After a scary prank goes awry, a television crew and a small group of friends find themselves trapped inside an abandoned chemical factory with an ax-wielding madman looking to cut their night short.
Written and directed by Lou Simon, HazMat is a low-budget slasher film with a premise based around a Scare Tactics inspired television prank show called Scary Antics. The film begins by focusing on the show’s production team as they are gearing up for their latest victim. Through these moments it becomes apparent that the show has been struggling with ratings, and as a result, the producers have been ramping up the show’s intensity in an attempt to bring in more viewers to avoid being cancelled.
For their latest episode, the Scary Antics team will be pranking a man named Jacob (Norbert Velez), who we learn through a series of production interviews with his friends, has been acting very strangely since his father died while working at a chemical factory. According to Jacob’s best friend, Adam, Jacob believes that the chemical factory is haunted, which has led to an obsession that is causing a rift in their friendship. Adam is hoping that playing a scary prank on Jacob will help him snap out of his rut; however, after the prank backfires, an already unstable Jacob doesn't take things too well and goes on a killing spree, taking an ax to his friends and the TV crew alike.
Overall, HazMat is a simplistic slasher film that doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the genre. With that said, however, it does succeed in doing a number of things right. Unlike many slasher movies, HazMat doesn’t treat its audience as if they are completely stupid. The characters are given enough depth to keep them from being entirely hollow and without any personality. Furthermore, the characters/victims vary in age from young adults in their mid-to-late 20s to a middle-aged man. These definitely aren’t your typical horny teenagers.
Decked out in a grungy hazmat suit, complete with chemical mask and a fire ax to complete the “I like to kill people” look, Jacob is a fairly imposing slasher movie killer. Of course, such a look is somewhat reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s Harry Warden, but I don’t hold that against them in a negative way. As far as the death scenes go, the kills are mostly basic, but they are executed well enough considering the budgetary restraints. As the movie progresses, however, the kills do fittingly become increasingly gruesome and violent, but there’s nothing that will blow anyone away.
Despite being formulaic, HazMat is a tightly paced, straightforward, no frills slasher movie that avoids some of the pitfalls often found within the genre. The performances are good, minus a few glitches, and the fact that there is some thought and care put into the characters is a welcome change of pace. I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend HazMat to the layman horror fan, but for those who appreciate both low-budget horror and slasher movies, it is certainly worth a look.