NOVEMBER 30, 2008
My friends over at A Butt Of Day are both tattoo freaks, so it’s no surprise that they saw The Tattooist a long time before I got around to it (I myself have zero desire to be “inked”, or to watch any horror movie with Jason Behr). They were both pissed off about a certain scene where a girl sits down and asks him for a tattoo. She doesn’t care what he puts on her, and also he apparently doesn’t wash his needle in between. And I guess that’s bad, but what pissed me off a lot more was that the movie was simply a giant fucking bore.
It’s apparent that screenwriters Matthew Grainger and Jonathan King have an interest in Simoan culture and wanted to write a movie that incorporated their customs and beliefs. And that is fine. But write a documentary or something, not a movie that’s one half baked and one half assed. Like They Wait, it often feels like a remake of a superior Asian film, due to the occasional cheap scare and an American who seemingly has no point to his/her life beyond immersing himself in an Asian culture. The difference is, \ with this one I wouldn’t want to watch the “original”. After about 45 minutes in which I couldn’t even tell if the story had actually kicked in yet, we get a single death scene (a guy’s tattoo ink spills out and... I dunno, envelops him), but the two or three that follow are off-screen. The rest of the time, the movie is simply Behr wandering around and having people explain traditions to him.
But that wouldn’t be a problem if there was even the slightest bit of excitement. Even as a thriller and not straight up horror, the movie is entirely suspense-free. Hell, our hero is almost never really in danger, since it’s only his cursed tattoos that cause harm, and he never tattooed himself. In the final 8 minutes of the film, he tackles the bad guy inside a suburban home, which is about as exciting as the movie gets. He might get a bruise, or knock a photo off the wall!
Also, the movie’s entire concept is just ludicrous. Behr is known for being able to heal people with his tattoos, but it never seems to work, so how did he get this reputation? Also, he just up and goes to New Zealand to give back a tattooing implement (which just looks the little rake from those therapeutic sandbox things that business people have on their desks), which he stole from a fellow tattooist. But he doesn’t use it, so why his tattoos begin killing people, I haven’t the slightest. I t’s kind of sad when a movie is about killer tattoos and yet that is the least baffling part of the narrative.
Back in college, I actually thought Behr was pretty good on Roswell, a show I inexplicably watched all three seasons of, even when it went to the UPN and ceased making any sense. However, in the three movies I’ve seen him in (this, The Grudge, and D-War) he’s been pretty terrible. Granted all of these movies kind of suck anyway, but he almost appears to be asleep in all of them. And he’s not quite up to the level of guys who can afford to be sleepwalking through their roles, so I dunno what his problem is. His co-star on the show, one Brendan Fehr, was pretty engaging, but I’ve only seen that dude in one movie since (The Forsaken). They should have gotten him.
The one thing I liked about the movie was that when the monster/spirit type thing attacks a girl in a hospital, the anonymous doctors and nurses seem to see it. A lot of these ridiculous concept movies always manage to find a way to keep their ridiculous nature hidden from uninvolved characters, so it was nice to see the hero get some witnesses to the strange shit he is seeing, even if for only a moment. But even that had issues, because the monster can only be seen in reflections, which means they are borrowing from Russian Night Watch culture instead of their own.
Behr and director Peter Burger contribute a commentary track, and even they admit that the reason for Behr’s character to go to New Zealand is rather weak, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just, you know, come up with a good one. There’s also a few featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes (one that gives a slightly better explanation for Behr’s sudden travel, which Burger cut because it wasn’t better enough), all of which can only be of interest to someone who were actually compelled by the film itself.
So in summary, and before anyone jumps down my throat – it’s not the lack of gore and violence that bored me, it was the serious approach to a goofy concept and the total lack of suspense that did. The pool scene, the only traditional sort of death scene in the entire film, was just as dull as everything else, and my favorite scene was just Behr talking to a doctor that reminded me of Aasif Mandvi (“Someone find Kenchy!”). So there!
What say you?
P.S. Hey Sony – you always start off your standard def DVDs with an advertisement for Blu-ray. Newsflash – you can’t see a true Blu-Ray image on a standard def DVD. So “showing” a comparison doesn’t quite work. Save it for actual Blu-Rays, showing how much better what you are about to see is compared to your old DVD. It's like watching Wizard of Oz on a black and white TV - you're supposed to marvel at something that isn't possible to convey on the equipment being used. Morons.