Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention. Expect these Lunar Cycle posts once per month.
THE INTRUDER (2019) - *1/2 out of ****
Directed By: Deon Taylor
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy, Joseph Sikora, Alvina August, Lee Shorten
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Plot: A psychological thriller about a young married couple who buys a beautiful Napa Valley house on several acres of land only to find that the man they bought it from refuses to let go of the property.
Back in August, one of the Lunar Cycle features was for a film called THE PERFECT GUY - an “erotic” thriller that would have instantly gone on Lifetime’s Movie Network if not for its recognizable cast. It starred Michael Ealy as this psycho lover who doesn’t take rejection well, going FATAL ATTRACTION on his former lover until it’s predictable ending. It wasn’t a great film but had enough moments to be something you’d have on the background while you’re doing something else.
Funny enough, I’m back with another film that stars Michael Ealy that could have also been on Lifetime’s Movie Network - 2019’s THE INTRUDER. While Ealy plays the protagonist this time around [along with the beautiful Meagan Good], we have Dennis Quaid playing our villain. It’s very rare to watch the usually heroic and charming Quaid play a bad guy in a film, which pretty much raised its marketing appeal over other films that follow this sort of template. And believe me, he’s the main attraction of THE INTRUDER by a country mile, casting a big shadow over his co-stars and the film’s very predictable and pedestrian narrative.
Seriously, without Dennis Quaid, THE INTRUDER would be a forgotten flick on Lifetime during a Saturday Night. The man goes all out here, hamming it up for the audience and creating truly unintentionally funny moments while also being creepy at the same time. That is quite a feat! Even from his first appearance in the film, Quaid never hides the fact that there is something not right with his character of Charlie Peck, a widower who sells his house to a young couple, but is unwilling to let it go for whatever reason. His twitchy performance is great, slowly building into a performance where Quaid goes all Joker on some naive fools. Quaid gives the character a level of sympathy at the start of the film, making you think he’s still in that grieving process where he feels socially awkward and just comes across as weird to those who haven’t been in his shoes. But there are moments where you see the man is about to snap, but holds it together, until we start learning the truth and the rubber band snaps towards a violent conclusion. Quaid could have played the role subtly and just have been an unmemorable villain in a generic thriller. But you can tell the actor is loving playing against-type, going over-the-top by the end to entertain the audience. He took a bland screenplay and made it fun to watch just through his hilarious acting. He’s so enjoyable that I wish he were playing the same role in a much better film. Honestly, Quaid would be the only reason I would recommend anyone to watch THE INTRUDER.
Michael Ealy and especially Meagan Good are fine in their roles as Scott and Annie. It’s too bad they’re given material that’s been seen and done before. Ealy plays his usual charmingly cool performance, letting his looks do most of the talking for him. He’s given a decent role of a husband who is suspicious of his new home’s previous owner, while feeling somewhat bitter about his marriage and his wife’s naive behavior towards a total stranger. There are moments in the script where Ealy wants to make Scott this flawed character who hates his current role in his marriage, while also being portrayed as a flirt who sometimes takes it a bit too far. You can tell the actor wants to give the role some depth and make him someone we want to root for. But Ealy comes off as bland because the script and direction don’t allow him to be anything else. Good also suffers because she has to play an idiot until the last few minutes of the film, playing dumb to Quaid’s actions while feeling jealous and neglected with her more observant husband. There’s no real female empowerment with her character, nor is she all that interesting as a character. She’s just a damsel-in-distress waiting to be saved until she wakes up and sees things for what they are. She deserved a better role than what she got.
I thought the only interesting actor other than Quaid was Power’s Joseph Sikora, who plays Scott’s best friend Mike. While he’s not in the film a whole lot, he has great chemistry with all of his co-stars. Plus, he gets a few scenes where he banters with Quaid, creating a level of tension and drama that’s not really found in the rest of the film. It’s a shame that Sikora wasn’t given a bigger role in this film because he actually had a character I could relate to one some level, unlike the others.
The direction by Deon Taylor of MEET THE BLACKS and CHAIN LETTER fame [sorry, I almost puked typing that] is nothing special. It looks and feels like any other thriller of this kind, but at least it’s well paced and well edited. And the film does look polished. There are some moments of genuine tension and suspense, especially near the end, that work. It’s just unfortunate what we’re watching is nothing new and we know all the beats by now. Not everything needed to feel fresh, but there wasn’t enough twists and turns to make THE INTRUDER stand out visually.
The problem is really the screenplay, which gives all the interesting stuff to the villain while making the protagonists pretty dumb and sometimes unlikable as characters. Charlie’s the one with all the backstory and mysterious aura. Did his wife really die of cancer, or is something more sinister at play? Why is he so obsessed with this house? Why is he testy with Scott but kind to Annie? Charlie is an interesting character, unlike either Scott or Annie - who are just bland people without much going on without Charlie interfering with their lives. Annie, in particular, is just there as an object for Scott and Charlie to fight over. Scott, at least, has a small backstory involving his dislike for firearms, as well as visible profession in marketing that leads to a cheating sub-plot that ends before it could even get started. Honestly, this young couple aren’t so much protagonists, but victims of Charlie’s twisted story.
The only interesting thing about this generic and predictable thriller is that THE INTRUDER may have some sort of political subtext that the film never really focuses on. Scott and Annie are a young African-American couple who are able to buy a million dollar home from a white man who wears a red cap and enjoys shooting animals and possibly human beings as well. While people agree with it or not, there’s definitely a commentary dying to get out here. But the screenwriters either feel too afraid to lean towards a political and social direction, or just didn’t care enough to explore it further to make THE INTRUDER stand out amongst the rest. I think exploring this angle would have brought some controversy to a standard thriller, but at least it would have given the film a personality and something to discuss. Unfortunately without it, no one is talking.
Overall, THE INTRUDER is your typical horror-thriller that would play during a random weekend of Lifetime if it wasn’t for the cast. The story is beyond predictable and generic. There’s obvious political commentary that wants to be told, but is held back for whatever reason. Most of the actors are given nothing interesting to do besides playing victims to a crazy man’s game, while the direction isn’t visually special [though the film does look polished and extremely well made]. The only reason I would recommend this film to anyone is to see a really great Dennis Quaid performance, where he tackles a rare role as an insane villain who wears a red cap and enjoys hunting. He’s also obsessed with a house, causing him to tick and twitch more than once when the new owners change some of it around. It’s quite the bizarre, unintentionally fun, yet entertaining performance by a class actor. If you have 100 minutes and want to see some prime Quaid, this is your film. Otherwise, don’t bother breaking into this one.
THE APPARITION (2012) - 1/2* out of **** [WTF? Vault]
Directed By: Todd Lincoln
Starring: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Julianna Guill, Rick Gomez
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Plot: Plagued by frightening occurrences in their home, Kelly and Ben learn that a university’s parapsychology experiment produced an entity that is now haunting them. The malevolent spirit feeds on fear and torments the couple no matter where they run. Desperate, Kelly and Ben turn to a paranormal researcher, but even with his aid, it may already be too late to save themselves from the terrifying presence.
With my cousin having lent the DVD to me years ago without an ounce of complaint about getting his copy back, I should have realized that THE APPARITION from 2012 isn’t going to be anyone's favorite horror film anytime soon. Hell, I’d be surprised if anyone would bother watching this movie more than once, as the film even struggles to be mediocre as it wants to be JU-ON: THE GRUDGE and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY both at once and fails at either. Hell, the trailer feels more complete of a film than this does. What a bland, boring film that makes one wonder why or how it was even made and released into theaters.
That plot summary above is as deep as the film ever goes. The concept is interesting and I have a fascination with the paranormal and supernatural that I’m willing to watch THE APPARITION. But there is no character development at all, as we get two prologues pretty much telling us why some evil spirit is haunting this beautiful young couple, leading to another mystery a third into the film that reveals why this couple is being haunted to begin with. After that, it’s just a series of cliches and tropes that have been done to death for decades, but never as interesting or fresh. I could barely tell you anything about Kelly and Ben other than their professions. Hell, I didn’t even realize Kelly was the main character’s name until the end credits! I’m given no reason to believe Kelly and Ben are this loving couple who decide to live together and share their lives because I have no backstory, no personality for either one of them, and most importantly - no chemistry between the characters or the actors playing them. I wish the spirit had fed quicker on these two so the film would have ended sooner. And the film is already like 72 minutes long not including the end credits!
It doesn’t help that these characters are written terribly stupid. Ben figures out that being part of the parapsychology experiment led to all this, but doesn’t really feel any sort of urgency to tell his girlfriend or do anything about it until the third act. Kelly is even worse, as she barely reacts to the strange things happening around her. In fact, when Kelly figures out that Ben is part of the reason she’s being haunted by watching a video on a hard drive of his group conjuring up this spirit, she’s more upset that Ben didn’t reveal his relationship with a girl in his group he had dated prior to meeting Kelly rather than some evil ghost messing up her shit! At one point, she even tries to stop the spirit by locking it inside of a closet, because doors will stop any evil presence from hurting someone. Hell, even the spirit tries to kill Kelly by smothering her in her sleeping blanket via dutch oven. While unintentionally hilarious, dying via dutch oven is a new one even for me.
Add in Ben’s parapsychology partner Charlie, who is just around to give the audience expository dialogue, without giving him much purpose besides that. I think even if he was left out of the story besides the prologue and the hard drive footage, he wouldn’t have been missed at all. None of these characters are written well nor are we given any reason to sympathize with them. It just feels like first time writer/director Todd Lincoln was inspired by other films and just wrote what he liked about them on paper, not giving anything any sort of subtext or cohesion for any audience to care.
His direction is slightly better, but THE APPARITION still drags because what we see is nothing we haven’t seen done better in other films. We get a ton of objects moving inside rooms, hands crawling from behind people, animals sensing danger and dying because of it, and things disintegrating for whatever reason. We also get moments of found footage that could be worse, while some reject from JU-ON: THE GRUDGE makes its presence known in a closet. The film also happens to be way too dark at times, especially when things that should be scaring and shocking people happen. The editing is also rough at times, cutting away from things we ought to be invested in. I think the worst part of the direction [and the screenwriting] is having characters react and investigate what’s going on, only for these moments to be quickly transitioned to an aftermath that falls flat. You have to build tension and suspense for a film like this, and it seems Lincoln didn’t even understand that. The film looks nice, I give it that. But other than that, it’s just visually bland with some moments that’ll make you laugh more than they’ll scare you.
The acting is probably the best part of THE APPARITION, but even that isn’t all that good. Ashley Greene, best known for her work in those TWILIGHT films, looks great and has a moment or two where she acts like a human being. But most of the time, she’s directed not to react naturally to freaky stuff happening around her. Instead of screaming or having this flight-or-fight response, she’ll just look confused. Sebastian Stan is a good actor, but he’s not given anything to do here but play the guilty boyfriend. At least he reacts to things more naturally than Greene did, but he didn’t have much material to bite into. Tom Felton, of HARRY POTTER fame, isn’t given much to do but recite exposition. At least he does it well, I suppose. Dude deserves better. I think with a better script, these three would have contributed to a watchable movie. THE APPARITION isn’t it.
Overall, THE APPARITION is pretty much a horror movie fail on all levels. It wants to be both JU-ON: THE GRUDGE and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY so badly, yet failing on both accounts enough for anyone to wish they were watching any of those two films instead. The script is nothing but a skeleton, with paper-thin characters put in a predictably generic situation that have been done to death and done much better. The direction is bland, although the film does look nice. For an 80-minute film, the pacing drags and director Todd Lincoln uses too much darkness, terrible editing, and not enough suspense or tension for anyone to care about what they’re watching. Even the actors try and make something out of this film, but mostly fail because the script doesn’t give them much to do but react poorly to things. Not one the worst horror film I’ve seen, but man, it comes pretty close. I don’t blame this evil spirit for being so upset. I would be too if I had to star in this movie.
ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (1972) - *** out of ****
Directed By: Sergio Martino
Starring: George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov, Nieves Navarro, Julian Ugarte, George Rigaud, Maria Cumani Quasimodo, Marina Malfatti, Luciano Pigozzi
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Plot: Jane lives in London with her boyfriend Richard. Her mother was murdered when she was young, she recently lost a baby in a car crash and she’s plagued by nightmares of a knife-wielding man. Richard thinks the cure is vitamins, while Jane’s sister recommends psychiatric help. But a new neighbor promises that if she participates in a Black Mass, all her fears will disappear, instead it just seems to bring her nightmare to life.
ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is a film I’ve wanted to watch for a while now. Even though I hear a great blu-ray was released earlier this year, Shudder had it ready to stream and I decided to check it out this Halloween season. What an interesting trip this film is. Psychedelic and nightmarishly bizarre, this not-so-giallo is a film I’ll probably remember for a while now. There’s so much thrown at the wall and not all of it sticks, but when it does, you’re just captivated by what you’re watching unfold.
Martino was obviously inspired by 1968’s ROSEMARY’S BABY and the rise of the whole “Satanic Panic” that was infiltrating the media and pop culture in general. Jane, suffering from losing her mother at a young age and then losing her own baby in a car accident, is our unreliable narrator as she has horrible visions of pregnant woman [and even herself] getting stabbed repeatedly by this man with striking blue eyes - who eventually begins stalking her in real life even though she had never met him before. Many doubt her visions, thinking she’s just stark-raving mad and needs to talk to a psychiatrist [something recommended by her sister]. Her boyfriend Richard thinks that vitamins will cure everything, as if he’s Tom Cruise or something. But her neighbor believes that joining a Satanic cult will cure her after they force her to drink fox’s blood and gang rape the hell out of her. That white padded room doesn’t seem so bad if these are her friends and family!
The film jars you right away with this nightmare that Jane has of herself and a pregnant woman getting murdered by this blue-eyed stranger. And as the film plays on, we witness more nightmarish visions and hallucinations that make us question what we’re really seeing is reality or just a figment of a emotionally wrecked woman’s imagination. Nothing really beats the opening of the film, as it’s so weird that you kind of hope the rest of ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK would keep up with that vibe. But the film, besides the rollercoaster changes between reality and fantasy, never really lives up to that opening, pretty much playing things straighter than you would expect out of a film involving a Satanic cult. I will say that the second half of the film is more interesting than the first, as Jane deals with the aftermath of joining the cult and then regretting her decision and wanting to leave - which the cult has a huge issue with. The twists and turns keep coming, making you question what is the real deal with all of these characters and why Jane has been targeted from the start. I do think the ending is extremely flat and makes you wonder how anyone could just end the film with such a whimper, considering the loud bang the film begins with.
I also feel the idea that ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is a giallo is a bit misguided. It doesn’t really contain the tropes any common giallo would have, like a shadowy figure who wears a disguise and gloves stalking and killing people until it leads to a very convoluted resolution of the killer’s identity. The film feels more like a thriller involving a troubled woman who enters a cult of Satan worshippers, being targeted for a particular reason once she refuses to assimilate. The only mystery is why Jane is having these particular nightmares that predict certain futures and introduces us to characters we hadn’t met yet up to that point. All the characters all have particular motives and reasons to pull Jane in multiple directions that end up doing more harm than good.
The characters aren’t the most interesting honestly. Jane is really the only character given any depth as she’s the main focus of the film, learning about her backstory pretty quickly and watching her emotional distress as she interacts with her boyfriend, her sister, this cult, and so on. The other characters all so have personalities and most of them come across as pretty unlikable people, but we end up only caring about Jane at the end because we’re understanding the story through her eyes - making us wonder if it’s all in her head or if it’s really happening.
I think the best part of ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is the fantastic direction by Sergio Martino. The surreal nature of Jane’s dreams and hallucinations are perfectly shot, as the shot scale is all over the place and we get weird editing that make us realize what we’re watching isn’t at all natural. In other scenes where the characters are acting in interior locations, Martino uses greens and reds in certain rooms that make these particular scenes pop and create an atmosphere through this unnatural lighting scheme. The pacing is also well done, as the film is less than 90 minutes and breezes right by. I also thought the gore we do see was done well, as well the make up and costumes used for the cult - especially the leader who had fabulous jazz hands displaying his blue and gold nails. Never knew 70s Hans Gruber could accessorize. While I prefer TORSO, I do feel this film is better directed and captures much of the “Satanic Panic” he was going for.
The acting is pretty solid as well. The standout here is obviously Edwige Fenech as Jane. Not only is she one of the most beautiful genre actresses to have ever been in horror films, but she wonderfully portrays a woman suffering through a ton of emotional and mental setbacks. Fenech sells the terror believably, making us empathize with her as she goes through the ringer and hopes someone will believe her claims. She also sells the horror of entering the cult, especially during the rape scene, as she clearly doesn’t want anything to do with this. She carried this film extremely well. I thought the other actors filled their supporting roles well, never overshadowing Fenech but adding to her performance as the film ran along.
Overall, ALL OF THE COLORS OF THE DARK is a weird little flick that doesn’t really live up to insanity of the opening five minutes [which involves pregnant woman, an old woman with messed up teeth, and a blue-eyed dude with a stabbing fixation], but still manages to be a worthwhile watch for those who appreciate Italian horror cinema. The film is a more of a “Satanic Panic” vehicle rather than an actual giallo, but the mystery of Jane’s emotional and mental breakdown has enough twists and turns to keep an audience invested until it’s unfortunate bland and flat ending. This may be Sergio Martino’s best directorial work, as his nightmarish visions are shot perfectly with weird shot scales and editing, while his use of colors at random locations create an atmosphere we want to invest our time in. Plus, you have the beautiful Edwige Fenech believably playing a woman on the verge of a mental and emotional breakdown, making us wonder what we’re seeing through her performance is reality or fantasy. Fenech pulls it off well and carries the film without much issue from beginning to end. ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is an eerie and evocative horror flick that just reminds the audience that they sure don’t make many films like this anymore.
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (2019) - *** out of ****
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Plot: The group will face a new zombie threat as a new breed of zombie has developed. This new super-zombie type is faster, bigger, and stronger than the previous strain of zombies and harder to kill. These super-zombies have started grouping up into a horde going from city to city leaving a path of destruction behind them.
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is probably a sequel that shouldn’t exist, but I have no issue with it otherwise. There had been talks for years about a sequel to the 2009 zombie hit - even a television show with different actors playing the same roles was considered for a while. But the original cast is here, joined by new faces, and the chemistry amongst them all has not changed at all. For that very reason, DOUBLE TAP works better than it ought to, even when this sequel pretty much follows the same template as the first one.
DOUBLE TAP doesn’t bring anything new to the series, or zombie films in general. The characters still behave the same way, even to the point where the girls end up leaving the boys again for a short time because they’re afraid of getting attached - even though they’ve been a family for 10 years. And it all leads to random encounters until they end up at a known destination that becomes overrun by zombies due to the survivors not learning that light and loud noises will just get their attention. The great new element in DOUBLE TAP is the evolution of the zombies themselves, as some have become “Homers” (dumb zombies) or “T-800s” (super strong and intelligent zombies who won’t stay down). This adds a level of unpredictably to the story, where you feel like sometimes a main character may actually get bit by one of these things. We also bring in new characters for laughs, like Madison - the ditzy blonde who is absolutely clueless and hilarious throughout the film, having the best moments in the film. You also have Albuquerque and Flagstaff, who are Tallahassee and Columbus from a parallel universe or something. The interaction between all four when they meet is wonderfully well written and entertaining as hell. I wish the film had a bit more of it, but it’s a definite highlight of the film. And Nevada is a nice addition to the crew, giving Tallahassee a love arc that adds another dimension to the character. We also have Columbus and Wichita dealing with relationship issues, with Columbus wanting to deepen their relationship, while Wichita has cold feet. And Little Rock, now an adult, wants to branch out and experience life outside of the foursome. So there are things to latch onto with DOUBLE TAP, making it feel like an extension of what the first film had done.
I will say that I feel DOUBLE TAP probably should have been released eight years ago. When the first film was released in 2009, the popularity of zombie media hadn’t reached its zenith yet. That wouldn’t happen until the year after when The Walking Dead would premiere on AMC to a massive audience that was unheard of for cable television at the time. Zombies would become the money monsters, with other media arriving quickly after The Walking Dead - like WORLD WAR Z, Z-Nation, iZombie, Fear the Walking Dead, WARM BODIES, and so on. Zombies have become so oversaturated by this point that I’m surprised DOUBLE TAP did as well as it did during its opening weekend. Luckily DOUBLE TAP is a good film and sequel, but it makes one wonder whether it was needed or not.
The direction by Ruben Fleischer is just as good as it was in the first ZOMBIELAND, maybe even flashier due to recent years of working on comic book films like VENOM. The film is well paced, colorful, and has some fun moments with some cool gore. The acting is even better as the original cast step right back into their roles as if they had never left. They have great chemistry and play off of each other very well. The newer additions, like Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch and Avan Jogia, help create new foils and a bigger universe within Zombieland. The star of the film though is Zoey Deutch as Madison, portraying a stereotypical blonde Paris Hilton type ditz who comes in between Columbus and Wichita, while creating hilarious situations for the cast. She’s so charming and infectious that I hope I see her in more films.
Overall. ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is not as good or as fresh as the first ZOMBIELAND from 10 years ago. After the last decade of over saturation of the zombie market in all facets of pop culture, you kind of have to wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to release this sequel now instead of seven to eight years ago. Even so, the film still mostly works as the humor is more hit than miss. The cast is still wonderful and maintain the same chemistry they had in the first film, with newer additions [Zoey Deutch in particular] adding some needed personality to what could have been a cash-in sequel. And I thought Ruben Fleischer’s flashy direction worked well to create a colorful world within a zombie apocalypse. I don’t think there was much demand for DOUBLE TAP, but it’s nice to see a zombie property that plays things for laughs in a world that probably needs more of that.
THE BODY [INTO THE DARK] (2018) - **1/2 out of ****
Directed By: Paul Davis
Starring: Tom Bateman, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Aurora Perrineau, David Hull, Ray Santiago, Harvey Guillen, Max Adler, Raymond Forchion, Chasty Ballesteros, Sasha Grey, Patrick Hume, Alex Winter
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Plot: A sophisticated hitman with a cynical view on modern society finds his work made difficult when he has to transport a body on Halloween night, but everyone is enamored by what they think is his killer costume.
It took me over a year to finally sit down and watch Hulu’s anthology movie series, Into the Dark - a series I was interested in when it premiered but didn’t really allow time to give it a shot. Figuring it’s Halloween season and the first episode of the first season is a Halloween episode [each episode takes place during a certain holiday], I finally sat down to watch THE BODY - a tale of a hitman who has trouble transporting a body on Halloween night, trying to blend in with other costumed people to get a ride to his final destination. He eventually meets a woman at a party who is turned on by his murderous ways once it’s all revealed, leading to more complications for the hitman.
It’s surprising that not a lot of people in my horror circle discuss this Into the Dark series. It’s been a year since the series began and I barely know anything about the episodes included on the show. So I was a bit apprehensive starting this series because if no one is discussing it, it must not be worth the investment, right? Fortunately THE BODY happens to be slightly more positive than negative when it comes to its storytelling and presentation. Taking a short story and extending it into a feature-length film isn’t ideal, but it can work if the right people are behind the project. THE BODY does have interesting story elements going for it most of the time, but you can definitely tell there is a lot of filler involving characters and conversations that aren’t really relevant by the movie’s conclusion. There are portions in the film where I felt some of the exposition dragged and slowed the flow down, creating banter and exchanges that either hit or missed, making certain moments feel unnatural at times.
I also thought that as the film went on, the quality of the three acts declined by the film’s end. The first act is the most interesting, as it’s pretty much the simple plot of the story where we’re introduced to our main character, who murders someone for a bounty and has no means of claiming the body for his prize. That is, until he meets some annoying strangers that want to party with him because they think his hitman attire is a costume and the wrapped dead body he’s dragging around is nothing but a prop. You get to see how different his life is from theirs, as he’s stoic and all business while they just want to drink, get high and have fun on Halloween night. That changes when he encounters Maggie, a technological expert who becomes slightly unhinged once she finds out who the hitman is and falls for him.
This reveal leads into a decent second act where the conflict begins, as the annoying strangers steal the body while the hitman and Maggie try to hunt them down. While the hitman’s and Maggie’s relationship begins to grow and begin to understand each other, the other group fight amongst themselves as they realize they’re in over their heads in trying to stop the hitman from completing his mission. The hitman’s relationship with Maggie is a strong aspect of the story as she reveals how twisted and lustful for murder she is, willing to do anything to be the hitman’s partner-in-crime. He, however, doesn’t understand her but appreciates how much she seems to understand him. They begin to scare their rivals through their cell phones, attempting to frame them for everything the hitman has done that night. The annoying strangers aren’t as interesting, too busy fighting amongst themselves and performing dumb actions they haven’t bothered to plan properly. Considering the fact that the hitman is supposed to be the villain of this story, this group of three seem more antagonistic and less worthy to root for.
A surprising twist leads into the final act, which downgrades into a stereotypical slasher flick that doesn’t feel earned at all. The hitman, who has been having trouble locating these idiots, suddenly finds them, shows his cunning and apparent invulnerability, and plays with his victims instead of finding the body - which he is under a time limit over thanks to his mysterious boss. While some of the things that happen are pretty cool in terms of violence and gore, it just feels pedestrian and predictable. The build up is so well written and the thriller aspect is pretty damn good, I feel like the final part of the film cheapens everything that came before it. I thought the ending was kind of funny, but even that felt a bit unearned.
The direction by Paul Davis is good for the most part. The film looks nice and is paced well enough that THE BODY never drags. The kill sequences don’t really happen until the final act, but I thought Davis handled those very well. Most of it was done via CGI, but it was good looking CGI. Throats are slashed, knives get impaled through skulls, we get gun play and there’s a cool scene of someone’s skull getting crush through someone’s eye sockets. For a TV movie, it’s well shot and well produced.
The acting is pretty solid as well. Tom Bateman is quite good as the hitman, never really playing things for laughs until he becomes a slasher villain. His dialogue may look silly and read heavy-handed on paper, but Bateman delivers them in such a serious way with his British accent that it feels natural for this particular character. I thought Rebecca Rittenhouse played his foil pretty well, slowly becoming more crazy as the film went on. I thought she had good chemistry with Bateman, as they mainly played off of each other through much of the film with ease and interest. Ray Santiago, of Ash vs. Evil Dead fame, plays the comic relief as best as he can with the material given. He’s a lot better in the beginning than he is at the end, but he gives it his all. The rest of the main cast, David Hull [who looks like Seth McFarlane’s younger brother] and especially Aurora Perrineau, are solid as well. It’s a good cast that try to make the most of a script that loses its way as it reaches the finish line.
Overall. I liked THE BODY more than I didn’t. I enjoyed the build up of the plot and introduction of the main characters in the first act, while the decent second act was a bit disjointed, leading to a final act that wants to be a slasher film when not much before it really set that up. The tone was all over the place in this film, but when it stuck to one, the film was very watchable. The direction by Paul Davis is good, pacing this TV movie well enough so it doesn’t wear out its welcome. The kill sequences don’t show anything new, but are shot well and look better than they have any right to. And the acting, especially by Tom Bateman, Rebecca Rittenhouse and Ray Santiago is strong. I wanted this to be better since I dug the concept, but I liked the film enough to give the other episodes a go. We’ll see whether this series is worth going Into the Dark for.