Last week I rented two DVDs. And yes, not all reviewers watch films for free. I was really stoked about seeing one of these films, because the trailer was phenomenal. The other DVD was an independent horror film that I wasn’t sure about. Strangely, after watching both films, the one I was really excited about was not as great as I had hoped. And the film that I had reservations with initially (called Chemical Peel) turned out to be something enjoyable and memorable.
The movie focused on sisters Rae (Natalie Victoria) and Angela (Arielle Brachfeld) and their somewhat strained relationship during Angie’s bachelorette party. They were joined by friends Jordin (Stephanie Greco), Deb (Lony’e Perrine), Kim (Leigh Davis), and Elise (Lacy Fisher). An off-screen train accident resulted in the mixing of chemicals which turns the air toxic around their valley (which I think is named after the head writer Dan Sinclair).
Each of the characters handled the experience differently, based on their almost clichéd natures. Rae, for example, was your typical grounded heroine. An earlier car accident, which killed younger sister Haley, strengthened and prepared Rae for the events of the film. By contrast, bridezilla Angela was affected different by that same car accident and the loss of their younger sibling. Angie’s actions throughout much of the film ultimately worsened the situation for the others.
Their friend Jordin is an interesting character as well in that she started out shy and awkward. But after the train derailment, she turned insane and creepily macabre. This may have to do with losing character Deb’s influence early in the story. Deb’s character basically represented the group’s motherly nature. Without her presence, the women seemed destined to fall apart.
Kim and Elise had the most interesting reaction to the incident though. Kim started out the frightened scaredy-cat while friend Elise began as the tough, though likable, rebel. Kim ultimately ended up killing herself to protect the others while Elise (despite warnings that contact with water will increase the chemical reaction) showered herself to death. Elise basically killed herself through an act of fear, while Kim killed herself in an act of courage. Effectively, we saw these characters swapping roles with the point of crossover being when Kim puked her insides over Elise.
Both their deaths were very impactful, because you really like those characters at that point. I mean, what’s not to love about adorable Kimmy with her duck pajamas and sock monkey slippers? And then there is Elise, who actually helps and supports the hero in the film. To see a strong character like hers suddenly fall apart emotionally (and then physically) was humbling.
This should in no way diminish the other death scenes though. Angela and Jordin’s deaths were quite emotional as well. But their endings were more satisfying in a comeuppance sort of way. And poor Howard (Ruben Pla). Finally, a nice third-act intruder that isn’t out for himself, and he gets killed by an accidental rifle discharge. Maybe Karma stepped in considering how many times Pla has killed Brachfeld over the years.
*End Spoiler Warning*
The makeup by Erica Medina was effective in this film. Much of it was subtle, like the rashes applied to the cheeks, and some darkening under the eyes, or a dryness around the lips. But then you also have amazing stuff like Elise’s shower scene or the full-on chemical burns. The overall special effects were nice as well. It was great that they used an actual fog machine in this film and practical effects like those used in Kim’s vomit scene. Chucky, bloody, and oozy. I may never look at creamed corn the same way again.
In conclusion, I give Chemical Peel a 3.8 out of 5. In the real world, chemical peels are often used to strip away layers of damaged skin to reveal beautiful skin underneath. In this film, we find that what is often there, is not always beautiful.