When his father passed away, Jacob became obsessed with all things macabre but his obsession is putting a strain on his friendship with Gary. But Gary has a plan to set Jacob straight and it involves the hidden-camera prank show Scary Antics. The plan is to take Jacob to the now abandoned chemical warehouse -- the same one where his father died -- where Scary Antics has setup their slasher movie scenario in hopes of scaring Jacob straight. However, the long standing rumors of strange paranormal occurs are proven true which changes things and soon everyone becomes trapped in the warehouse with a real ax-wielding maniac.
Awhile back, when I had finally gotten around to seeing the Swedish slasher film "Insane", Ronny had made an interesting comment in regards to that movie during a discussion: "It's not a good horror movie. It's a decent slasher movie. But it is a great Swedish horror movie." While being an amusing remark, it's one that kind of rang true in my head while I watched "HazMat". Except for the whole Swedish aspect of the comment since that's obviously not applicable here.
"HazMat" is about Jacob; a guy who is being setup by his friend Gary, Gary's girlfriend and her friend on the hidden-camera prank show Scary Antics. Gary is setting the whole thing up in attempt to scare Jacob straight as Jacob's obsession with all things macabre -- after his father's mysterious death at a chemical factory -- has caused a number of problems between the two and their friends. The crew behind Scary Antics plans to setup their prank at the same factory, now abandoned, that Jacob's father died at by having a masked killer pretend to kill Gary and the others. Hoping that it results in creating material good enough to help keep the show on the air and to possibly set Jacob straight. Things don't go according to plan when Jacob puts on a hazmat suit he finds in the factory and unknowingly becomes a genuine ax-wielding maniac himself.
Suffice to say, I did not care for "HazMat". For me, personally, I found very little enjoyment in this low-budget slasher. The movie wasn't completely awful and my problems with the movie seemed to come more from the script rather than the final product. My biggest issue was that I found every single character to be wholly unlikeable. Granted, unlikeable characters often make for good slasher fodder, but in "HazMat", they seemed unlikeable to a point that even a fictitious death wasn't enough to make them even slightly tolerable. On top of that, I couldn't get behind the concept of Jacob's supposed friend, Gary, thinking the best way to help his unbalanced friend is to scare him. Not unbelievable but seems like an odd choice for someone to make and a choice that seemed rather dickish from a person who is suppose to be caring and worrisome over his friend's obsession with death and horror. I guess though that's something that could help in allowing the audience to enjoy seeing these characters get their comeuppance when the real killer shows up.
I couldn't though. It just comes off as watching a rather by-the-numbers slasher with obnoxious characters and doing little more than waiting for them to die. There's simply no tension. Instead of, "Oh, is the killer going to get them?! I don't know! I can't look!" It becomes more of a situation where you find yourself saying, "God, please, kill this mother-fucker already so I don't have to see or hear them anymore. And don't forget that other annoying little prat too." Almost all modern slashers have degenerated into this mindset though -- that it's about the kills and not the horror. So, is "HazMat" bad for following along the same path like all other slasher movies?
And while I say my problems come from the script, I'm not sure if that is entirely true. "HazMat" didn't come off as being badly written but, rather, I didn't like how it was written. Obviously with the characters as I just mentioned, but even the concept of a reality/hidden-camera show going horribly wrong seemed outdated. Even though a parody of the real life show "Scare Tactics" and reality shows in general are still relevant these days, the plot for "HazMat" felt like it kind of missed the boat by almost 10 years. Perhaps it's because there were more than a few horror movies using that same angle back in early 2000 that it causes a movie with a similar plotline that's being released now to feel like it's coming out too late.
Taking a step back I have to ask myself: Do these things make "HazMat" a bad movie? Yes they do. For me they do, at least. I can't call "HazMat" a good horror movie but when I look at what my issues are with the movie and what kind of movie it is, I begin to think this becomes more of an issue where a person falls on the spectrum of slasher fandom. When it comes to a slasher movie, are people actually going to care about the quality of the characters or the details of the plot? I think it's safe to say the answer there is no. I think the characters are insufferable but that could be the reason why someone ends up liking "HazMat". When an ax toting, gas mask wearing killer shows up and starts dismembering people (and there is dismemberment in the movie), it could get those particular viewers to dump their popcorn as they cheer on the psycho-killer.
Even though in the end I didn't care for "HazMat", I don't considerate it to be an unwatchable movie.
If I were to give the movie a compliment, I would say it did an excellent job using the darkness of a windowless warehouse to its advantage. It seems a lot of horror movies, big or small, are afraid of the dark but it was used rather effectively here. Even using it to hide certain elements where budget limitations would have been noticeable (i.e. the special effects) had they been made more visible. But I digress. While I have issues with the material for "HazMat" I'd be misguided to simply blow it off as a bad movie. It was a competently made movie that stayed true to its form and what it exists as, and that is a slasher movie. I wouldn't say "HazMat" is a good horror movie but I would say it is a decent or even a good slasher movie. How good depends on the viewer and what they want out of their low-budget, independent slasher flicks.