Blackout (2007)

JANUARY 16, 2009


Here’s the thing about movies that are more or less exclusively set in one tiny location (Phone Booth, Lifeboat, etc) – there’s only so much of the film you can devote to people yelling at each other, so the writer/director is forced to come up with ways of keeping the movie afloat and driving it to an acceptable running time. So I can’t really fault Blackout for having TWO “someone tries to climb the elevator shaft only to fall back down hard” scenes, or including “gee look at me!” camera shots that are technically impressive but at their core are nothing more than painfully obvious padding (like when we get what seems like a full two minutes of tracking to show us that... yes, the building is empty and help won’t be coming soon). You gotta do what you gotta do.

But I CAN fault it for being so goddamn pedestrian. As it is a horror movie, you know someone is going to go nuts and kill one of the others. The back of the DVD even tells us as much: “...what happens when fear and desperation turn people into vicious, caged animals” So I was hoping to see star Amber Tamblyn use her atrocious teeth to annihilate the bellhop or something. But no – the only one who turns into a “vicious animal” is... the guy who was already a serial killer anyway.

As Lost-style flashbacks explain, the quiet, well dressed man is (shock!) a serial killer, and the tattooed punk looking guy was a heroic guy who was trying to save his girlfriend from an abusive father (or something, I started allowing myself to be distracted during the middle once it became clear that the movie wasn’t going to do anything truly original). Tamblyn has a secret as well, but it’s not particularly exciting and has no bearing on anything.

I just hate a movie with no balls. Why not have all three of them be serial killers? Why not have one of them make lewd advances on Tamblyn, and then she kills him in self defense only to discover that the OTHER guy was the real threat? Why not have the serial killer save Tamblyn from a rapist? Why not have Tamblyn herself be the killer, facing off against two men? There are so many interesting things one can do with a 3 person setup like this, and yet screenwriter Ed Doughtery opts for the most obvious one possible. I kept thinking of the movie Nature of the Beast, with Lance Henriksen and Eric Roberts. It’s not entirely difficult to figure out, but you know one of them is a killer and one’s a robber, and the fun of the movie is trying to guess which one is which. An approach like that could have made this movie a lot more interesting.

Also – the serial killer guy comes from the stock school of “suave” serial killers who spout off cryptic babble and like to get covered in blood during intercourse. And of course he has a daughter (and a teddy bear for the daughter) so that his true side is even more “shocking”. It doesn’t help that actor Aidan Gillen really REALLY wants to be Edward Norton, delivering all of his lines (pre-killer nonsense) with Narrator-esque smugness.

Dr. Michael Bay!

Director Rigoberto Castaneda is certainly talented though. While the script may have been by the numbers, the direction is not. First off he shot the film in widescreen, which is pretty surprising considering that the 1.85 ratio is more common in “claustrophobic” films like this. And the aforementioned “style” shots may be there just to make a 85 minute film (which it actually isn’t, since the end credits go on forever - though IMDb claims there is a 120 min cut floating around), but they are impressive, and he stages the occasional action setpiece with impressive flair (especially the 1st “climb” scene).

One thing he doesn’t quite make clear is how fall the elevator is falling each time it drops down the shaft. It doesn’t seem to be more than a 10 story building, but even if they were at the very top, it seems like it falls a lot more than the length of the building by the time we get to the climax, and you KNOW this type of setup will have a “elevator plummets to the ground floor and kills the bad guy” payoff, meaning that it falls an additional x amount of floors. Plus – the very first thing the characters do is pry open the door, only to discover that they are between floors and can’t get out (why they can’t get out when they climb to the top of the elevator car is never addressed). But even though the car slides down about five times during the movie, they never seem to think “Hey, maybe now we are lined up with a door!”

The DVD contains a trailer and interviews with Tamblyn, Castaneda, the DP, and the producer. Tamblyn’s is manageable; the other three go on forever. Plus they don’t say who is who, so if you use the “play all” function (which includes the trailer in the lineup for some reason) you will have to use context clues to know who is who (well, except Tamblyn. She’s the cute brunette that should seek a new agent, not a Mexican dude).

Oh well, whatever. It’s not horrible, but I’ve seen too many movies to be able to give something so lazy a pass. Put this in the “if you’ve never seen a single other movie in your life then you might enjoy it” pile.

What say you?


  1. Yeah, I got a screener copy of this a couple of weeks ago and watched it just because Aiden Gillen was Thomas Carcetti on "The Wire." Then I spent the entire movie reflecting on how the cast of "The Wire" will never again find anything anywhere near that good to be in. Meanwhile, in theaters, Idris Elba can be seen in "The Unborn"...


  3. i have to disagree with you, i think it was a good movie. i mean yeah a lot is predictable. mainly if you take you time to notice the flickering changes in the opening credit. they basically tell you "who done it" but that aside, the film was good. cinematography was perfect in so many ways. like how when they would show character 1, character 2 was in the reflection and when they would show char 2, char 3 was in the reflection and char 3 had char 1 in the reflection. very nice. maybe if they had producers, writers, director and a cinematographer that were from relatively the same area and not from all different parts of the world it could have been a little better, but i mean come on, your renting a movie called blackout with the tag line of terror elevated, your not gonna get a masterpiece . but for how much they had to spend and how long it took and for the fact that they didnt really know eachother that well i think the movie was pretty much really good. and come on, what movies now a days, even in theaters, do a better job? (if anyone says transformers i swear to god... visually good yes, story line? what story line?) the movie has a lot to offer even though the things it has to offer that are good have to be followed up with a few tiny little things that are bad. i say good job, make me another movie to watch.


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