FPS - First Person Shooter is an audacious effort with surprisingly decent special effects (for an indie film), starring one of the best game voice actors of 1990s (none other than Stephan Weyte) and an attempt to do right the promise of the first-person view shown so briefly in the 2005 attempt at a Doom movie. Sadly however, the final product ends up a mess of contradictions. Right down to a lack of consistency of which era it is in homage to (8-bit graphics feature prominently in a film honouring a 16-bit genre), and even more seriously in terms of pacing. As well as its titular first-person shooter, the film seems also to take more than a little inspiration from survival horror titles, particularly Resident Evil. While either could arguably germinate a decent horror movie, here they clash terribly.
The protagonist's first-person view always moves at a crawl, and his hesitant tendency to lean around corners does little to properly capture the 'badass' power fantasy of the Build engine games. It seems this is intended to produce an atmosphere of tension and suspense ala the best horror games, but when featuring Stephan Weyte's demented cackling vocals it seems to detract from the experience. This applies still further to the protagonist's simply laughable fighting ability, wherein he often waits for the enemy to practically touch him before shooting, thereby leaving himself open to obvious attacks. It is one thing to watch another person playing a video game, it is another to watch someone play it badly. No doubt the slow pace is also due to the strains of keeping the camera steady while filming along corridors, but, especially given that the final audio mix and the weapon overlay are laid on later, some speeding up in post could have done the film wonders.
Another contradiction is whether or not the film is going for a silent protagonist ala Doom or the very personal characterization of Duke Nukem 3D or Blood. Having made a choice between hiring Jon St. John or Weyte, it is clear that the latter philosophy is what director Andreas Tom had in mind, but even so he then failed to follow through. The character's listing in the credits is simply 'player' and next to no back-story for him is gleamed in the film's eighty minute running time. He does capture a large dose of Caleb's mania and bloodlust, but without any sort of context or explanation. Is he just innately psychotic? Especially since his attitude seems ingrained before he even arrives at the clinic. If so it seems a bit of a stretch that this man would share a loving marriage with a nurse working in a children's ward. Is he a deranged killer, or just an every-man losing it in a bad situation? In the end this remains unclear.
A further flaw with the character sadly comes down to what was meant to be his greatest strength: the casting of Weyte. For starters, the voice he provides seems a little old for a man with a young wife and baby on the way, and unfortunately it is not Weyte's best work. A lot of it seems meandering and tired, probably because Weyte had so little character to work with other than simply being a "Caleb who is not Caleb", with quite a few lines also ripped from Duke Nukem and, of course, Ash Williams. Rather than using the Build formula of reacting with a humourous or witty retort to a situation, a lot of the dialogue in the film is simply Weyte talking to himself, practically as a nervous tick. You almost get tired of hearing it. There are also too few moments that capture the horror comedy appeal of Blood or Evil Dead II. There is an attempt at irony with a zombified clown, but it elicits merely a groan. A later retort during the final boss fight is more successful, but just makes you wish the film had more moments like it.
Naturally for a homage title, it is also tries to throw more than a few subtle nods to its sources throughout. The first time you hear the character exclaim Caleb's classic "locked!" upon meeting an obstruction it feels perfectly in place. By the third or fourth time however it starts to lose its charm. The film also has a bottom HUD that appears from time to time showing the player's stats, complete with a classic id Software style status face, and the quest for the cure becomes an obvious callback to the classic game fetch quest or powerup. The bits of exposition gleamed by picking up notes also references an often used mechanic in games, although not the specific ones the film seems mostly based on, likewise to the portion where he forces a rapidly being infected scientist to recover him a key. There is even a moment where the player dies and reloads a quick-save, which then soon cuts into a rather crude depiction of a retro shooter (perhaps the creation of a quick Doom mod might have gleamed a better result?), and is one of the few moments in the film genuinely fast paced.
The film's arsenal at least is varied and creative, with various melee weapons such as a chisel, pickaxe and of course a chainsaw, as well as guns including pistols, various machine guns, double barrelled shotgun and chaingun. There is even a portion where he uses Caleb's aerosol can and lighter as a makeshift flame-thrower. The enemy roster is less creative, with simply an array of the "infected" in classic cliché zombie mode. Each encounter features a different actor and prosthetics however, in order to liven it up a bit each time. More prominent examples include the aforementioned clown, the chef and a female researcher. Finally there is the film's antagonist, described as "a scientist, not one of the good kind" who fulfils what you would expect of the mad scientist trope. It is this final encounter with him that finally returns a bit of life to the picture, with the two exchanging taunts while duelling, even if it then leads into an unnecessarily sombre and offbeat ending.
All of the speaking characters have their mouths covered by masks, so as to make the overdubbing easier. This essentially just covers the protagonist, antagonist and the aforementioned scientist the protagonist torments. There is also a newscaster in the beginning of the movie, and an Arnold Schwarzenegger facsimile in the role of U.S. President.
Ultimately I rate it 2.5/5, as it is undeniably daring, and a must have bit of memorabilia for a Bloodite, but its general entertainment value is frankly a bit lacking. With a brisker pace, more realized main character and world building, it could easily have climbed to a three or a four. Perhaps a re-editing is in order to make it a briefer but more endurable trip down memory lane.