Maple Pictures' April '06 Releases
Satanic (April 15/06)
Because Satanic boasts appearances by genre favorites Jeffrey Combs and Angus Scrimm, there's little doubt that horror junkies will go out of their way to check the film out. Unfortunately for potential viewers, however, Combs and Scrimm are in the movie for a combined total of about five minutes - with the rest devoted to a convoluted, thoroughly tedious story involving a car crash victim who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of her own identity. Michelle (Annie Sorell), because she's a minor without any living family members, is sent to a foster home to recuperate, and it's not long before her sleazy guardians and sleazier cohorts begin dying under mysterious circumstances. Satanic appears to have been shot on standard home video equipment, and as such, director Dan Golden does an exceedingly mediocre job of infusing the film with even a modicum of style (the whole thing resembles a particularly dull home movie). The performances are atrocious and amateurish (although Combs does manage to inject some life into the proceedings during his two-minutes worth of screentime), while the dialogue is flat-out bad (ie after listening to Michelle ramble on about her condition and her fears that she's the cause of the various deaths, a friend remarks, "she doesn't sound so good!") And while there's a twist towards the end that's kind of intriguing (if entirely implausible), the majority of Satanic is simply inept and uninteresting.
no stars out of
Venice Underground (April 18/06)
With a simple setup that's laid out in a before-the-opening-credits prologue, Venice Underground can't help but come off as a high-octane network television pilot (complete with broadly-drawn stereotypes and a "surprise" villain). But even on that level the film doesn't really work, as there's just no getting around the ineptness that's been hard-wired into virtually every aspect of the production. The story revolves around a ragtag group of police cadets who are yanked out of the academy and thrown deep undercover within California's dangerous Venice Beach, where they are expected to infiltrate the vicious gangs that rule the neighborhood. Writer/director Eric DelaBarre infuses Venice Underground with a brash, distinctly in-your-face sense of style that strikes all the wrong notes right from the get-go, with the flamboyant opening credits sequence (which runs over three minutes) a particularly egregious example of this. DelaBarre's screenplay is rife with cop-movie cliches (there's even an Angry Captain!), while the performances range from perfunctory to flat-out atrocious. Venice Underground has less to offer than a typically brainless Fox program, which is really saying something.