FEBRUARY 6, 2009
A number of my friends warned me not to bother watching Amusement, but I went ahead and rented it anyway. After all, I have a much higher tolerance for modern horror movies than a lot of my friends, and the same folks would probably tell me not to watch The Hitcher, Black Xmas, or numerous other guilty pleasure movies. And also, at Comic Con 2007, I got a picture taken inside the massive Amusement display, back when it was going to be a fall theatrical release, so I wanted to know why the hell I was asked to stand inside a big piece of stretched leather “skin” and put my face in a hole.
Well the answer was far less satisfying than what I had imagined, and the only “amusement” I got out of watching the damn movie was when I began puzzling over how in God’s name they ever considered releasing this thing theatrically. Boasting no stars, the dumbest script this side of Freddy vs Jason, and an inordinately low body count/gore amount, it didn’t even deserve a mention at Comic Con, let alone a big display (the likes of which keep the actual comic dealers pushed way into the back of the hall).
The biggest problem the movie, and there are many, is that the killer keeps changing his appearance, and for the first 45 minutes, we’re not supposed to know it’s the same guy. Maybe this would work on paper, or even with a really average and bland looking actor (like me!), but actor Keir O’Donnell has a very distinguished look. It’s so distinguished that it’s actually given away from his FIRST appearance in the movie! He is made up to look like a mild-mannered Ned Flanders type, but yet since you are familiar with the actor (he was the brother in Wedding Crashers, which is one of the highest grossing movies of all time), you know right off the bat that he’s up to no good because he’s clearly wearing a disguise. He pops up in the 2nd story as an FBI guy, and even though they hide his eyes, he’s still instantly recognizable. And once again in the 3rd story, as a would-be date for our heroine’s roommate (shown in profile). Maybe they think we’re stupid or blind? Or maybe the casting director knew how fucking retarded the rest of the movie was and didn’t bother trying? Whatever the case, it just makes the movie even more excruciating, because it’s all built around a “surprise” that never works for a second.
Another big blunder is how completely idiotic the opening story is. It’s thankfully the shortest too, but not short enough to avoid having some of the biggest plot holes I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s the old “the guy you think is the villain is actually innocent, the real killer is the nice guy the hero befriends” scenario, set during a late night road trip. Our heroes are a pair of college kids, and they quickly suspect that the truck in their convoy, which also includes the aforementioned Flanders guy, is actually driven by a killer. In theory, fine, but why does the “not the villain” truck driver try to run our hero over? Why does he apparently have a place on the side of the highway when he’s clearly from (and going to) another state entirely? Well, because if he didn’t, the story wouldn’t “work” long enough for the necessary running time. We also have to buy into the idea that the real killer was able to not only keep up with our hero (or, more specifically, heroine, since it’s the girl he’s after) in traffic, but also subliminally convince the guy to join in a “convoy” with him.
Yes, apparently the hero guy is some sort of road trip guru, because he is able to spot and join convoys with ease, and even talks about how there’s “an art to a good convoy”. He proves his wisdom on the matter by explaining to the girl (the same broad from Hit and Run - girl needs to stay the fuck away from auto-based terror) how when a truck puts its signal on and then changes lanes, that means that there’s a slow driver in front of him. You can learn a lot of really obvious and pointless things from Jake Wade Wall’s script.
And yes, it’s the same Wall who wrote The Hitcher remake. He also wrote When A Stranger Calls (remake), which the 2nd part of this movie often resembles. It’s like he just combined leftover ideas/sequences from his other movies and added something resembling a storyline on the way to the pitch meeting. To be fair though, this second part is the only thing keeping this movie (barely) out of the Crap bin. Not only does it have Katheryn Winnick (the insanely cute blond from Satan’s Little Helper), it also has the only decent scene in the entire movie. Winnick is staying at her aunt’s, who inexplicably makes up the guest room with hundreds of clown dolls. One doll is life size, and since he’s on the cover of the DVD, you know it’s not really a doll. Director John Simpson does an admirable job of keeping the inevitable moment at bay, and my slight coulrophobia added a bit to the proceedings as well. It’s certainly better than anything in Final Draft. Of course, this one goes off the rails too, with a nonsensical conclusion involving a psychiatrist that gives us the first clue to the “twist” (well, 2nd after the opening credits, which gives away the fact that the girls all went to the same school and thus probably know each other).
The 3rd story is terrible too. While not as idiotic as the 1st (well, other than that it once again requires an inordinate amount of careful planning by the killer to ensure people go exactly where he needs them to go exactly when he needs them to go there), it’s twice as long, which evens it out in terms of shittiness. Wall doesn’t steal from himself here, instead he lifts scenarios out of Hostel, albeit poorly. After some boring shit that I’ve already forgotten (and, to be fair, the one good death in the entire movie), we are finally given the reasons for all this shit, and... it’s stolen from Valentine. Yep, the 3 girls made fun of the kid back in grade school, so now he’s a slasher. He offs two of them in his giant underground dungeon, the hot blond kills him, then delivers a monologue about how she will never forget this or whatever.
You may wonder why this review, unlike my usual reviews, has a lot of plot synopsis. Well, because I want you to know exactly what happens and why it’s terrible, so that you don’t bother renting it yourself. If I just say “the acting sucks, the writing sucks”, etc., there might be some lingering curiosity on your part. “What about the cool clown on the cover?” you might have asked. Well, he’s in the movie for 5 minutes and doesn’t kill anyone. I was hoping the killer would use the costume again, but no, it’s just one of the 8 or 9 “disguises” he dons during the film (the movie’s basically Valentine meets Fletch).
Oh and the stretched skin thing? He sews people in mattresses. Why he has so many corpses when we are led to believe he’s just after the three girls who wronged him, I don’t know. The DVD doesn’t have any extras whatsoever, so you’d have to ask Wall, who I’m sure is too busy writing something else that sucks (keep in mind, his Hitcher script was so close to the original that they gave Eric Red joint screenwriting credit with him, even though Red had zero to do the production).
What say you?