Sunday, September 25, 2011

'Bloodlock' should have stayed locked up

Bloodlock (2008)
Starring: Ashley Gallo, Dominic Koulianos, Gregg Biamonte, Debra Gordon, Karen Fox,
Dick Hermance, and Nick Foote
Director: William Victor Schotten
Rating: One of Two Stars

Young married couple Christine and Barry (Gallo and Biamonte) discover a sealed door made of titanium in the basement of the house they have just purchased. As Christine grows obsessed with what might be behind it, her husband and slutty sister (Fox) are having an affair... and the creepy neighbors (Gordon and Hermance) are plotting to get into the door and take possession of what's inside.

William Victor Schotten is a filmmaker who is learning is craft as he goes. This is evident from the two films from him I've watched so far... this one, the oldest, and the Rapture/Zombie tale "Sabbath". Both date from 2008, but while "Sabbath" is far from perfect, it's a much, MUCH better film than "Bloodlock."

Heck, based on the difference in quality between "Bloodlock" and "Sabbath", I may have to get my hands on Schotten's most recent film--"Silver Cell" from 2011, because if he's continued that rate of of improve, he may just have created one of the Greatest Movies Ever Made.

There's no word to describe "Bloodlock" better than "inept." The pacing is wrong from the get-go and it only gets worse as the film unfolds... with sequences that could have benefited from a little a pause being raced through like they were running out of film, and sequences that should have been quick being dragged out. The script is disjointed and chaotic, with a number of tones drifting through the disorganized story like so much flotsam as the film moves from being a erotic thriller, to a gory monster flick, to a half-assed comedy. There was also clearly a lack of funding when it came to special effects and a lack of rehearsal time when it came to the fight scenes... and the inexperience of Schotten and his technical crew only makes these shortcomings more obvious because they were either unable to use cinematic trickery to cover for them, or unaware of the fact they were looking at inadequacies until it was too late to do anything about it. And, finally, the ultimate doom for the movie are the mostly amateurish actors struggling with flat, poorly written lines. (Dominic Koulianos and Karen Fox are not only called upon to deliver awful lines, but they don't seem to be all that talented to begin with. That's a mix that destroys almost every scene they're in.)

This is, however, also one of those films I wish I could say nicer things about, because hidden inside this mess are some gems. I like the pirahna-style design used for the vampires in the film, and I think something cool could be done with the psychic housewife-turning-monster-hunter. But in this film, both of these cool aspects are all but wasted.

The one thing I have to give Schotten (or maybe screenwriter Tom McLaughlin) is that he realized this movie was disjointed and messy. So clear was that realization was that the film ends with the old "it was all a dream" and then loops back on itself by repeating an early scene. If you have a movie that doesn't make any sense, I suppose that's not a bad way to try to say "We meant to do that!". My reaction to such endings are typically either an irritated growl at the lazy cop-out or a grin at the well-executed creepy moebius loop, but seeing it here at the end of "Bloodlock" just made me a little sad. It seemed to say that the filmmakers knew what they had here didn't amount to much of anything.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

'Spy Hard': Where the suckage began

Spy Hard (1996)
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Nicolette Sheridan, John Ales, Stephanie Romanov, Charles Durning, Barry Bostwick, Andy Griffith, and Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Rick Friedberg
Rating: One of Ten Stars

When I saw the names Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer in the credits, I should have known what I was in for. "But," I told myself, this is an older film and Leslie Nielsen is starring, so it can't possibly be as bad as their more recent efforts like 'Epic Movie' and 'Disaster Movie.'"

Alas, I was wrong.

Even in their debut film, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer--only writing here, with the directorial chores being handled by Jason's father Rick--they sucked. In fact, this movie is a little worse than "Disaster Movie" because it doesn't even have a character as hilariously insane as the Enchanted Princess. It barely has any funny jokes.

A limp-wristed spoof of James Bond-style action flicks, the film's story-line sees Special Agent WD-40 (Leslie Nielsen) come out of retirement to save the daughter of his old partner and lover (Stephanie Romanov) from the clutches of megalomaniacal villain General Rancor (Andy Griffith). Along the way, we are treated to badly executed sight gags, poorly delivered slapstick routines, and numerous of the lame references-to-other-films-passed-off-as-jokes that Team Friedberg & Seltzer have become infamous for. The worst (or perhaps most iconic for Friedberg & Seltzer) of these is a dance scene based on the Uma Thurman/John Travolta dance in "Pulp Fiction"... it is random, pointless, and absolutely unfunny--the cinematic equivalent of non-biodegradable Styrofoam packing peanuts.

I watched this film in a mindset that had me very eager to be entertained; I was suffering from writer's block on two different projects (a werewolf story and a game featuring supermodels beating the hell out of each other) and I needed a movie to write about for the Watching the Detectives blog, and still I was so bored with what was unfolding before me that I barely made it to the end.

The best part of this film was casting Andy Griffith against type, but even that amounts to little more than Team Friedberg & Seltzer's random references to other movies. This can't even do the repetition gag properly--where the same joke comes back again and again in slightly different forms. In a Zucker-helmed project those kinds of jokes can be the funniest moment in the entire film, but here they are just eye-rollingly stupid.