Okay, admit it; we all love Steve Guttenberg just a little bit at least. His days as Sgt. Mahoney made him a lovable and endearing miscreant. Sure, he shows up here and there in bit parts and cameos, I’ve never seen him headline a horror movie. To be honest, I never really thought of him headlining a horror movie before. The idea is a nice little twist for the guy as an actor and for us as a viewer. It’s fun to see somebody you know so well who embodies a certain characteristic challenge themselves and change things up just a bit! It’s just too bad that “Cornered!” as a whole didn’t add up to back up Guttenberg’s venture into new territory.
Inner city convenience stores are a dime a dozen, but for the purposes of “Cornered!” our store of the moment is populated by a group of colorful lowlifes and regulars. The store is owned by Steve, an over watchful and paranoid man that accepts life as is. He’s assisted by his nephew Jimmy played by James Duval, a lapsed rehab patient. Donny Donut, the chubby and wimpy store clerk does his best to fend off shoplifters while he harbors his love for street walker Jess who is happy to let Donny fawn over her. To round out the mix, we have Mona the heavyset freelance phone sex operator with a taste for ice cream. Guttenberg arrives as Morty, the beer delivery guy who arrives daily to keep the shelves stocked with cans of generic no-name beer.
This group of self described low-lives combine together to show a portrayal of life in inner city america. There’s no real social message here; they’re just real people living life. Since they’re all regulars, they meet once a week at Steve’s apartment over the store to play poker, which we witness as the film unfolds. Cutting over these scenes of ‘life’ we get snatches of news reports that talk of a serial killer stalking convenience stores across the city. As the group of misfits gather to play poker, it is all to obvious what is about to go down over the course of the night.
“Cornered!” presents a nice idea for a slasher film. That of a group of people held to one limited location as the killer works his way through the cast one by one. The premise is ultimately nothing new though. We’ve seen similar set ups before, so you have to make things happen on screen to make your movie stand out. “Cornered!” simply doesn’t do that. The movie is predictable from the very beginning leaving little to no mystery. We see that everybody is going to come to the store to play poker. We know that there is a serial killer on the loose targeting convenience stores. We know that the over protective shopkeep is going to lock everybody inside. The only real question is ‘who is the killer?’ and it really isn’t that hard to guess early on.
Though the movie is predictable leaving “Cornered!” as a bit lack luster in the slasher/serial killer department, there are still some good things to watch here. If you watch the special features, the director pushes the idea that he wants the characters to appear real in their portrayal and not some caricature of what inner city denizens. They are indeed successful in this wish! Each person that we focus on does have a stereotypical basis in their character but they are not over the top. Jess is a low-rent hooker, but she has real concerns such as money and rent. Steve is over protective of his store running and watching security cameras 24/7. It’s believable though because the store is all he has, so why wouldn’t he go overboard trying to protect it? It’s this aspect that makes “Cornered!” worth the watch instead of the serial killer tangent that brings them all together.
As far as a slasher movie goes, the film falls short in giving us anything new and exciting. There are attempts made to give our killer some stand out quirks such as killing each victim in ways central to methods mentioned early on in the film, but each moment happens so fast and shaky that it’s hard to get much thrill from them. We watch Mona be dispatched with her beloved drumstick ice cream cones, but the entire scene is played out in quick snatches. We’re only fully sure how she was killed off in a scene far removed from the kill, later in the movie. As killers go though, there is a slight attempt at a twist ending, but the murderer still manages to feel real by the end of the movie. Watching him work, we again do not get to focus on much to give meat to the character. In the end when he reveals his motives, he seems genuine and fairly basic as to the whys of his actions which makes him stand out just a bit from his counterparts.
“Cornered!” is not a great movie, but there are far worse ones out there. The characters help to keep the movie interesting along with nice attempt at giving it a bit of a grind house feel. Come for the characters and not for the carnage and the movie is worthy of a late night watch. Just don’t expect to find your next favorite psychopath during the running time.