JULY 18, 2008
John Carpenter may have been the first director I ever took notice of and “followed”, but Albert Pyun was the first one I ever noticed was fucking terrible. I recall watching a film called Arcade and finding it incredibly bad. I looked at the credits and saw the name Albert Pyun, a name I recognized from the equally terrible Captain America movie (the one with the Italian Red Skull). “I should just avoid this guy from now on” I said, and I have mostly stuck to my guns on that matter (I watched something called Mean Guns that he did, because I didn’t know it was him)... until now.
Some time ago I heard about Invasion (aka Infection, which makes more sense. Way to go LG), that it was an “all one shot” film shot from a police car surveillance camera, and that it detailed some sort of alien or zombie outbreak. And it was directed by Albert Pyun. “Pyun making something interesting”, I pondered? Since his awful camerawork is a big part of why I hated his other movies, I figured one where the camera never moved had a chance to be OK, so I queued it up.
And it’s not all that bad. It’s just woefully half-assed. We are told right at the beginning that we are going to see 63 minutes of unbroken (pfft, right) video footage, but since the movie is 80 minutes long, that means there’s gonna be some other stuff. Well, yes and no. There is a wrap-around of sorts (possibly added later for padding) with a reporter trying to get to the bottom of everything (and failing to do so), and some onscreen text that gives some info about the outbreak, but as it turns out, the camera segment isn’t even the promised 63 minutes (it’s just shy of 60). So where’s the rest of the time?
End credits, that’s where. In what has to be a record, the end titles last 15 minutes. Consider that this movie is all “one shot”, features only a half dozen actors, and couldn’t possibly have things like a 2nd unit or multiple cameramen, it’s pretty amazing that they stretch the credits out for so long (you can watch them on fast forward and still easily read each name, with time to spare). Hell, even the ones in the LOTR movies weren’t this long.
As for the actual movie, it’s not that bad. The cheating running time actually sort of makes the final “scene” a bit of a jump, because you’re like “well there’s still 20 minutes to go, obviously our Final Girl isn’t in any real danger yet” and then BANG! So there’s something. And the score is quite good; very Carpenter inspired. There is also a surprisingly strong surround mix – you’ll hear woodland animals and footsteps coming from your rear speakers at unexpected times.
Plus, the techie/film geek in me loves the idea of a single shot movie. Whenever the story dragged (which was often), I was still having fun trying to spot the edits. There aren’t any in the first 10-15 min that I could see, but as the film goes on they become more frequent and even noticeable. Even if you never spotted the ones in the opening shot of Halloween, you’ll see at least two in this I think. Guess they just started getting lazy.
Unfortunately, it seems Pyun and co. just sort of figured that the gimmick was enough to sustain the movie. There are some taut sequences early on (particularly when the now zombied cop first approaches the two kids in their car), but after a while it runs out of ideas and it seems like they just started making it up on the spot. Our heroine suddenly sees ghosts of herself, she breaks down shrieking for minutes on end, a weird floating head makes a cameo... what the hell? [Rec] also had a similar “zombies in real time” concept, and it was a far better example of how to pace the film accordingly and yet keep it suspenseful and exciting at the same time. Pyun fails to do that here; and the randomness of the last 15 minutes (well, last 30 minutes, since 15 are credits) hurt the film more than help. Sure, a floating head might be interesting, but not when its clearly there just to add a few more precious seconds to the narrative so that it will count as a feature length film.
The reason behind keeping the girl inside the park is also incredibly weak, and botched to boot. Supposedly there’s only one road leading in and out of the park, fine. But she claims it’s being blocked, despite the fact that we clearly see the car “blocking” it being driven in reverse toward the exit/entrance (seems like he’s clearing a path for her more than anything else). Plus, she’s in a goddamn police car! Those things have those battering ram grill things that could easily take out a 1975 Chevy Pickup. Come on now. You can do better.
The DVD has a special features menu, but the only thing on it are the traditional LG trailers that you are forced to watch when you pop the disc in anyway. It IS anamorphic though, so take the good with the bad.
Not a bad film, just one that should have been great. The moral of the story – you can always count on Pyun to botch a perfectly good concept.
What say you?