Three Thrillers from Dimension
Tangled (October 9/11)
As Tangled opens, David (Shawn Hatosy) is just regaining consciousness following his involvement in a mysterious car crash - with the film subsequently unfolding in flashback as we discover just what led up to that point. As such, the movie primarily details the turmoil that ensues after David's cocky former roommate (Jonathan Rhys Meyers' Alan) arrives on the scene and essentially steals away the girl that he's been pining for (Rachael Leigh Cook's Jenny). Despite the thriller-like elements contained in the film's opening minutes, Tangled, for the most part, comes off as an unreasonably slow-moving drama revolving around the exploits of three one-dimensional characters. The film, which generally feels like the pilot episode of a low-rent CW series, has been padded out to a degree that inevitably becomes oppressive, as director Jay Lowi, working from Jeffrey Lieber's script, suffuses the proceedings with subplots and asides of an almost distractingly needless nature. (This is, of course, in addition to the inherently flawed premise, as it becomes more and more difficult to believe that David would remain friends with Jenny and especially Alan.) The final insult arrives in the form of a last-minute twist that's clearly been designed to shock the viewer, yet the filmmakers manage to bungle even this aspect of the proceedings - as it ultimately does seem as though this character only did what he/she did out of pure necessity. The end result is a hopelessly misguided effort that wastes the talents of its three stars, which is a shame, really, given the inherent charisma contained within the actors' respective performances.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle
Written and directed by Kevin Williamson, Teaching Mrs. Tingle follows three high schoolers (Katie Holmes' Leigh Ann, Barry Watson's Luke, and Marisa Coughlan's Jo Lynn) as they effectively decide to hold the title character (Helen Mirren) hostage after she accuses them of cheating - with the film subsequently detailing the back-and-forth dynamic that ensues between the kids and Mrs. Tingle. It's a reasonably promising setup that's employed to consistently underwhelming effect by Williamson, as the first-time filmmaker has infused the proceedings with a disappointingly uncinematic feel - with the incongruously tame atmosphere ensuring that the movie often feels like a discarded pilot for the CW. The made-for-TV vibe extends especially to the portrayal of the four central characters, with Williamson's inability to flesh any of these figures out preventing one from working up any interest in their ongoing exploits. (This lack of depth is especially problematic in the case of Mrs. Tingle herself, as Williamson's refusal to offer up a shred of backstory for the character ensures that she comes off as a disastrously one-note villain.) And although the premise would seem to demand an atmosphere of pervasive suspense, Teaching Mrs. Tingle is, for the most part, concerned primarily with the dull love triangle between the three teenagers - which ultimately diminishes the strength of the action-heavy climax and cements the film's place as a disappointingly flat piece of work.
Written in Blood (October 1/11)
A thriller without any thrills, Written in Blood follows grizzled detective Matthew Ransom (Michael T. Weiss) as he's forced to deal with the revelation that his partner's wife and her lover have been brutally murdered - with the ensuing trial eventually landing said partner (Peter Coyote's John Traveller) in prison. The situation is complicated as it becomes clear that someone is killing Traveller's various enemies, and - despite his captain's strenuous objections - Ransom begins an investigation that ultimately points to a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed sociopath. Filmmaker John Terlesky has infused Written in Blood with a surprisingly slow-moving feel that instantly holds the viewer at arm's length, with the less-than-engrossing vibe perpetuated by Terlesky's decision to initially emphasize Ransom's low-key, melodramatic exploits (eg his ongoing dealings with his ex-wife). Far more problematic, however, is the film's pervasively inauthentic atmosphere, as scripter David Keith Miller floods the proceedings with predictable plot twists and hackneyed instances of dialogue (eg "You're like a bad penny, Matt: You keep turning up!") The excessively deliberate pace ensures that even the movie's suspense-oriented elements fall hopelessly flat, and it's consequently (and ultimately) impossible to label Written in Blood as anything more than a barely-passable direct-to-video thriller.