JUNE 25, 2010
Why is it I never really like any movie that takes place in an independent movie theater? I keep watching every one I hear about, but they always disappoint me (Midnight Movie, Dead At The Box Office, Nightmare In Blood). You'd think that any movie that would remind me of the New Beverly would give me the warm and fuzzies and thus smooth over any issues I may have with the film, but instead I always end up thinking "I wish I was at the Bev. Watching something else." Such is the case with All About Evil, which takes a promising idea and then does nothing with it; every trick the movie has up its sleeve is revealed in the first half, resulting in a second half that's as repetitive (and obnoxious) as they come.
Part of the problem is Natasha Lyonne's not-even-one-note performance. She's not likable as a introverted movie geek, and she's not likable when she turns into a killer. See, what happens is, she kills her mother in an act of rage in the theater lobby (the mother wants to sell the place because it's losing money), and it's accidentally shown to the movie theater crowd. They love it, thinking it's a new form of verite slasher film, and thus she is inspired to make more. Suddenly, the short films are the main draw at the theater (which doesn't actually seem to show movies at all), and the success goes to her head.
Now, maybe this could have worked if she was killing other folks that had been cruel to her in some way, but they're all total strangers (she eventually starts going after the homeless). Plus, she hires a crew to help her, including Noah Segan. With this type of black comedy, we should be sort of siding with them, like 2000 Maniacs or whatever (there's definitely an HGL influence here, along with John Waters). But I couldn't stand any of them for a moment, which in turn meant I didn't find any of it particularly amusing (the film's focus is definitely more on laughs than scares). And again, Lyonne is awful in the role, which is sort of a problem when she's in pretty much every scene. And all of the actors seem to be playing in different movies - Segan is basically playing a cartoon, Lyonne seems to be taking cues from Jessica Harper's performance in Shock Treatment, and everyone else either can't act or simply didn't want to.
Luckily, writer/director Joshua Grannell (who is better known as Peaches Christ) created one character worth giving a shit about, a theater regular who is the first (only?) one to catch on that the films aren't staged. He's played by Thomas Dekker, and usually I don't think much of him as an actor, but he's basically playing himself in the movie (a horror fan who prefers the old stuff - any interview with the kid should back that up), and he alone is the only thing keeping the movie from being a total disaster.
Back to the repetition - the films all sort of look alike, and they all play out the same way - someone walks into the "set", gets chased around a bit, and then gets killed. Then the crowd shows up and watches it and no one (save Dekker, eventually) bothers to notice that the victims in these poorly shot films starring the people who work at the theater are never seen again. Lather, rinse, repeat. The climax finally mixes things up a bit, with the theater being thrown into chaos, Lyonne makes out with a 90 year old man for some reason, and two of her crew (twin sisters) stab each other to death instead of allowing themselves to get arrested. But it's too little too late - the energy of the finale was not enough to make up for the boredom of the first hour or so.
(I wasn't shocked to learn later that the film was a feature length version of a short Grannell had done in 2003 called Grindhouse. Not every short can be expanded, people!)
Luckily, the evening wasn't a total loss, as the film was preceded by an amazing short film called The S From Hell, which detailed the history of the 'terrifying' Screen Gems logo. It was just so random, I had to love it (using some footage from Halloween III didn't hurt), and I spent the entire thing laughing my ass off (which makes All About Evil's failings as a comedy all the more troubling - I was in a good, silly mood after the short!). The entire thing is available on Youtube HERE; I have also embedded it below for your ease. I hope writer/director Rodney Ascher goes on to have a nice career, if this is any indication of his talent.
I should point out that a lot of the crowd seemed to dig All About Evil, and of the 5 positive reviews on IMDb as of this writing, only 3 of them are fake. And it wasn't bad on a technical level; it was well shot and edited (thank CHRIST the editor kept this thing under 90 minutes), and the opening titles were fantastic, placing all of the actors' and crew names into old horror/sci-fi posters from AIP and Hammer and such. But it's a comedy more than anything, and I just wasn't feeling the humor, so noting its technical merits is sort of like saying that an unfunny comedian was well dressed during his set.
What say you?