Considering the prescience of much of its storyline, it’s really quite remarkable that 1999’s Kolobos has disappeared from view and not been exhumed and re-evaluated in the years since it failed to make much of an impact or find much of an appreciative audience. Kolobos touches on so many of the fads and fashions that have contributed to the diminution of our cultural landscape and now, viewed with the hindsight of two decades, it unfortunately presents as less of a cautionary tale and more as a sometimes gruelling and intense, if deeply flawed, horror movie.
The set-up is one we recognise now from hundreds of tacky TV shows and low budget slasher movies. We open on a badly injured girl named Kira (Weber) found in a city street, able to mutter only the word ‘kolobos’. The story proceeds to unfold in flashback as we meet pre-trauma Kira and a group of youngsters arriving at a snow-covered house under the guise of participating in a ’ground-breaking’ new experimental film. The entire property is fitted out with cameras and their every move is being recorded. Sound familiar? The group are indulging in random flirting and the inane banter of a million Big Brother-type reality TV shows (they spend a lot of their time watching slasher movies… ironically just before one of their number is gruesomely slashed by a kitchen razor-blade contraption) when the house is suddenly plunged into lockdown and it becomes apparent that something extremely sinister is afoot and that not everyone is going to get out alive…
Kolobos feels like we’ve seen all this before because we have; what’s frustrating is not only that Kolobos did it first (before films like My Little Eye and Cube), but that it’s never signposted as one of the first movies to touch on the ‘reality’ angle, which became so hideously popular in the early 21st century and onwards. Yet there’s rather more to Kolobos than just a story about a bunch of annoying teens stuck in a house; the movie is pregnant not only with creeping dread and dripping with gory, highly wince-inducing violence as the cast list starts to shrink it also boasts a commendable sense of ambiguity as we’re not entirely sure if what we’re seeing is actually real or just the deranged imaginings of a sick and twisted imagination. The film doesn’t quite manage to live up to the promise of its premise, though, mainly due to some unconvincing performances and production values that aren’t always able to support the frame of the story when it needs to be at its most compelling. The twist ending is a little too opaque to satisfy and there remains the feeling that Kolobos is a film which tries to subvert its own genre, predicts the rise of another one and yet isn’t quite able to score a direct hit on its own terms. Horror hounds will enjoy the nods to the likes of Suspiria and, indeed, recognising the films it inadvertently foreshadows (particularly the rise of so-called invasive torture porn horror) but - even making allowances for its low budget - Kolobos isn’t really accomplished enough to enjoy the landmark status it could have deserved it had just been a little bit tighter and a little bit slicker. Arrow’s Blu-ray transfer is a bit on the grainy side, but the special features will tell you all you need to know about a film you probably weren’t aware even existed.
KOLOBOS (1999) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: DANIEL LIATOWITSCH, DAVID TODD OCVIRK / SCREENPLAY: NNE EBONG, DANIEL LIATOWITSCH, DAVID TODD OCVIRK / STARRING: AMY WEBER, DONNY TERRANOVA, NICOLE PELERINE, JOHN FAIRLIE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW