JULY 13, 2010
When I spied Charles Durning’s name in the overlong opening credits of iMurders (they run for nearly 3 minutes just for the cast!), I thought: “Another DTV horror movie with Durning? Wasn’t Kinky Killers enough for him?” I didn’t give it much more thought until I saw the name Kenneth Del Vecchio in the 2nd half of the titles (they are split in half by a flashback scene, possibly to keep people from watching credits for a full five minutes in a row), who was involved in that film as well. Oh no!
Well, iMurders is better than that steaming pile, thankfully. It’s got a better cast (William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Tony Todd, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Grillo) and a more coherent story. Plus the characters aren’t as hateful as the ones in that film, where every single one of them was vile. They’re flawed here (Forsythe cheats on his wife, another character neglects her son, etc), but not unlikable. And I appreciate the writer’s decision to place the characters all over the country, as they’re supposed to be more or less strangers who only know each other from a chatroom, and thus if they were all in one metropolis it would be straining the believability even further.
But the script is also overpopulated, with too many red herrings for my tastes - and the fact that I guessed who the killer was right off the bat didn’t help. I don’t know why filmmakers choose to go with the “let’s hide everyone’s faces in an opening scene” route - all it does is call attention to the fact that they’re trying to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s not as damaging as Perfect Getaway’s opening wedding video, but it still got the movie-solving part of my brain working too quickly, and as a result, I called the killer before the end of the first reel.
And thus, attempts to make other characters seem like the killer just felt boring to me. Tony Todd and his partner can snoop around all they want, but I know they’re barking up the wrong tree. Durning’s character is even more extraneous - his scenes (he’s a shrink for one of the lesser-known chatroom members) could be removed from the film entirely and it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Ditto Gabrielle Anwar (it pains me to say that a movie didn't need Ms. Anwar. On the contrary, I am usually of the mindset that EVERY movie needs her), as a model whose face was disfigured.
In fact, I suspect that the cross-country setting was not so much of a logical plot point but a way to film all of these reasonably big stars separately. Anwar never encounters another character besides Billy Dee, Forsythe never meets Grillo or lead Terri Colombino, etc. Del Vecchio probably arranged to shoot all of each actor’s scenes in a couple of days over a long period of time, catching them in between more traditionally shot projects. As a result, the film never quite gels together; a story assembled instead of told. Any time where you could re-arrange at least 50% of the scenes in a movie without it making a difference, there are problems. Hell, Forsythe and some of the others never even seem to be aware that the missing members of the chatroom are dead.
Also, there’s an unfortunate attempt at trying to make our heroine (Colombino, who reminds me of a more mature Kristen Bell) look like the killer. I never care much for these scenarios, and in this case it’s even more of a time-waster, because by this point in the movie we know that they don’t really have any balls. Like when Forsythe hits on a student - it goes nowhere. A movie that would make its heroine into the killer would at least have the sleazy sense to show Forsythe getting a beej (because he DESERVES IT!) under his desk or something. Hell, there’s a sex scene where even the guy has his top on still! So no, movie, I don’t buy that the nice, attractive female lead in your film is actually killing people that she met over the internet.
The movie is also fatally humorless, which I think would be a natural route to take when you consider how silly the plot is. I actually had an idea for a movie where the killer would be killing all of someone’s top 8 on Myspace (back before we used Facebook - by the way, the movie’s fake internet site is called FaceSpace), and it would start out sort of serious, but get more and more ridiculous as it went on, as the victim would realize the killer was after her top 8 and she would put in people she wanted to see dead, as well as try to trick him by putting a band or a corporation’s page in there along with her friends. I still may write it, in fact, so don’t steal it from me. Or at least give me a role in the film if you do. I need money.
And it's called iMurders, yet everyone uses PCs (the lowercase "i" is pretty much strictly a Mac thing, no? iPod, iPad, iMac, iLife, etc).
The DVD has a pair of extras, an extended ending where the killer is shot in the head by someone we don’t see instead of getting away as she does in the regular cut (I almost said “theatrical cut” there - HAH!), and a Q&A with the cast and crew, where they talk about their characters and why they got involved and all that usual crap. The only interesting thing about it is that they seemingly filmed half of the interviews in the stock room of a carpet store:
Hey, why not. The film’s poorly edited trailer is also included. In addition to giving away half of the plot “twists” and making moments out of things that mean nothing (“The car belongs to Sandra!” - this character was not identified in the trailer), it’s also missing music, which is odd. But then I remembered that Harry Manfredini did the film’s score, so I guess the less we have to endure of it, the better. The Netflix sleeve itself is also sort of an extra, making it sound like the actors are playing legendary characters: “William Forsythe as the calculating professor Uberoth and Billy Dee Williams as the enigmatic Robert Delgado.” Yes! I always thought Billy Dee would make a good Delgado.
Ultimately, iMurders sort of lucks out due to the fact that just two days before I watched an as yet undistributed film called Lethal Obsession that was remarkably similar (and I guessed the killer instantly on that one too - as I pondered over Twitter, have I just seen too many of these things, or are they just poorly written?), with someone taking out their resentment toward another character by killing everyone involved with a cam-sex site (not unlike Suicide Girls, the subject of YESTERDAY’S movie - what the hell is going on here? Tomorrow’s movie better be internet free!). It wasn’t as convoluted, but it was horribly made across the board - audio levels were all over the place, “cuts” made from zooming into master shots, frames of replaced shots left in between edits, terrible actors flubbing lines or simply saying them out of order (one guy: “I was just-”, 2nd guy “That’s your problem, you don’t THINK!”), cheap production design (love the detective’s minimalist office - he has a plant, computer, and a phone), etc. iMurders may not be a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s at least competent. In fact, the iMurders folks should send the Lethal Obsession folks a fruit basket or something. “Thank you for being so bad that it made our movie look kind of OK in comparison.”
At any rate, I think I will just avoid the cinematic output of Del Vecchio from now on. Like my buddy Mike Feifer, he comes off as a guy who is looking to turn 1 dollar into 2 without any actual passion for storytelling or filmmaking. Props to him for getting Margaret Colin in a small role though (she says her husband is a friend and they used their house for one location) - I’ve had a slight MILF crush on her since the 80s (and she still looks good). So he’s got that going for him.
What say you?