Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Train Tracks of Terror: Fingerprints (2006)

Fingerprints (2006)
Rating: ***
Starring: Leah Pipes, Kristin Cavallari, Josh Henderson

Y'know, my parents are great. I mean, sure, a lot of people can say that to their own folks and I guess I ain't gonna add much to that, but from introducing the three core villains that will soon become my twisted obsession (Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kreuger and Michael Myers, my own unholy trinity!) to other obscure slashers like Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002), Nightmare Man (2006) and The Fear: Halloween Night (1999), they tried hard to entertain me and I recall having more ups than downs whenever I join them in watching these scary (and not so scary) flicks.

As some of you might have guessed, Fingerprints is one of the titles my folks (particularly mum) recommended to me after they enjoyed it, but with me a little bias about ghost movies (only a few of them work for me. My dad's childhood fave The Changeling (1980) being one of them), I pretended to try it, enjoyed it and left it in my room to collect dusts and cobwebs before selling it away at a yearly garage sale. It wasn't too long (and by that I meant years) before I figured out it was part slasher flick and I cursed myself for judging a DVD by its cover as I would have something to enjoy that day it was handed to me. Well, after some time, I finally got to see it and, well, they're right! It is good.

Not great good, but good nonetheless.

The film opens at 1950s Emerald, Texas, where a school bus full of singing kids is being drivenhome  at a rainy night while their parents await for them at the other side of the train tracks. When the automated crossing gate fails to drop down, however, the parents watch in horror as the bus continues to cross the rails, unaware of the incoming train, and gets plowed down. Nobody survived.

Fifty years later, the accident spawns an urban legend around the town that if one would park their car in the middle of the same tracks, the ghost of the children will safely push the car out out of harm and leave little fingerprints as proof of their deed. This is quickly dismissed as nothing but a ghost story by the town's new girl and our protagonist, Melanie, who just has been released from rehab after a near-death experience involving a drug overdose and a dead boyfriend.

You see, Melanie is moving to this little community with her family in hopes of starting anew and the last thing she needs right now is to start believing in ghosts and be seen as a freak. But with the entire town made aware of the incident that lead to her boyfriend's death, she's outcasted either way and it isn't going to get any better when she, out of curiosity, tries the legend on her own one day and sees it work. This leads to her seeing a quiet little girl named Julie who appears to be one of the children that died at the bus crash and she wants to tell, or show Melanie something.

As it turns out, there's a little bit more to the crash than what everybody in town seems to believe and Melanie finds herself playing Nancy Drew to uncover what really happened. All the while, a figure dressed in a cool train conductor uniform starts to off anybody who comes too close of knowing the town's big secret and soon, they will come for Melanie...

As a whole, Fingerprints shouldn't work. Its production looks relatively cheap with hokey highschool project-quality special effects and some of the baddest overacting I've seen in this fine sub-genre, but the Saturday afternoon "kiddie horror" feel to its mystery has its quirky charms despite its cliched predictability and whatever gory kills and torture to happen onscreen are bloody and nasty as heck. (Especially since some of them were aimed at the kids!) It's really adds nothing new as either a supernatural mystery or a teen slasher, but I love how the two sub-genres found a way here to mix and benefit one another, creating a cheesy yet watchable horror flick that may not have aged well on some aspects (oh God, flip phones!) but works for its simplicity and clever twist on an obscure urban legend.

Pre-Sorority Row Leah Pipes takes the role of our lead girl and she does a solid job at it. In fact, she might be the only one here with a credible enough role as the rest of the cast sounded and felt like paper cutouts of horror movie stereotypes, some exaggerated to the extremes than the others to the point that it's laughably bad. An example of this is a certain candidate for one of the worst horror movie mother, played by Ginger Gilmartin, who might as well be a villain on her own right as I'm sure she'd gone insane with how she's portrayed at the latter parts of this flick. (I mean there's overbearing, and then there's insane screaming and scissor brandishing worrisome. Now you know why I started this review talking about my folks...)

On the opposite side of this spectrum, Filipino-American actor Lou Diamond Phillips is here, but he honestly looks misplaced and a bit underused as his character is one of the more believably written. And speaking of underused, I also I think our cool-looking killer deserved a little bit more screentime and a slightly higher kill count, but that may derail (no pun intended) Fingerprint's main focus as a supernatural mystery so I guess the plot is as good as it is and I still think it managed to balance out both sub-genres quite well.

It's cheap, yeah, but at least it delivers the goods. Fingerprints needs to be tried out a bit more, especially for those likes their supernatural slasher cheap and cheesy, and their mystery slow but steady!

1 male overdoses (flashback)
1 male ran through the chest with a spike
1 female skwered through the neck with a spike
1 male slashed to death with a razor
1 male found hanged
1 female strangled (flashback)
12 children left for dead, skeletons found
1 male ran through with a spike
1 male beatened and hanged (flashback)
1 female plowed down by a train
Total: 21

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