Movie Review: All I Need (2014)

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All I Need Director: Dylan K. Narang Writers: Dylan K. Narang, Dylan K. Narang Stars: Rachel Melvin, Caitlin Stasey, Jonathan Erickson Eisley. Foggy Bottom Pictures

Start with a closeup of a young woman in distress, tied up in a strange room wearing only her underwear, coming back to consciousness. Every corner of the room is a veritable slasher’s buffet, both beds, the closet, the shelves, everything, is covered in dead or unconscious women in their underwear. Heavy footsteps announce the arrival of the psycho-du-jour, who drags one of the other girls out of the room to her inevitable doom. The soon-to-be-final-girl must lie on the floor, hands and feet bound, mouth gagged, as she listens to the other girl being tortured and killed in the next room.Cut to the streets outside to follow the story of a vagrant drifter, new to Los Angeles, as his life finishes swirling down the drain. He receives an offer from a mysterious unseen man to begin doing odd jobs around town to make money. Bounce between both stories. A man growing desperate for cash, a woman desperate to save her own life. Tension is the strongest point of ALL I NEED. The story is wanting.

Cut to the streets outside to follow the story of a vagrant drifter, new to Los Angeles, as his life finishes swirling down the drain. He receives an offer from a mysterious unseen man to begin doing odd jobs around town to make money. Bounce between both stories. A man growing desperate for cash, a woman desperate to save her own life.

Tension is the strongest point of ALL I NEED. The story is wanting.
It’s not hard to see where everything is headed, so I hesitate to call this a spoiler alert, but y’know…there’s your warning. The moment the drifter takes his first job, I knew that ALL I NEED would be the story of how he became a psychotic killer. The movie doesn’t go out of the way to disguise this twist. The third act takes a strange turn when the killer actually gets his mask-and-pitchfork job offer from the deranged billionaire boss behind the mysterious unseen man. Said billionaire’s request is made during a rambling, semi-coherent speech, a pitch that isn’t nearly convincing enough to make a man kidnap, torture, and kill young women.

What director Dylan Narang does, he does well. This movie makes effective use of limited viewpoint, music, and sound to ramp up tension quickly from scene-to-scene. The performances from the major characters are all very solid. Unfortunately, they aren’t given much story to work with. The only reason I know the final girl’s name is Chloe is through the magic of IMDB. I know she can survive while wearing only underwear, and…that’s about it. She is otherwise a nameless victim, the trembling mouse in a nature film about a hungry python. We never learn who she is, who she was, how she came to be in the murder room. It’s hard to feel deep sympathy and fear for her beyond hoping she escapes from the killer. She feels less like a true scream queen and more like the main character in a threadbare survival horror game.

Instead, we learn more about Andrew, the drifter. Giving a slasher some backstory and motivation is a great idea. We might be able to humanize and empathize with him, or at least understand what’s feeding his fire, but the movie doesn’t dig too deeply into those details. The leap of faith we have to take to believe he becomes the monster in the locked room is too farfetched. His backstory isn’t established enough to show that he’s desperate enough to kill innocent people, nor focused enough to make us believe him capable of doing the heinous things he does.

Both killer and victim spend a bulk of the second act making supremely dunderheaded choices: Why didn’t he just keep pitchforking when he had her cornered? Why didn’t she kick the door when his fingers were poking through? I was too busy thinking Why? Why? Why? (and not in that fun, bas-movie way) instead of Look out behind you!

There are frustrating moments when Chloe needlessly delays her own escape due to deer-in-the-headlights syndrome, or walks by five things she could use as weapons to defend herself. If Chloe had a backstory, we might understand or forgive her some of these choices. At the end, the movie becomes less about a struggle for survival and more about a most inconvenient day for killer and victim.

Horror films should be getting smarter and more intricate. We don’t need to see jiggly damsels in distress anymore. We love seeing cunning, tough, determined women slay the dragons of their deepest fears. Chloe definitely has the toughness, but aside from seeing copious amounts of her blood onscreen, we never get to see what’s inside that makes her tick. It’s a shame. With a solid story, this could have been a modern horror classic. That said, everyone involved in this movie did the best with what they had, and they will most likely move on to some really great projects in the future. ALL I NEED left me needing more.

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