A serial killer has been blighting the city, visiting convenience stores at night and killing off the people he finds there, then stealing the videotapes which show him getting up to no good on the CCTV. One owner of such an establishment is Steve (Eduardo Antonio Garcia) who obsessively watches his customers and staff in his store cameras since he cannot trust them not to steal food and drink and more from the shelves, taking notes on who lifts what. He has two employees, the doughnut-munching Donny (Peter Story) and the family friend he is determined to get to go cold turkey from his drug addiction, Jimmy (James Duval). After a scuffle with thieves which sees Donny smash through the front door, Steve wants a game of poker...
Although billed as a horror movie in the slasher tradition, there were strong signs that director Daniel Maze, who also concocted the plot, was more interested in the dramatic side of things as most of Cornered! was not much of a chiller, and a lot more of a chinwag. Recognising that talk is cheap, he preferred to have his characters sit around and shoot the breeze, much in the way Kevin Smith had in his debut Clerks except this was less amusing, at least intentionally. Or perhaps it was the dread hand of Quentin Tarantino exercised over the proceedings, surely the king of filling up the screen time with apparently superfluous chit-chat, though given Maze had supposedly made a fortune as a DJ and music producer in Europe you might have thought he could have splashed the cash more.
Not so, with only a few CGI cockroaches evidence that the production had a bit more money to play with than the average low budget shocker. For most of this the characters, including Patton Oswalt-alike Donny, prostitute and aspiring actress Jess (Elizabeth Nicole in skimpy clothes throughout), and rotund phone sex operator Mona (Ellia English), retire to the upper floor to play poker, about which only Steve seems enthusiastic, which will prompt most audiences to wonder where the real star had gone. Yes, Steve Guttenberg, for it was he, showed up for about five minutes at the start as a delivery man, having a conversation with the others and encouraging them to discuss the best way to kill somebody, like you do. If that didn't set alarm bells ringing, then you evidently hadn't seen enough of these things.
More power to you in that case, for while the cast acquitted themselves, and even with a mad killer on the loose, Cornered struggled to remain vital when something more quirky kept threatening to emerge, but never really did. After about half an hour of yakking, with a brief shot of a down and out cut in half to alert us to the fact that there's someone out there capable of acts of extreme violence, the poker players begin to think there's a suspicious person downstairs and naturally venture down one by one to find out, apparently having no idea about the rules of surviving a slasher flick. Predictably they are picked off in the order they split from the group, with such diversions as Jimmy's cockroach hallucinations to attempt a sustaining of the slack tension, in gory but not gloating fashion, which is only more proof none of this made any sense as a drama if there were not a grisly fate awaiting the players. Nothing wrong with the acting, many of them you wouldn't mind seeing in something better, it was the story letting them down. Music by Konstantinos Zacharopoulos.