Bostin Christopher - Otis Broth
Ashley Johnson - Riley Lawson
Daniel Stern - Will Lawson
Illeana Douglas - Kate Lawson
Kevin Pollak - Elmo Broth
Jere Burns - Agent Hotchkiss
Jared Kusnitz - Reed Lawson
Genre - Horror/Comedy
Running Time - 100 Minutes
Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4
PLOT - OTIS is about a big pizza delivery dude of the same name (Bostin Christopher) who likes to kidnap teenage girls and then imprisoning them in some cell near his home. Otis seems to have this sick and creepy fascination calling all his victims "Kim", forcing them to act out all these weird High School fantasies with them, such as going on movie dates and taking them to prom. If these girls refuse to play Otis' game, they end up "disappearing" in different ways. Even with the "support" of his brother Elmo (Kevin Pollak) who doesn't know what Otis is really up to, Otis still continues his sick game.
Otis' latest victim is a girl he meets during one of his delivery runs named Riley (Ashley Johnson). Needing another Kim, Otis kidnaps her on her way to school and makes Riley his new "Kim". Her parents (Daniel Stern & Illeana Douglas), along with her brother Reed (Jared Kusnitz) worry for her safety, but are being "helped" by an FBI agent (Jere Burns) who seems to be more interested in being famous than actually solving cases. After a few days, Riley manages to escape when Otis becomes careless, returning to the safety of the outside world. Now wanting revenge, Riley's parents plan to torture Otis like he tortured their daughter. Unfortunately, they torture the wrong man, making them realize that it's only a matter of time that Otis finishes his "prom date" with "Kim".
STORY - OTIS is supposed to be a satire on the rent crop of "torture porn" flicks like SAW, HOSTEL, and CAPTIVITY. For the most part, the story works. I do think the film could have been edgier and almost "torture porn" like with the "Kim" situations, but that really wasn't the point of OTIS, was it? While I still have an issue with that, the story is still surprisingly strong and very amusing. I dig dark comedies alot and I dug OTIS. Writer Erik Jendresen did a nice job making the whole "torture porn" aspect of the film seem uncomfortable, yet silly at the same time. And once Riley escapes, the film turns into a full-blown comedy. Not in a "ha-ha" sort of way, but in a "I understand how that goes" way. The characters are very silly, but in ways in that they're almost very human as well. I can actually imagine a family like the Lawsons existing in real life - same goes to the Broth family. They're not caricatures of people. They react in realistic ways, although they're in a ridiculous situation. I think people expect OTIS to be serious because most "torture porn" flicks are serious. But when was the last time we've seen these films in that light? Hell, I couldn't even watch the last SAW flick without thinking how stupid that franchise has become. So to see someone take the time to actually make fun of it was very refreshing. It should have been more brutal to match the "torture porn" flicks that we usually see, but you can't have it all.
I also have an issue with the ending. It was just really silly and felt like a last minute idea. In the Special Features of the DVD, there's an alternate ending that is actually a whole lot better than the actual one. It's much stronger, more effective, and actually kind of funny in a sick way. That ending should have been in the final cut.
DIRECTION - Tony Krantz does a really nice job with the film. The editing is tight. The pacing is extremely well done. It's not a visually stunning film, but it's just right for a film like OTIS. I think the film Otis filmed with all the "Kim"s was actually really funny and clever, splicing things together to make it seem these girls actually wanted him. It was a low budget film but never really looked like one. That's some good direction.
VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - There is definitely violence in this film. People get killed in vicious ways and there's blood seen. Teenage girls get slapped around by Otis. It's never extreme but I wouldn't let children watch this one. The sex was milder, although there is a handjob scene that doesn't last all that long [*snickers*]. And there is sexual inneundos and harsh language as well. Definitely an R-rated film.
ACTING - Probably the best part of OTIS was the fantastic acting. I totally believed Bostin Christopher as Otis. Dude was creepy as hell and seemed like one of those people you'd look at and go, "Yep. That dude is a serial killer." He could be sweet as hell one moment, and then vicious the next. Plus he had some nice emotional scenes as well. Very nice performance and I can't believe this is his first major role. Where has this guy been? Ashley Johnson, who played the younger sister on Growing Pains, is very hot and a very good actress. She was totally natural as Riley, as I felt her confusion and frustration throughout the entire film. I liked her "final girl" performance alot, as she brought a lot of charm to the role. Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas were very funny as the parents. Their constant arguments over every single thing never got old. In fact, they got funnier as it went along. Still at the same time, you can tell the two characters loved each other. Great acting there. Jere Burns played such an asshole of an FBI agent that I actually liked him alot. He played the biggest dickhead I haven't seen in quite a while. His character really shouldn't have been as interesting as it was, but Burns took it to another level. Kevin Pollak pretty much had a cameo as Otis' brother. He was very funny in the role though we barely knew much about him. And Jared Kusnitz played Riley's brother, who seemed to be as vindictive as Otis. Very sarcastic and funny performance. The acting probably made the film better than it should have been.
MUSIC - From Quiet Riot, to The B-52s, to A Flock of Seagulls, to Talking Heads - I was in HEAVEN! I love all the music used here. It made the film quirkier and very upbeat. This is a soundtrack worth owning.
THE FINAL HOWL
OTIS was a surprise because I didn't expect to enjoy this one all that much. But I really did and find it to be one of the better horror films of 2008. It's a very smart, witty, and pretty funny satire of a sub-genre that we're all pretty much over at this point. Definitely rental if you haven't seen it. Hell, I'll probably buy it at some point. It's not perfect but it does more than enough to entertain. And sometimes, that's all that really matters.