Three Thrillers from eOne Films
Antiviral (July 16/14)
Brandon Cronenberg's directorial debut, Antiviral transpires in a world where obsessed fans can have themselves injected with viruses harvested from their favorite celebrities - with the movie following Caleb Landry Jones' Syd March as he becomes deathly ill after infecting himself with a disease that killed a much-beloved superstar (Sarah Gadon's Hannah Geist). It's a ridiculous and flat-out dumb premise that's employed to terminally underwhelming effect by Cronenberg, as the first-time filmmaker, working from his own screenplay, has infused the proceedings with a cold, sterile atmosphere that holds the viewer at arm's length right from the word go. The uninvolving atmosphere only grows more and more palpable as time slowly progresses, with Cronenberg's odd refusal to infuse the central character with any compelling attributes surely standing head and shoulders above the movie's many, many problems (ie Syd is about as flat and one-dimensional as one could possibly envision). It's worth noting, too, that Cronenberg's decision to shoe-horn in moments of body horror, presumably in homage to his much more talented father, fall entirely and almost comically flat, while the pervasive lack of momentum ensures that Antiviral fizzles out to an astonishing degree long before it reaches its half-baked climax. One ultimately can't help but wonder what Cronenberg originally set out to accomplish with this incredibly misguided disaster, as the film remains a punishing ordeal that one endures more than enjoys from start to finish.
no stars out of
Escapee details the chaos that ensues after a psychopath (Dominic Purcell's Harmon Porter) effortlessly breaks out of prison, with the movie detailing the subsequent game of cat-and-mouse that transpires between Harmon and a fetching young coed (Christine Evangelista's Abby Jones). It's a serviceable premise that's employed to astonishingly (and continually) incompetent effect by writer/director Campion Murphy, as the first-time filmmaker offers up an opening hour devoted primarily to the dull and hopelessly mundane exploits of several one-dimensional characters - including Abby and her paper-thin friends and Faith Ford's grizzled cop. (The latter provides the film with many of its hardiest unintentional laughs, as Ford, who couldn't possibly be more miscast, fruitlessly attempts to breathe life into eye-rollingly stupid chunks of dialogue (eg after arriving at a crime scene where a couple of bodies are hanging from a tree, Ford's character asks a fellow cop, "so, these are the two victims, huh?")) There's virtually nothing here that's been designed to effectively hold the viewer's interest, with the tedious investigation into Porter's escape compounding the movie's aggressively uninvolving atmosphere. (It doesn't help, either, that Murphy has curiously decided to eschew overt instances of violence and gore.) The movie's ineptitude persists right through to the interminable and wildly anticlimactic final stretch, which does, naturally, confirm Escapee's place as a seriously underwhelming piece of work.
House at the End of the Street (February 23/14)
An uncommonly tedious effort, House at the End of the Street follows Jennifer Lawrence's Elissa as she and her mother (Elisabeth Shue's Sarah) move to a small town where a young girl murdered her parents years earlier - with the film eventually detailing the mystery surrounding said young girl's only surviving relative (Max Thieriot's Ryan). Before it reaches that point, however, House at the End of the Street comes off as a fairly typical teen drama that's rife with eye-rollingly familiar elements - as director Mark Tonderai, working from David Loucka's script, devotes much of the movie's opening hour to Elissa's tiresome, drawn-out efforts at acclimating to her new surroundings. (This manifests itself in sequences in which Elissa, for example, tediously befriends a local outcast or grows closer to Thierot's withdrawn character.) And although Tonderai has sprinkled the proceedings with promisingly mysterious attributes, House at the End of the Street's disastrously dull atmosphere prevents one from working up any interest once such elements are paid off in the movie's twist-laden, action-heavy final stretch - which finally does confirm the film's place as a lowest-common-denominator thriller that's best forgotten (especially by Lawrence, to be sure).