CAPTIVES – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#3)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.


I just finished watching Gary P. Cohen’s “lost” home invasion movie from 1988, Captives, aka Mama’s House, and I gotta say: I didn’t really enjoy it. Perhaps it’s the fact that I was fresh off the surprisingly great shot-on-video home invasion flick, Venus Flytrap — or maybe it’s because I love Gary P. Cohen’s other two movies so much (Video Violence and Video Violence 2) that, when compared to the aforementioned SOV flicks, Captives can’t help but fall a little flat.

The movie follows three intruders (all siblings) who break into the home of a young couple. The husband has just left for work and the wife is home alone with the baby when, all of a sudden, she’s being terrorized by these three maniacs. Soon, the young girl’s mother-in-law pays a visit to the house. The old lady is quickly tied up, and the intruders lead the young wife to believe there’s more to this grandmotherly woman than she lets on.

And while that teaser may sound exciting and full of promise, the execution is painfully sluggish and drawn out. At one point I checked to see where I was in the movie — 45 minutes in and still nothing major had happened or been revealed. And you have to remember: time moves much differently when it comes to shot-on-video movies; one minute feels like ten, ten feels like twenty-five. It doesn’t help that the information they do reveal is fairly confusing at first and really only (kind of) starts to make sense towards the end of the flick.


Cohen used a lot of the same actors from the Video Violence series (like real life couple Art and Jackie Neill), so the recognizable faces make it a little easier to watch. There is a really intense (but brief) third act that throws some wild things at you in rapid fire succession, but again, it takes far too long to get there. (Not to mention it gets right back to dragging after its brief surge of action.) Apparently, Captives has been referred to as “the most accomplished SOV horror film from this era,” but that’s a claim I’d strongly disagree with. Accomplished how? Not technically, that’s for sure. And I definitely don’t think it’s as creative or interesting as Cohen’s other two efforts. But I digress.

Captives is a bleak movie, in the spirit of other “home invasion” and “captor versus captive” movies like Desperate Hours, Last House on the Left, and House on the Edge of the Park. It’s fairly joyless, but I suppose that’s what they’re going for. The leads do a great job of portraying awful, despicable people. I may not have enjoyed this one as much as Cohen’s other movies, but I still appreciate the insane amount of heart and determination that go into making all of these shot-on-video gems.

3I think Cohen was at his best when he was mixing dark humor with his violence, as with his Video Violence movies. Without the levity, a movie like Captives ends up feeling too drawn out — and ultimately, too grim — to fully be enjoyed. It’s not the worst SOV movie I’ve watched by any means, but it’s definitely the worst of Cohen’s output.


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