Mary (Vanessa Grasse, from Leatherface) is just paroled from a short jail term and lying to her probation officer (Daniel O’Meara) about being more or less over her hallucinations … mostly involving ex-boyfriend James Lincoln Fields (Cole Vigue) aka ‘the Rain Ripper’, a serial killer who purportedly forced her to watch him committing many murders until she set him on fire. The gig she lands is night-work at a 24-hour gas station in the middle of nowhere, which has some parallels with the recent Danish torture movie Finale as a run of prank calls, sinister customers, surprise drop-ins, and glimpses of a rainslickered scarred figure clutching a claw-hammer serve to shred her already fragile nerves.
Given that the film opens with a slow pan around the bloodied, corpse-littered gas station before the protagonist wakes up, it’s not even a twist that carnage is going to ensue … and any ambiguity about who is responsible goes out of the window early on, even if the mother of one of Field’s victims shows up with revenge in mind to complicate the ‘who’s-out-to-get-Mary’ scenario. Writer-director Padraig Reynolds made the interesting Rites of Spring and the okayish Worry Dolls, but this is clumsier and less engaging – there is a certain tricksiness as we are challenged to wonder how much of this is happening, with hallucinations within hallucinations, and odd touches like an incidental dead victim perking up briefly to talk to the heroine at a low point in her busy night. Also, a lot of it just doesn’t ring true – Mary isn’t the celebrity she would be in the real world and seems to be left to her own devices the way someone who is either a key witness or a co-conspiratot wouldn’t be … and where’s the agent hustling to get her a TV movie biopic and a book deal as the Rain Ripper’s Girlfriend?
It’s reasonably well cast, with Brendan Fletcher (a familiar genre face) and Emily Tennant (oddly shunted into the best friend role) working hard to make something of stooge parts – while Vigue is an acceptably lunatic killer. Too much of the plotting is clumsy or half-formed, and we could probably call a moratorium on tied-to-a-chair-and-tortured scenes until the 40th Anniversary FrightFest.