*Here be spoilers.
Director/writer: Michael A. Nickles.
XII is a film that as completed in 2008 by director Michael A. Nickles (Hamburger Hill). This film released in the UK earlier this year, with a North American release uncertain. The director has stated here on 28DLA about this project that: “it is a female empowerment movie” (interview here). Yet, XII shows that finding that female power requires a walk down a long bloody road. In the film, at least eleven people succumb to the brutal serial killer Karlsson and the way they die is through skinning. The film is initially tense, but very graphic near the end, as Karlsson goes about his macabre work, speechless. Viewers will also be speechless when they see this killer’s handiwork.
In brief, twelve jurors have convicted Leonard Karlsson of child sexual abuse. In jail Karlsson is mutilated by the other prisoners. Understandably, after he is released five years Karlsson wants a little justice of his own. Many former jurors will die. However, his guilt or innocence is never given much attention, but Nickles has stated in the earlier interview that “personally, I think he is guilty.” Based on Karlsson’s actions in the film, either he was a killer before entering jail, or became one in jail. Viewers can make up their own minds on this topic.
This Unified Pictures production has a short runtime of eighty minutes, but many of these minutes are well spent. A fellow watcher noted how absolutely horrifying some of the torture scenes are and Gareth Jones of Dread Central also notes some of the bloodier moments: “a hugely impressive exploding-head-by-shotgun” (Dread). This film is for those with a strong stomach and the graphicness is meant to vilify Karlsson for his eventual coup de tete (oops, spoiler alert). In fact, Karlsson’s offing is one of the best in film, as the protagonist Claire shows some flair for television wrestling. Bricks break, wooden structures explode, and this masked killer gets a brutal beatdown by a vengeful woman.
Sadly, it is the story that is not flushed out quite enough for audiences that will leave horror lovers wanting or expecting more. Killers or villains are best as multi-dimensional characters. It is when the darkness shines as bright as the light that contrast and interest flourish. Unfortunately, Karlsson never steps out of his one-dimensional, non-speaking role. Jones also notes Karlsson’s lack of devilishness: “Karlsson deserves a much better film than this” (Dread). Hopefully, Karlsson brushes off his six gunshot wounds, brick break over-the-head, and knife stabbing to show a little depth of character in his next picture (oops, more spoilers, sorry).
Yet, there is no guarantee that Karlsson will return, especially after XII has had so much trouble finding deserved distribution within Canada and the US. These are two major markets that must be sold for a sequel to happen. In the meantime, gorehounds who want to learn a little more about this grisly title can visit the trailer below, or read Nickle’s insightful words on this independent horror film in his interview.
The interview with Nickles by this reviewer is here:
Nickles Talks XII on 28DLA
The film’s synopsis on 28DLA:
XII on 28DLA
The film’s fan page:
XII on Facebook
XII haunts the web here (trailer):
XII reviewed at Dread Central:
XII Reviewed by Gareth Jones