NOVEMBER 27, 2009
You gotta love On Demand sometimes. While I hate that most of the free movie offerings are pan & scan, impossible to fast forward through (at least for me, only 2x speed is allowed and when you hit play it keeps going for another 15 seconds of the movie), I DO love that I can see a movie like Subject Two, which even with HMAD-ing I might not ever have caught, because sites like Netflix and Blockbuster never bother to work their small indie films into their suggestions coding (which is why if you queue the film, they'll tell you might like Cabin Fever and Eight Legged Freaks (?), but not if you do it the other way around).
As my buddy Mike from Icons Of Fright pointed out, this movie will appeal to Larry Fessenden fans. Indeed, I watched the film before Mike made his comment, and found myself thinking of his films at different times. The snowbound locale obviously brings Wendigo and Last Winter to mind (Wendigo especially, during a late-film sequence revolving around an accidental shooting), and the film as a whole is sort of like Habit, in that it's a rather sad version of a traditional horror story, in this case Frankenstein. Writer/director Philip Chidel wisely chose to focus the film more on the "monster" than the doctor, but also kept the doctor from being an all-out villain, allowing you to sympathize with both men.
And that is even more surprising when you consider how many times the doc kills this poor sod throughout the film. As he points out about halfway through, there is no roadmap for restarting life, so whenever Adam (the titular "Subject Two") has an unexplained outburst or some sort of ailment (his hands and feet keep going numb, for example), Doctor Vic (heh) takes him out again in order to see what the problem is and how to solve it. The end of the film offers an even better explanation for this sort of "trial-and-error" method, which I suspected early on but then sort of forgot about as the film proceeded (I had the right idea, but wrong motivation, which is why I forgot about it as the characters were developed). And I liked how Adam never really seemed to mind being killed over and over. Even the first time he is resurrected, he didn't lash out or go into hysterics (which would have been a waste of time as he obviously would have had to eventually stick around and let himself be experimented on, otherwise there wouldn't be any movie).
The two actors are quite good too. The Bradley Cooper-esque Christian Oliver totally sells the idea that when you are 'reborn' you have trouble with certain motor skills and speaking mannerisms (he talks sort of like Yoda at first), making them all feel natural and not like ACTING! And even though the film's final revelation sort of makes it impossible to really develop a backstory for Dr. Vic, Dean Stapleton makes the most of it, and again - manages to be sympathetic despite spending half the movie stabbing/shooting/choking the hero. You get that he not only wants to succeed in his experiment, but also help Adam regain (and possibly improve) his life. Also he looks eerily like a young Jack Nicholson, which amused me to no end.
Now, as it is not a full-blown horror movie, the climax might feel like a bit of a letdown to some. We are accustomed to a fire and some overturned tables at the end of our mad scientist movies, and the constant references to Frankenstein only further enforce our inherent belief that the last 10 minutes of the film will involve some sort of spectacle. But no, it sort of peters out; not really on a down note, but hardly a happy one either. Let's call it ambiguously optimistic. Either way, again - all of the tables remain upright. I wouldn't have minded a bit more action to it. Then again, considering how bad the special effects makeup is at times (the film's budget was sub-Blair Witch, to be fair), maybe it's for the best that they stuck to walk n' talks.
Apparently, the DVD has a whole bunch of stuff, including deleted scenes and a commentary, so I am kind of bummed that I watched it on cable and not on DVD, as I would have liked to know more about the project's background and see if maybe one of those deleted scenes had a bit more about the aforementioned final reveal. But alas, time does not allow for me to go back and rent movies I already reviewed (or even watch them again - even the ones I really love, if I buy them, they sit in shrink wrap for eternity). This is part of why I am so down on the idea of everything going digital - it's a nice convenience, sure, but it also feels like a major step back if all you get is just the movie (at a lower quality to boot). I would be really upset if we started seeing a shift toward 'movie-only' disc releases because the studios figure more people are watching the film via On Demand or streaming services anyway.
What say you?