Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second Age Reviews Backlog 8: Deep Red

Yes, the title of this particular feature is Deep Red, not Blood Red. I goofed, I'm sorry, it won't happen again. Anywho, whenever I am forced, by virtue of being honest about my opinion, that a well regarded film is not that good, I generally piss people off. To wit, my review of Invasion of the Body Snatchers still has 0 comments, so it is my sad duty to report that this film, currently holding a 100 percent approval rating on Metacritic, is an almost unsalvagable piece of crap. I'm given to understand that George Romero is planning a remake and while I was initially apprehensive, I'm currently of the opinion that not even Eli Roth could fuck it up worse.

Oy. The plot, such as it is, initially concerns a supposed psychic who, while at a conference, reads the mind of one of her audience members and finds that s/he has murdered before and suggests that she could perhaps identify them. The murderer then kills her to protect his/her identity an act which launches an investigation by...a pianist, a reporter and one of the psychics colleges. The concept of psychic powers is dropped almost immediately and while the concept of ghosts and witchcraft are name dropped, nothing ever comes of them, leading to a straight ahead murder mystery.

Okay, so it's an inhumanly dopy premise, but no more so than a lot of horror films and one which some solid technical wizardry or screen writing could save. But on that count, no one on set seems to know what they're doing. Okay, the camera man knows his job, but the rest of the team cancels him out. Some solid zooms and good sets are put to waste by frantic fast paced editing leading us to suddenly, in the middle of a tension scene, get a random shot of a sink or an eye which breaks immersion slightly.

And as a horror film, it's not at all scary. The closest thing it comes to legit horror is a giant doll that comes running at a character in one scene, with no apparent connection to anything else in the plot. But it was creepy, if only because dolls are inherently creepy. Any attempt at slow building horror is destroyed because any scene that threatens some legitimate tension is killed by a well played by ludicrously inappropriate soundtrack. You won't find the screeching instruments of Psycho, the haunting minimalism of The Shining or even the creepy themes ofHalloween here. Replacing them are guitar riffs and drum beats that wouldn't sound out of place in a 80's action piece, and a recurring piano bit that, when first played over a character running up the stairs caused my viewing companions to suggest he was about to burst into song. It's all fine enough music on it's own, and it's more than possible that after this review goes up I'll be wandering The iTunes Store for the soundtrack, but it's so completely out of place in a horror film that it makes tense moments unintentionally hilarious.

The film then has only one scare tactic to fall back on, the leap-out-and-scare you technique and while there's no reason this shouldn't make it a solid piece (after all, Drag Me to Hell was solid and that's all it had) it has no idea how to execute this. Aside from the tension killing music, shots that threaten to jump out and scare us are telegraphed from a mile away, the absolute nadir being a scene near the middle, where the killer attacks a character from behind, but beforehand we are treated to a good solid 15 seconds of the killer standing directly behind her.

Okay, so the horror aspect is beyond saving, but it could always fall back on it's murder mystery. But that's even worse, because murder mystery's are dependent on the plot, and the plot is a fucking mess. Characters act without motivation, the murder's intentions are never properly explained and things happen for no reason. The scene mentioned before happens with a character we've never met in the middle of nowhere and is almost entirely irrelevant to the plot. At one point a troubled little girl is introduced, hangs around for a couple scenes, drops a piece of plot information for no reason and then disappears.

And the ending, oh the ending. A plot twist that I'd initially predicted is presented at one point in a perfectly logical ending, only for the plot to keep going and be informed that the killer is someone else an innocuous secondary character. After some explanation and a quick bit of info involving him, the plot keeps going and informs us it's someone else entirely, an even more innocuous tertiary character. The final ending and reveal is a head slappingly stupid twist that only serves to render 98 percent of the investigation and therefore plot completely irrelevant.

The final things the film could fall back on would be likeable, well acted characters or at least a couple interesting kills. But the characters completely lack sense or motivation and the actors all look completely lost. A good example is directly after the first kill, when the reporter character pops in and says such an out of place and cheerful "Hi everybody," (no really) that I half expected the entire cast to turn and respond "Hi, Dr. Nick." And as for the kills, don't make me laugh. Almost all of them are variations on "Sneak up and whack." The only mildly interesting deaths are at the tail, tail, tail, end of the film and are only bordering on creative.

I'm occasionally inclined to give bad, but well meaning, films a slight pass (see: Plan 9 From Outer Space), lumping them into the hilariously bad category, but I can't even say the film means well. The primary character drops some sexist remarks early on, which are never thrown in his face or proven wrong, and there is some slight homophobia lingering on the margins of the script.

For those of you keeping track at home, Deep Red is currently batting 0. The frantic editing, the incoherent plot, the useless cyphers that are the characters and the occasional references to psychics, ghosts and schizophrenia that never go anywhere paint the picture of a directorial vision cut off from the resulting product. This usually means there is a more coherent, and therefore better, director's cut floating around somewhere. If there is could someone tell me, I'd like to see it, if only to see if it's worthwhile. As for the regular cut, there is really no logical reason to see it, apart from maybe the "Hilariously bad," aspect. As it is, it's probably the worst film I've ever seen at this theater, and I saw Piranhas here last year (and before I catch any flak, I like the original Piranhas). Oh well. See you next time.

Next on Second Age Reviews: Shogun Assassin

Elesar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and this movie was so awful that he can't even think of a sign off.

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