Otis is another of the contemporary trend of trying to be hip by mixing a disturbing subject with off-color and sometimes inappropriate humor. The effect here is just dull, off-putting and silly. Flick tells of serial killer Otis Broth (Bostin Christopher) who is a disturbed man-child loosely watched over by his older brother Elmo (Kevin Pollack) and living in his dead parents’ house. He delights in kidnapping girls who he all re-names Kim, keeps them prisoner as part of a girlfriend/prom scenario then eventually kills and dismembers them. When he kidnaps pretty Riley (Ashley Johnson) he messes with the wrong family. Directed by Tony Krantz and written by Erik Jendresen and Thomas Schnauz, the film is never disturbing enough to be chilling and not funny enough to be…well, funny. The humor is sophomoric and sometimes just silly and it’s attempts to be shocking fall flat too. Only partial saving grace is a very charming and spunky performance by Johnson (the waitress from The Avengers) as his fifth abductee whose vengeful parents (Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas) ineptly try to take matters into their own hands when police prove incompetent. I know this flick has it’s fans but, aside from liking Johnson’s resilient Riley, I was just bored.
SUMMER’S MOON (SUMMER’S BLOOD) (2009)
Despite a good turn by Ashley Greene and a disturbing portrayal by the reliable Stephen McHattie, this is just an epic fail. Greene plays Summer, a young woman who runs away from her drunken mother to find the father she’s never met and winds up the prisoner of a disturbed young man (Peter Mooney) and his mom (Barbara Niven). Three guesses who the patriarch of the house (McHattie) turns out to be. Film is just kind of a mess with none of it seeming to have much purpose and far too many preposterous conveniences occurring to carry the plot forward or be shocking. Director Lee Demarbre helms this very by-the-numbers and with little atmosphere and the script by Christine Conradt and Sean Hogan seems to like being shocking for shocking sake without legitimately trying to tell a story. We get incest, kidnaping and murder without any real reason why and by the end we really don’t see a point to it all. Greene does better than she is usually given credit for but, the film wastes it on just being bad…and at only 90 minutes, kinda boring too.
THIRD PERSON (2013)
Written and directed by Paul Haggis, this is an interesting and engaging drama with three stories told that we know will connect somehow by the time the credits roll. We have a writer (Liam Neeson) separated from his wife (Kim Basinger) and with his lover Anna (Olivia Wilde) in Paris, while trying to complete a new book. We have Scott (Adrien Brody) on business in Rome who finds himself in the middle of a situation involving a mysterious and beautiful woman (Moran Atias), money and some shady characters. In New York there is troubled ex-actress Julia (Mila Kunis) who is trying to regain visitation with her young son after being accused of trying to harm him. Her artist ex-husband (James Franco) adamantly refuses to let her see him, while her lawyer (Maria Bello) tries desperately to change the judge’s mind despite Julia’s inability to handle the situation responsibly. The three stories are all well directed and acted and while I did figure things out before the reveal, it is still effectively done. Brody’s story is the weak link but, otherwise an entertaining drama with a fine cast.
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C.H.U.D. is another 80s flick that has earned a cult classic reputation and it is one that I actually saw in a theater back in 1984. One of the first films produced by New World Pictures after it was sold by Roger Corman, this monster flick tells the story of radioactive materials that are stored secretly by the government in the New York City sewer system that turns it’s underground homeless population into flesh eating monsters. As first the homeless and then more affluent citizens start to disappear… due to the creatures expanding their hunt for food… photographer Cooper (John Heard), street preacher Shepard (Daniel Stern) and police captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), whose wife is among the missing, are drawn together in an effort to battle the creatures and uncover and expose the conspiracy that created them.
If there is any main problem with this flick directed by Douglas Creek and written by Parnell Hall… from a story by Shepard Abbott… is that there is very little actual C.H.U.D. in a film called C.H.U.D. The filmmakers choose to focus instead on the drama between characters and the government conspiracy and cover-up than on the title creatures which appear very sporadically. Whether it was the restrictions from a fairly low budget or a writer and director trying to make more out of basically what is a simple monster movie, is not clear but, the flick definitely is scarce on delivering the monster goods and/or their carnage. There are lengthy and frankly dull dialogue sequences as the characters argue amongst each other or with slimy government bureaucrat Wilson (George Martin) and when the C.H.U.D. do appear, it’s briefly and most of their carnage happens off camera, such as a frustrating battle between the beasts and a squad of flame-thrower armed police that is seen for a few seconds on a video monitor and that’s it. We see bloody corpses long after the damage is done but, very little of the C.H.U.D. in action. It’s a shame because plot-wise this is a great B-Movie premise ripe for possibilities that chooses instead to focus on blandly written characters and cliche’ conspiracy situations than giving us the monster action the title and scenario promise. Cheek is not a skilled enough director to pull either the dialogue or monster scenes off well enough… though there are a few spooky scenes in the sewers…to make them really memorable and only the creatures’ cool design has helped them endure and earned them their rep. This is a movie that is a considered a classic more by nature of the potential of it’s plot than from it’s actual content. The film is shot well by cinematography Peter Stein and there is a cool electronic score by David A. Hughes, that reminded me of something that might accompany an Italian zombie movie. And, as stated, the monsters are pretty cool when they do appear which isn’t very often and the gore is well executed when seen. But, it’s not enough to make up for the minimal use of it’s title characters.
The cast are fairly dull, which doesn’t help. John Heard performs as if this was a paycheck job and it probably was. Stern overacts as the street preacher/soup kitchen manager but, it at least adds some life to the character. Curry is really bland as police Captain Bosch and Martin is a stereotypical government douche. At least Kim Greist adds a little sex appeal as Heard’s model wife but, her part is very small and she’s just there to become a damsel in distress in the last act. At least we get a small part by future star John Goodman as a cop in a diner that is besieged… again, off-camera… by the C.H.U.D.
Overall, despite it’s flaws I still find C.H.U.D. to be watchable but, even now it’s still a big disappointment considering the cool exploitation flick set-up. Had this been made when Corman ran New World Pictures, I’m sure we would have gotten the beasts, blood and gore we came for and probably got some boobs thrown in for good measure. The films’ creatures are cool despite their brief screen time and there are a few atmospheric scenes in the spooky sewers. But, sadly this is a monster film that chooses to focus more on it’s ho-hum drama than it’s cool critters… which makes me wonder why this is considered a classic and yet everyone picked on this year’s Godzilla for the same flaws…
2 and 1/2 CHUDs.