Mini Reviews (June 2017)
The Recall, The Devil's Dolls, Everything, Everything
The Recall (June 4/17)
Shot exclusively for the worthless Barco Escape format, The Recall follows five friends (RJ Mitte's Brendan, Jedidiah Goodacre's Charlie, Niko Pepaj's Rob, Hannah Rose May's Kara, and Laura Bilgeri's Annie) as they travel to a remote lake house for a weekend of fun and debauchery - with chaos ensuing as it becomes clear that they're not alone out there. It's a familiar premise that's employed to consistently (and aggressively) incompetent effect by filmmaker Mauro Borrelli, as the director proves hopelessly unable to infuse The Recall with any elements of a compelling, coherent nature - with the film, which lurches from scene to scene with all the grace of a bull in a china shop, suffering from a pervasively low-rent feel that's reflected in its various attributes (eg laughable special effects, shoddy cinematography, amateurish performances, etc, etc). Just about the only positive element contained within the seemingly endless proceedings is Wesley Snipes’ unabashedly over-the-top turn as a mysterious hunter, as the erstwhile movie star drops any pretence of subtlety and delivers a scenery-chewing performance that all-too-briefly elevates one’s non-existent interest. And then, of course, there’s the Barco Escape silliness, which often seems to be fighting 3D in a contest to see which format is more of a pointless distraction – with Borrelli primarily using the additional space to either widen (and distort) the image or display irrelevant items off to the side. It’s an absolutely disastrous experiment that certainly doesn’t bode well for this nascent format, and while it’s possible the technology could be used better by a more accomplished (read: talented) filmmaker, it’s hard to envision any scenario wherein one would be willing to give it another shot after this mess.
The Devil's Dolls
An often excessively tedious horror effort, The Devil's Dolls follows a tortured police officer (Christopher Wiehl's Matt) as he attempts to uncover the mystery of several seemingly random murders - with the investigation ultimately leading him to a set of cursed voodoo dolls. Filmmaker Padraig Reynolds, whose last film was the comparatively masterful Rites of Spring, delivers a promising pre-credits sequence that seemingly sets the stage for an appreciatively brutal splatterfest, as The Devil's Dolls kicks off with an engrossing stretch detailing the escape of an abducted woman and the gleefully gory death of her supposed savior. (Best drill-to-the-head kill since City of the Living Dead? Quite possibly.) It's disappointing to note, then, that the movie immediately segues into a central narrative that couldn't possibly be less interesting or more generic, with scripters Wiehl and Danny Kolker emphasizing a slow, meandering storyline that places far-too-prominent an emphasis on the protagonist's exceptionally dull exploits (ie Matt predominantly comes off as a one-dimensional, garden-variety grizzled cop). The hopelessly uninvolving atmosphere is compounded by Reynolds' ill-considered decision to ease up on the over-the-top gore, and it's clear, too, that the voodoo-heavy third act is just about as uninteresting and anticlimactic as one might've feared - which ultimately confirms The Devil's Dolls' place as a seriously undercooked and hopelessly incompetent piece of work.
Based on a book by Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything follows Amandla Stenberg’s Maddy Whittier, a teen afflicted with a rare disease that keeps her confined to her house, as she begins to come out of her shell after meeting and falling for a hunky new next-door neighbor (Nick Robinson’s Olly) – with the difficulties of a this fledgling relationship compounded by Maddy’s severely overprotective mother (Aniki Noni Rose’s Pauline). Filmmaker Stella Meghie delivers a tremendously likeable opening stretch that effectively establishes the central character and her admittedly unusual plight, with the affable atmosphere heightened by Stenberg’s charismatic turn as the sympathetic Maddy and her genuine chemistry with love interest Robinson. (It’s clear, too, that Meghie’s fairly ingenious manner of placing the two characters in the same room together, achieved through imagined encounters in a model restaurant, perpetuates the appealing bond between Maddy and Olly.) It’s perhaps not surprising to note, then, that Everything, Everything’s midsection boasts the feel of a fairly typical forbidden-teen romance, as scripter J. Mills Goodloe places a heavy emphasis on the central couple’s continuing attempts at circumnavigating the deadly disease that separates them. The heavily-telegraphed “twist” that concludes the proceedings doesn’t add a whole lot to the big picture, and it is, in the final analysis, clear that Everything, Everything is perfectly content coming off as a sweet, somewhat uneventful coming-of-age story.