"I'm so scared my asshole is puckering... Spooky, Spooky."
Cornered! is a study in low budget horror production. We have a total of eight despicable characters with three locations to choose from. Among the eight is the killer who gives us a medium amount of gore, decent jump scares, and creative murders. Even though the production budget was tight Daniel Maze did a great job on his first feature. He wrote and directed a story that may have cliches but overall the atmosphere he created with his characters and the location he tapped into something different.
Mona is a phone sex operator addicted to ice cream, Jess is the chain smoking whore who's just trying to survive, Steven is the alcoholic owner of a run down liquor store, Donny is an obese employee with an addiction to doughnuts, and Jimmy (James Duval from The Doom Generation) is Steven's nephew who has just quit heroin cold turkey. Put these five together in an inescapable liquor store/apartment with no way to call out for help, mix a serial killer in the bunch and presto, it's horrific fun.
The set up is interesting. It begins with news paper clippings and narrated reports of a convenience store killer whose rampage has lasted a while and now has a reward looming over his head. Half a million dollars goes to anyone that brings this serial killer to justice. Our five characters with their delivery man Morty (Steve Guttenberg) talk about the maniac and the money while someone secretly watches them. Steven says the papers never talked about bringing him in alive, so he'd collect the money and hand them a dead killer. Each of them give their hypothetical method of justice - each one bloody and torturous. The two bloodiest scenarios are given by Steven and Jimmy. To describe his method Steven references Texas Chainsaw Massacre where Leatherface hangs the victim's back on a meat-hook, but he believes there is too much room for struggle so they should be hung upside down and sawed in half. Jimmy's method is just as intense - he would roll the killer up in saran wrap and stab him repeatedly until the blood filled up like a condom and drown him. And yes, we get to see these kills.
Not only are our characters the dregs of society hanging out on the fringe, but the world they inhabit is as contemptuously vile as they are. The liquor store/apartment above are infested with roaches. Thieves and bums stalk the area, and it all looks suitable for demolition. So we give praise to Maze for this world in which he's created and whoever did the roach wrangling for the film. We don't want to give the film away but one scene is notable for its sick humor and its ability to disgust.
Jimmy has been kicked out of rehab and his uncle Steven is making sure that he stays clean, so while forcing Jimmy to quit the old fashion way he begins to hallucinate and while there's no dead baby crawling on the ceiling like Trainspotting we are privy to a roach infestation daze. Jimmy sits in a recliner sweating and fidgeting from withdrawal while a lonely roach crawls out from under the fridge. Jimmy is stiff with fear as the roach crawls toward him and up the side of the recliner. It waits next to him until finally Jimmy wipes it from the chair and when he does that, thousands of nasty 'vermin' infest his body. He shakes them off and realizes they were never there. In a scene later he sees the killer on one of the surveillance cameras and shouts King Cockroach. After that he plans his escape and while trying to make it out of the store roaches block his path down every aisle. He screams at them to let him go, but they force him to back into a corner where he meets 'King Cockroach.'
While seeing the roaches inevitably makes your skin crawl it is in no way as disgusting as George A. Romero's depiction of filth in Creepshow. Luckily we find out in the end credits:
The cockroaches, Joey and Freddy,
were adopted by producer Alan Noel Vega
and are living a life of luxury!
The best thing about this film was something that my be overlooked, but we took a terrible picture of it to show you. In the last scene the camera pans over some of the merchandise in the store and among the canned goods there are two products that are placed so perfectly: