Now here’s a surprise - a retitled, micro-budget, direct-to-DVD horror film that’s actually rather better than almost all of the films of that nature that get sent to House of Mortal Cinema for review. That’s not to say the quotes on the front of the box are exactly true - HAZARD is nowhere near ‘the perfect horror film’ - but it’s not bad if you’re in the mood for some claustrophobic slasher horror and are willing to forgive the film’s shortcomings.
Originally titled HAZMAT, the film kicks off with the crew of the Scary Antics television series pulling off another ‘hilarious’ practical joke, before setting up for their latest project. A group of teenagers want to scare their friend Jacob by taking him on a prank-filled tour of a local deserted chemical factory. Jacob’s father died there, he’s convinced the place is haunted, and his friends describe him as a withdrawn, antisocial type who could use a good scare in the place his dad died to get him out of his shell.
The TV crew lock themselves in one of the factory’s tiny rooms with all their monitoring equipment, leaving one of their number to wander the corridors in biohazard overalls and a gas mask, as the teens arrive with Jacob in tow. Once inside, Jacob goes bonkers, dresses up in a hazard outfit he finds there, and starts killing everyone.
Even from that brief summary it’s easy to see that HAZARD has a few problems with its logistics, but if you can see past these, it all becomes a rather pleasing variation on Michele Soavi’s STAGEFRIGHT, with a group of hapless individuals locked in a dark and scary factory and being pursued by an unstoppable lunatic. Key to HAZARD’s success is writer-director-producer Lou Simon’s ability to create numerous effective camera set-ups and evoke a sense of claustrophobia that leads to a feeling of genuine unease. I’m not saying that HAZARD is any kind of undiscovered classic - the script could have used a polish, it really needs an ending with a bit more punch, and the acting ranges from competent to not quite so, but treat it as a variant on the low-budget Italian 1980s slasher genre and it actually works quite well.101 Films has released HAZARD on DVD only, but the picture quality is excellent, with no loss of resolution during the (many) dark scenes that, either by accident or design, are surprisingly well lit. There are no extras.
101 Films released HAZARD on Region 2 DVD on 22nd June 2015