OCTOBER 12, 2008
Fuck twists. Really, fuck em. Take em out behind the grade school and get them pregnant. Because honestly, if not for a 3rd act full of revelations and confusingly presented double crosses, Acolytes would be a pretty great movie. But writers Shane Krause and Shayne Armstrong are so content on being part of the “ooooooooooohhhhhhhhh SHIT!” club of big reveal movies, their once promising narrative eventually becomes another generic thriller.
Like It’s A Wonderful Life, this is a movie that will be described by what occurs in its 3rd act. All plot descriptions I have read claim that the film is about some kids who blackmail a serial killer into killing the bully who abused them when they were younger, but that doesn’t happen until an hour into the film. But to be fair, it would be difficult to describe the movie any other way. The first half hour is just about our trio hanging out, seeing someone bury something in the woods, and looking to figure out who the guy was. Then the next half hour is about how they try to avoid this local delinquent who, we discover, raped our two (male) leads when they were children. Then the blackmail stuff comes in, and before that portion of the plot really gets going, suddenly everyone’s switching sides and folks are dying and retarded girls are being run over in flashbacks...
Director Jon Hewitt has a great eye, and some of the film’s more subtle moments really impressed me. Like early on, when our three heroes are heading off into the woods to uncover what they saw get buried. One kid, the one with the cool hair and the girl, begins dragging his shovel on the ground, and the girl laughs. Very quickly, the sad and emo other kid begins doing the same thing. You think it’s just him trying to be cool, but then when you discover their horrific past, it takes on new meaning; he’s jealous that the other guy turned out OK, while he is introverted and clearly disturbed. It reminded me a bit of Mysterious Skin (a film I was actually discussing with someone prior to watching the movie, oddly enough), which depicted the entirely different ways that two sexually molested boys dealt with their shared abuse.
Another thing I enjoyed was the soundtrack, full of Australian pop rock. And it wasn’t just tossed in; a lot of it was actually “in” the movie, such as when the girl of the group passes time by fiddling with her ipod. It’s actually a small bit of character development; she can’t decide on a song, just like she can’t decide which of the two guys she should be with. Not Shakespeare, but a hell of a lot better than tossing “Sugar, We’re Going Down” in for no goddamn reason.
But man, that last act. There’s a part that makes absolutely no sense at all (the kids jump in the bully’s car willingly, then he drives them out to where the serial killer is, at which point he tells them to run. Then he runs after them trying to kill them?), a new revelation about the emo kid that seems rather unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, and also the serial killer isn’t even the killer. Come on. One’s enough.
But to their credit, the movie never really drags, and by keeping all of the characters in the grey area of morality, you’re never quite sure who to root for, which is always nice. I also liked how the film kept finding ways to smack around the emo kid; it was a great way to sate my own desire to toss an emo kid in front of a car. Hewitt is a talent to watch to be sure, but I hope for his sake his next film doesn’t have a script with ADD.
What say you?