Monday, August 1, 2011

REVIEW: Blackout (2007)

You know, there are a lot of degrees of badness that a movie can have. Sort of like the ten levels of Hell; they’re all sinful in their own ways, but some are just so much worse than others. For example, when I review poorly put together, artless slop like Texas Chainsaw Massacre III or the SAW sequels, those seem pretty damn awful at the time, but then when I see something like this movie, I realize how good I had it when I was watching those films, because Blackout is BAD, man. Really bad.

Director: Rigoberto Castaneda
Starring: Adrian Gillen, Amber Tamblyn, Armie Hammer

"Marco polo."
-The least scary catchphrase ever!

Wow, yeah, so this was completely atrocious. I don’t think I’ve seen a more pointless and all around asinine film in a while; I mean it’s just complete fecal matter from beginning to end, with no stop at all. The acting is crap, the story is crap, the directing is crap…it’s all just crap. And if you think it’s unprofessional and childish of me to use toilet humor in a review, well, that’s still more dignified than this embarrassment to cinema deserves! Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at the film and I’ll prove it to you.

We start off with a suicide in the bathroom – a metaphor for the rest of the film we’re about to watch, for sure. Then we see that Karl (Aiden Gillen), some guy who can’t act, is sitting and talking to the gravestone of his wife, who we can infer was the suicide from just a few minutes ago. He’s approached by his daughter and some other woman who I have no idea who she is. His daughter places some flowers on the grave and is generally somber…until the father has to talk with the lady (her caretaker? Babysitter? I really have no idea…) in private. So he asks his daughter if she wants to play Marco Polo, and she accepts. I’m sorry, but seriously? She really just forgets all about being sad at her mother’s grave because her dad said she could play Marco Polo? And it’s not like the dad’s even really playing; he’s just talking to the caretaker woman, so why is she still trying to play?! You know, movie; kids are generally smarter than this. They’re not complete ADD-infested morons all the time, and I find it pretty insulting to suggest such a thing, ESPECIALLY in the context of the scene being about grieving for a dead mother.

Kids = Stupid according to this film...

And yeah, did I mention this guy can’t act? Because he really can’t. I believe this performance about as much as I believe the conspiracy theories about 9/11. He’s wooden as hell, his lines are never delivered with any kind of conviction and he’s just all around bland. If your actors don’t give a crap about your movie, maybe it’s time to find a new hobby. Just saying. He says he loves his life and daughter and would never commit suicide, and I’m sure a lot of time and passion went into writing the cue cards for his scene.

So after that we get some boring stories involving other characters, like one girl, Claudia, whose grandmother is in the hospital, and a guy named Tommy who wakes up after sleeping with a girl. They all go to the same hotel, or apartment building, or whatever, for some reason and get stuck in an elevator – it’s almost like this is contrived and brainless, or something!

They immediately start to grate on each other’s nerves, when daddy dearest Karl starts being a jackass for no apparent reason to Tommy. He seems to be criticizing him for wanting to get out of the elevator? He even takes a picture of him with his phone and goes “I’ve captured the perfect picture of angst.” Wow; how much of a jerk are you? Who does stuff like that? Yeah, I’m TOTALLY invested in these characters when they all act like toddlers with soiled diapers! Great character development! God, and we’re only like 15 minutes in.

BLACKOUT! The...annoying people in elevators movie...well it COULD be worse. One of them could be the devil. That means we'd have terrible religious implications in this movie to boot! Aaaaaah!

Basically, this movie has two modes. One is the parts where the characters are in the elevator, which are boring, and flashbacks of what happened to lead them to this point, which are pointless. So basically it’s like standing in a hallway with a hungry, ravenous bear on one side and your crazy ex-girlfriend on the other. Either way, you’re pretty much screwed. The flashbacks show us that Claudia’s grandmother bugged her to stop studying and being an adult and go to the beach with her. Isn’t that the other way around from how it usually goes? Aren’t the adults usually telling their children to take stuff more seriously? Seriously; I don’t get this – why is she being so uptight about her daughter wanting to study? Why is she badgering her so much? Is she just senile or something? Maybe I could tell if the dialogue wasn’t all whispering!

Oh, did I forget to mention that part? How I can barely hear any of the dialogue because most of it is whispered in incredibly low tones? Wow, movie; you’re an incredible failure on every level imaginable! I can’t think of a more pointless task than watching this movie short of reading J.R.R. Tolkien to a deaf person, and even then, this comes REALLY close.

Another flashback shows us that Tommy had a girlfriend – very amazing. They slept together, except she didn’t tell him that her father was a raging drunk who might come home while he was secretly around. The other thing she didn’t tell him is that her father is played by the fat, drunk brother of The Dude:

He's looking for a White Russian.

So she tells him he has to leave, or else her father will really freak out. Now, he could have gone out the window and avoided her dad pretty easily, or even just hid in her closet or under the bed for a few minutes, but being a true genius, he just goes down the stairs and tries to leave through the front door. Truly a shining example of intellect! And as expected, her father finds him and tries to pick a fight. The girlfriend character comes downstairs and tries to get in the middle of it, but he hits her. And of course Tommy has to be the MAN and hit her father back, because that’s the professional way to handle a delicate situation like this, and he actually accidentally kills the guy, if you can believe that.

And you’d think the girlfriend would be freaked out by this, right? You’d think she’d probably be distressed out of her mind and maybe be angry with Tommy for being so rash, right? Nope! She just cries in his arms like she just heard she lost the sweepstakes for Best Actress of the Year for the fourth consecutive time (which wouldn’t be a complete surprise to me either). Seriously, even though her dad was a complete tool, you’d think she’d be a LITTLE less accepting toward the guy who just accidentally KILLED HIM a few seconds ago! Nothing these characters do makes any sense! There’s no logic here! Auuuurrrrrrrggggghhhhh!

"It's like I didn't even see you murder my father by accident! Step into my arms! Comfort me!"

So, back in the elevator, Tommy decides to go and try to climb up to one of the other elevator openings, and ends up falling down and breaking his leg, as well as making the elevator fall a few notches further. Of course, Karl has to be a whiny little asshole about it and doesn’t seem to care at all that Tommy is hurt. Gee, I wonder if Karl is the serial killer of the movie! The suspense is just killing me, especially since neither of the other two characters could possibly be it. This movie can’t even hold the suspense for two seconds. Ooh, I wonder if the unlikeable jerk who hasn’t had any redeemable qualities in the whole movie could possibly be hiding something! Pfft. I’ve had more emotional investment in bowls of Cheerios.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Karl keeps getting crazier and crazier. In a true act of second-grader mentality, he actually takes away Claudia’s inhaler and forces her to give him her candy-bar that she had stashed away in her bag or else he’ll break it. Great; so now we’re banking on the ‘child on a school playground’ mentality for our character logic. Just what I wanted. Karl does a lot of other really stupid, deplorable crap and I won’t mention it all here, because I’d be repeating myself over and over again. Rest assured, he’s a terrible character, he’s a terrible actor, and I see no reason anyone should ever allow this man to be in their movie ever again.

"I'm a doctor and I say smoking is good, and it won't negatively affect your asthma in any way." No, really; that's the extent of what he's saying now. Glad this movie's trying to make their characters believably evil...

Oh, I’m sorry, was I talking too much? My mistake. It’s FLASHBACK TIME AGAIN! We see in one that Claudia’s grandmother was hit by a car or something, it’s not really clear, while Claudia was too busy talking to a homeless guy. Those homeless guys; they sure do have some great things to say! I just love listening to them.

In another flashback we see Tommy and his girlfriend trying to leave town to get away from her father’s murder, I guess…and no, this storyline is never resolved and is pretty much completely pointless. Yay!

The third flashback shows us that Karl has all sorts of great hobbies while he’s not being a father, such as taking girls home, paralyzing them, carving their skin up and then raping them. Very specific ritual there, guy. Why stop there? Why not go all the way and paint her skin blue, dye her hair yellow and put a cigar in her mouth? Just saying.

I miss the days when serial killers just killed people. Where's Dexter when you need him?

And seriously, this guy is unbelievable; I mean seriously friggin’ unbelievable. We first saw him in the beginning as a seemingly caring guy who looked after his daughter and appeared mentally stable. Now, I know people have different personality traits showing in different scenarios. But the way this movie handles his personality shift is not the right way. It’s sloppy, incredibly weakly written and all around it just SUCKS. God.

Then in the elevator again, we’re treated to the movie’s brilliant logic yet again, as Karl has been withholding Claudia’s inhaler from her and letting her get weak. He then forces her to climb up and try to start the fire alarm to alert the attention of someone outside the elevator to come and save them, which is a good idea actually. BUT – and this is a big BUT – the sanity of that idea is RUINED by the fact that Claudia is so weak that she can barely stand up straight on her own. He expected this girl to be able to climb up a wall in that state, and NOT fall down? How dumb is this guy?

Yes, I too like systematically weakening people and then forcing them to undergo missions that could possibly make things worse for me too. Makes perfect sense!

But yes, she does fall down as expected, and the impact of this turns off all the lights altogether. This prompts Karl to go even more nuts as he starts waving his knife around and talking about Marco Polo – yes, Marco Polo as the “scary” serial killer speech, I don’t think you can get any less frightening outside of having him wear a fluffy pink bath robe and talk in a goofy voice. He kills Tommy, the audience does not care one bit, and he tries to get Claudia, but she escapes, and his arm gets cut off by the falling elevator.

"Marco Polo is scccaaaaaarrrryyyyy..."

Claudia wakes up in a hospital bed later to find out that her grandmother is dead. The end!

No, I’m serious; that was the ending. WHAT? WHAT?! No resolution of any of the other stories? No meaning to anything that happened? Just “her grandmother dies,” and then it’s over? Well, I don’t even want to think about what this director would do if he got his hands on a movie like City of God. He’d probably let the movie end on the scene where Benny gets killed at the rave, and just leave it at that.

So yeah, I hated this. Everything about it is wretched, directionless and talentless hack work. Monkeys could do better! No, scratch that; blindfolded monkeys. The characters were awful, the story was hackneyed to all hell, and, wait, why weren’t there any other people in the entire apartment building to help them that entire time? Oh, right; it was because the whole story would have fallen apart otherwise. Here’s a tip for you, Rigoberto Castaneda and Ed Dougherty, director and writer of Blackout respectively: If your movie can’t function on even the most basic fundamental levels of reality, DON’T MAKE YOUR MOVIE AT ALL. Yeah, I think that sums it up. Pfft. Is it really that hard to figure out?