For better or worse, the post-Scream slasher phase of the late 90s and early 2000s had a particular vibe and aesthetic. From I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) to Urban Legend (1998) to Valentine (2001), everything was hip, sleek, and subdued by the aw-shucks wholesomeness of a Dawson’s Creek cast. Opinions of the era vary based on whether or not you were a teenager at the time, but there’s no denying we are entering a period of reevaluation for these films as the Millennials wax nostalgic about their horror roots.
Despite this contemporary reappraisal, though, Kolobos remains as unappreciated now as the day it came out.
That’s partly because it’s a weird fucking film. Furthermore, it was marketed as a straight ahead slasher movie in the year of Blair Witch, when studio horror was in the awkward transition to more supernatural offerings. An on-the-nose throwback to the days of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, Kolobos just didn’t have a home, even with its meta, Scream-esque observations.
Directed by Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk, the film opens in a dreamy stream of consciousness. We experience the world through the eyes of someone stumbling through a city alleyway. After being struck by an oncoming car, the audience is transported to the hospital, where the doctors and police detectives ask us who we are and what happened.
Kolobos, then, becomes a story about how we got here. The hospital patient is an artist named Kyra (Amy Weber), one of five strangers in a Real World-like film experiment who each agree to live in a secluded house full of cameras. There’s the shitty and immature standup comic, a pretentious actress, nerdy cinephile, and YOLO free spirit. All of them fodder—I mean stock characters—I mean, uh, let’s go with people who say and do things.
When a character is soon killed by circular saw blades flying from the walls, the others attempt to flee the house, only to discover that metal covers are blocking the doors and windows. Now, with no escape, they must survive a sadistic maniac hunting them one by one. A hulking freak the film simply credits as Faceless, the killer devises a series of bloody traps and scenarios with a ghoulish proto-Saw flair.
This probably sounds pretty straight forward, and it is. However, as the film unfolds, so does its sanity. Kyra, our avatar into the story, loses her grip on reality, seeing things that may or not be real. And to boot, Kolobos offers no concrete answers by the time we get to the credits. Liatowitsch and Ocvirk are perfectly content to wallow in the nightmare logic of a Fulci film, filling the screen with Argento reds, greens, and blues. They even recreate the eyeball scene from Zombi 2 (1979), while the theme song itself is about one note shy of plagiarizing Goblin’s Suspiria (1977) theme.
Our current cultural moment is defined by the monetization of nostalgia, and it is rather easy to be turned off by throwback after throwback. But this is 1999! Kolobos came to the party two decades early, and no one knew what the fuck was going on. Hence, I’m hoping—if we must have a reevaluation of 90s slashers—folks wake up to this film, as it is easily a top five slasher of that decade.