After attending the funeral of their schoolfriend Jennifer Lopez (not that one), four girls find themselves being picked off one-by-one by a masked killer, who apparently is another, forgotten, schoolfriend. Oh, and they still find the time to take drugs and have sex. A lot of sex.
The film, billed as the first American giallo,* unfolds out of chronological order (which was very 'in' in the late 90s/early 00s), which adds absolutely nothing of value to proceedings. That's not surprising, though-pretty much nothing in the film could be considered as having any value. The cinematography is (I think; the DVD is shockingly-poorly authored) terrible, the acting worse, and the script makes the cinematography and acting look Not Too Bad.
The most impressive thing about the film is that its makers managed to persuade six actresses to disrobe (and, I think in at least one case, actually have sex) on camera for something which is as no-budget and low-hope as this is. An end-of-end-credits title card informs us that the director had identified "stylish visuals, techno scores, the whodunit element, violence, gore, large amounts of melodrama... (and) liberal amounts of nudity & sex" as being the hallmarks of the giallo genre. He's not wrong (apart from the techno bit), so it's a shame that he proves incapable of making something which showcases this knowledge of the filone. Sure, there is an extremely liberal amount of nudity and sex, but that's not an exclusive hallmark of the giallo film. The rest of the elements identified as being integral to the giallo are MIA.
The actresses were likely chosen for their aforementioned willingness to disrobe. They certainly weren't chosen for their acting talents; scenes which don't include bath-wanking, clothes-changing, showering or sex-having tend to depict the girls struggling to believably portray taking drugs, or chatting in monotones about men. The idea seems to have been to incorporate some earthy social realism into the mix, to pay lip service to issues such as drug addiction and eating disorders. The problem is, the characters don't really need to eat anything, so paper-thin are they.
And, for a film which features many scenes of women talking, it still struggles to pass the Bechdel test, such is the concern of the characters with looking good and impressing their men. Not to say that some women aren't like that IRL (in real life, yeah?), but I'd say it's unusual for two of them to, as happens here, have an in-depth conversation about how they don't want to lose their boyfriends only to immediately launch into full-on lesbian action. Especially when they're sunbathing at a public beach (it must have been cold, or early in the morning, though, as there are no background artists visible at any stage on the ensuing scenery-munching scene).
The mystery which is notionally at the heart of the plot-who is killing these girls-is not one which seems to concern any of them at any point. Indeed, this may be the one justification for messing around with the timeline-if we lose track of how many of the friends are dead at a given point, we're less likely to pick up on their apparent total indifference to their predicament. There are a couple (literally) of suspects, but the longer the film plays the more you realise that we're just going to be treated to a last-second reveal, with no layers of mystery to be penetrated (unless you find the vagina an impenetrable mystery, in which case I would say you're in for a treat, except the shoddy image quality will likely only add to the vaginal mystique).
The kill list-a list of the five main characters' names on a white board, with those who're killed marked off-is a decent, if not original, idea, which at least provides some semblance of a coherent structure. It did remind me that we never actually saw one of the characters being murdered though, so the kill list is at best a qualified success. And, the handwriting is very sloppy.
Not seeing one of the characters being murdered barely qualifies as a letdown here, given that we'd have seen much even if the kill did happen onscreen-most scenes play out in static, poorly lit, poorly framed wide shots, with gore minimal at best. The grading is even worse, with much of the action playing out in tinted, monochromatic 'style' which can surely never have seemed like an actual good idea.
The director, Sean Weathers,** was very young when he made this. I don't want to be too harsh on him, but he's since gone on to make over a dozen further features, so hopefully he's long since moved on from the level he displays here. He seems nice enough in the extra features, and the self-belief on display is admirable, if horribly misplaced. Still, he should focus on the positives-he seems to have had a prodigious talent for easily convincing women to take their tops off, which is something that, as the late 2010s unfolds, it appears is not shared by a large proportion of other males in the American film community.
*It's not though; 5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas, and, for that matter, Argento's Trauma, beat it the punch (/stab).
**Who was, interestingly, apparently born in Jonestown.