Saturday, 27 July 2013

ANTISOCIAL - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Bad Script. Promising Director. Premieres at FanTasia Montreal 2013

Antisocial (2013) **1/2
Dir. Cody Calahan
Starring: Michelle Mylett

Review By
Greg Klymkiw

The final 20 minutes of this low budget Canadian horror film's 92 minute running time features some truly mind-splitting gore and suspense. From a directorial standpoint, the movie kicks into the sort of high-gear one wants from a low budget genre film and though Writer-Director Cody Calahan's feature debut has a few frissons slithering throughout, much of its first two-thirds is a slog on a number of fronts.

Basically, it's a one-star movie boosted a notch by a terrific climax and the potential of its director to eventually make a good movie. The setup is typical of most no-to-low budget genre items - a group of college kids are trapped in a house while an infection rages outside and in addition to threats of the external variety are those from within as the college kids start catching the plague - beginning, middle and end of movie.

Ho-hum. Been there. Done that. The only thing that's going to keep us watching is a combination of directorial flourishes, new twists on the now-stale set-up/backdrop and, of course, good writing (if not narratively, at least on the level of character and dialogue).

On the directorial front, Calahan (the first assistant director and co-producer of Monster Brawl and Exit Humanity) knows a thing or two about delivering scares in a solid fashion. Alas, there are weird pacing and spatial issues when he's not focused on pure terror. For example (and there are many similar such scenes throughout), we get two characters in a room, bad shit happens in there, the other characters come upstairs to see what's wrong, we cut back into the room, a long conversation takes place, we wonder why the characters in the hallway who have expressed considerable interest and urgency haven't burst in long before this and then, when the lines of dialogue (which aren't especially good anyway) have been uttered, the door opens and the rest of the characters saunter in.

At least when stuff like that happens in an Ed Wood movie, it's funny.

As a director, Calahan seems either incompetent or uninterested in pretty much everything other than visceral thrills which, yes, he can handle well enough. A good part of the problem, however, is the writing and for that, he merely needs to look in a mirror. Though derivative of much better films like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse, Calahan's script at least steals a good idea from it by rooting the source of the evil in computers. The nice twist is that it manifests its victims via a Social Networking site. This is good. Tons of potential. Alas, the possibilities - narratively and thematically - are not mined in any intelligent way.

It sits there, ever-so nicely, like the good idea it is.

"Look at me, Ma. I'm a good idea, but my writer isn't doing anything with me."

"Don't worry, child, someday he - or someone, will."

As far as the characters go, they're pretty much stock for this kind of movie. Is it always necessary to populate these films with vapid college kids who really have no depth beyond the perfunctory? Of course, it isn't, but this is exactly what Calahan does. We get a group of dull, average losers with pretty low and petty personal stakes. One might charge Sam Raimi with a similar crime in his first Evil Dead outing, but his viciously black sense of humour, the appearance of the genuinely brilliant Bruce Campbell and the utterly creepy, horrendous shit he puts them through makes it a winner all the way. Calahan probably needed to remember that washouts of the kind he's populated his film with REALLY need MAJOR punishment.

The dialogue is especially wretched and of the variety wherein something happens on-screen and one of the characters tells us and his fellow characters what we (and they) have just seen. The first time this happened, I was close to throwing in the towel, but hung in hoping things would get better.

Even the tropes of substandard straight to video genre fare are handled with a kind of dull conservatism in Calahan's film. The initial symptoms of the infection include copious bleeding from facial openings like the ears, eyes and nose plus paranoid hallucinations. That's okay, I guess, but when I think about the blood parasite infecting Barbara Steele in David Cronenberg's first feature Shivers by slithering up into her vagina, or the disgusting pustules all over the deformed baby's face and the gloopy blood it coughs up from its mush-filled infected mouth in David Lynch's first feature Eraserhead or the little girl stabbing her mother repeatedly with a garden trowel in Romero's first feature Night of the Living Dead, nosebleeds just don't cut the mustard.

Rectal and vaginal bleeding, however, might have been what the doctor ordered to grease things up a bit. I suggest that next time Mr. Calahan listen to his knowledgeable G.P.

Eventually Calahan's virus-infused victims turn into raving homicidal maniacs. I can live with this, but again, I think back on Cronenberg's Shivers where the infected victims become raving homicidal SEX maniacs. In fact, Calahan's characters could use a little sex to begin with, but instead we get the main female character moping around from being knocked up by her loser boyfriend who dumps her via social networking just prior to her heading off to do remedial work after flunking a criminology test. Ugh! She's not only a drag, but stupid.

She is, thankfully, a babe, but even though the actress playing her is indeed a knockout, we know there won't be any boinking going on when she hooks up with her handsome male friend who seems vaguely more intelligent and far more worthy of the supple charms twixt her thighs than the bonehead she was being dinked by.

Worse yet, another vapid couple gets it on in the bedroom, but ONLY manage to strip down to their undies. Come on, for Christ's sake! Can we get a little bare breast action from the babe or a smidgen of schwance from her studly male partner? No. It's not that kind of movie. (Though actually, it IS that kind of movie, but too precious to deliver the goods.)

The nice thing about low budget genre features is when, like the aforementioned Monster Brawl and Exit Humanity, the movies - for whatever flaws they possess - at least try to do something different and go well beyond the tropes.

That doesn't happen here, but if you do bother with the film, I can assure you that in its final third, on a purely visceral level, the film will wag a drill in front of your face and bore itself into your skull.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, IS entertainment!!!

"Antisocial" enjoys its world premiere at the FanTasia 2013 film festival in Montreal on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm at J.A. De Seve Theatre and Monday, August 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm at J.A. De Seve Theatre.