Two Thrillers from E1 Entertainment
Elsewhere (May 26/10)
Written and directed by Nathan Hope, Elsewhere follows upbeat teenager Sarah (Anna Kendrick) as she finds herself drawn into a life-threatening mystery after her promiscuous best friend (Tania Raymonde's Jillian) vanishes one night - with the bulk of the film subsequently detailing the Sarah's ongoing efforts at figuring out just what happened to Jillian and whether or not her disappearance is connected to the abduction of several other teenagers. It's clear right from the get-go that Elsewhere possesses few attributes designed to capture and sustain the viewer's interest, as filmmaker Hope places a consistent emphasis on stale and downright pointless elements that grow progressively problematic as the tedious narrative unfolds. The total absence of compelling characters only exacerbates the movie's far-from-enthralling atmosphere, with talented performers like Kendrick and Jon Gries - cast as the strict father of one of Sarah's friends - forced into the skin of underdeveloped figures who rarely behave in believable or logical ways (ie Sarah seeks help from a police officer that she had earlier identified as a possible suspect). There's consequently little doubt that one's efforts at working up any enthusiasm for the protagonist's increasingly tedious investigation fall entirely flat, while the horror-movie finale is nothing short of absurd and seems as though it belongs in an entirely different film (although one can't help but love the sequence in which a character alerts the villain as to his presence by stepping on a rake, Sideshow Bob style). The final result is a pervasively meaningless endeavor that's simply unable to justify its existence, and it's ultimately difficult to envision anyone - even fans of the various actors - finding much of anything worth embracing here.
While She Was Out (June 3/10)
It's impossible not to feel a twinge of disappointment at just how mediocre While She Was Out inevitably becomes, as the film boasts a seemingly can't-miss premise that's slowly-but-surely squandered by filmmaker Susan Montford. The movie follows battered housewife Della Myers (Kim Basinger) as she heads to a local mall for some last minute Christmas shopping, with her decision to leave a note on a badly-parked car raising the ire of a gun-toting street tough named Chuckie (Lukas Haas). Along with his three friends (Jamie Starr's Huey, Leonard Wu's Vingh, and Luis Chavez's Tomas), Chuckie pursues Della into the nearby woods and forces the frightened mother-of-two into a deadly game of cat and mouse. There's little doubt that While She Was Out suffers from a pervasive atmosphere of incompetence that's most potently reflected in Basinger's unusually awful performance, with the actress' inability to convincingly slip into the skin of her vulnerable character ensuring that Della remains as unsympathetic and purely implausible a figure as one could envision. It is, as a result, almost impossible to work up any interest or enthusiasm in the back-and-forth conflict that dominates much of the film's running time, as Basinger's oddly tentative work prevents the viewer from buying into her character's total domination over her pursuers (ie it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that Della would be able to single-handedly take out four armed thugs). And although the movie does possess one or two admittedly compelling moments - ie Chuckie lures Della out of her hiding place by threatening her loved ones, Star Wars/Judgment Night style - While She Was Out is simply unable to live up to the relatively promising nature of its set-up. (And this is to say nothing of Haas' egregiously over-the-top turn as the villain, with the actor's apparent decision to channel Edward Furlong's work in the first Terminator sequel nothing short of baffling.)