Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

21 July 2008

Brutal, dir. Ethan Wiley (2007)

STEVE says:
When you're a die-hard 0ld-school horror fan, like me, and you see the names Jeffrey Combs and Michael Berryman in the cast list, there's really no doubt that you're going to watch the movie, no matter what else it has to offer.

And in the case of Brutal, let me tell you, it ain't much.

"Hostel meets The Silence of the Lambs", says Stuart Wilson from Independent Film Quarterly.

Yeah, he's full of shit, that guy. Either that, or he's seen neither Hostel nor Silence, because Brutal was neither as gory as the former nor as well-plotted as the latter. In fact, the words "well-plotted" don't even really apply here, as the film was only on nodding acquaintance with screenplay structure, anyway. Arguably, Berryman's introduction could be viewed as the midpoint, but I think that's more coincidence than anything. There was no discernible turning point between Acts 1 and 2, no character development of any kind, and dialog so laughable as to make Ed Wood cringe.

And y'see that guy in the poster, there? Yeah, I don't know who he is. He's not the killer, that's for sure. The killer looks something like Bun E. Carlos, circa 1975. That guy on the poster, I don't know. Kind of Billy Zaney? Either way, whatever - he's not anywhere in the movie.

As for Combs and Berryman; Combs starts off alright as the likable small town sheriff, but turns quickly into the stereotypical bad guy sheriff usually played by the likes of Joe Don Baker. His transformation is so quick, in fact, it might have been an afterthought. "Hey, you know what? Let's make Combs a bad guy, too!" It was fun to see him play out-of-character (he even has a love interest, here), but turning him into a creep by the end was such an obvious move, it speaks to the ineptitude of Wylie as a screenwriter (he of House, House II and Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror). Berryman, on the other hand, plays a much more interesting character than is usually his lot - he's an autistic bloodhound trainer - but is criminally underused.

We could have spent less time on the boring murder scenes and more with Berryman helping with the investigation; less time on the melodrama between the sheriff and his deputy and more on actual police work; less time trying to be clever and more on research into police procedure and, you know, learning how to write.


NIKKI says:
Wow, I had a feeling it would be bad. I had no idea it was going to be as bad as it was. Usually, when I project like this has a couple of interesting names attached, it's somewhat above schlock. Not so Brutal. Schlock is too nice a word for what we have here.

So, some animal mutilations are occurring in Black Water and before you know it, bodies are showing up chainsawed to pieces and buried with their hands sticking out of the soil. We may, the sheriff's eager deputy, Zoe, stipulates, have a serial killer on our hands. You know, because they usually start out killing animals (sorry, Wylie, but I don't think these things run quite so concurrently). Sheriff Re-Animator does not believe his cohort, who he is also sleeping with despite being married with a family and up for re-election soon. Even the flower the killer leaves behind on the body and the fact that it directly correlates to the street the victim lives on does not convince the Sherrif that this is the work of a serial killer. "Black Water is full of church-goers!" he argues.

You know, it's one thing that the flowers won't force him to admit he's got a serial killer on the loose, but what about the fact that five grisly murders have occurred in his small, back-end town? He reckons more than one individual is behind this? Isn't that a more frightening prospect?

Anyway, five grisly deaths and someone decides it's time to call in the FBI. Ace reporter, Rick, tells the cops that there's no need. They're better off without the FBI who have nothing but a history of fucking up investigations with their, and I quote, "science". So, instead of launching a proper investigation and getting in the CSI crews, a coroner, or an ME (the local vet does these autopsies), Zoe enlists the help of an autistic bloodhound owner to help her sniff out the crims.

Are they serious? The FBI was called in to find out who leaked song on the 'net from Guns 'n Roses' Chinese Democracy record, I think they might get a call when girls show up mutilated one after the other in the span of about a week. (That, of course, being how your average serial killer does things.)

By the way -- it is only after the autopsies that the cops find out each body was missing a heart, which goes nowhere. And the killer is a teacher involved in a flower-planting project at school -- something a quick canvas of the neighbourhood might have revealed. The Sheriff's own son was involved in the flower project, but he failed to make any connection.

Okay, so investigative techniques and intelligence were left on the cutting room floor. This is still is a silly movie with one redeeming factor in Michael Berryman. I was also forced to high-five Steve when his prediction dor the end of the film -- that while the killer slays every girl he meets within moments, he will capture Zoe, torture her for a bit, explain his system to her, his motives, taunt her a bit more, before raising the axe and getting shoved aside at the very last crucial moment -- came true to the very last detail.

So, the writer knows something about convention, I guess.

1/5 (for Berryman)

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