotypes tossed out in the movie’s disposable dialogue. We know that Detective Burke is an old fogey because he cannot keep his contemporary social media applications straight, making reference to something he calls “Facetweety.” And of course, the granola-eating marijuana farmers in the woods add a shout out to “Burning Man” in case anyone is still unsure about their hippie status.
Much of the production is unconvincing. The young actresses playing the twin sisters as children wear ridiculous black wigs that would be embarrassing in a Saturday Night Live skit. Women introduced later in the film that have supposedly lived alone in the woods for 17 years try to sell feral with saucer-eyed stares and clothes artificially tattered by a costume department.
When “Visible Scars” switches its tone to decapitated heads and blades through the throat, the feeling comes full circle that three separate, and only mildly related, stories have been smashed together into one confused film. Except it is the filmmakers who are confused, and not the audience. Following the movie is easy. Understanding why it is structured this way is not.
Just as the brunt of the runtime is misspent, the overall film is misguided. Somewhere in the soup may have been a coherent horror movie that might have worked as a gorefest, a police procedural, or a ghost story. Trying to cover all three by trumping up the cast list and weaving in more threads than necessary only makes “Visible Scars” as easy to forget for the audience as two-thirds of the film for its writers.
Review Score: 30