AUGUST 1, 2010
I often bemoan the lack of sympathetic characters in horror movies, but in the case of Meadowoods, I guess that’s sort of the point, as our three main characters are planning to kill an innocent peer just for the hell of it (the film is their video diary of the planning and execution of said killing). So I can’t knock it for that. I CAN knock it, however, for being almost impossibly monotonous, taking forever to get to the “main event” that you know had to happen or else there’d be no movie.
Until then, we’re stuck with our vile trio; our patience wearing thinner by the minute. I actually spent some time trying to decide which of the three I hated the most, and never really coming up with an answer. I guess the LEAST hateful of the bunch would be Ryan, who is rarely seen as he is the de facto cameraman. He sort of strikes up a friendship with the girl they plan to kill, which would have been interesting had his obvious reluctance to the whole thing not been evident from the first 5 minutes of the movie (the “friendship”, on the other hand, isn’t developed until the halfway point). So you know the conflict will come from him trying to back out, but again, it takes forever to get there. I’d hate to “suggest” that a movie steals from another, but they should have taken a cue from Dogma (or Hostel 2) and had the gung ho guy suddenly get cold feet, and the reluctant one (that would be Ryan) take control and discover the killer within or whatever. But no, for a movie with such fairly shocking subject matter, everything plays out exactly as you’d expect.
The other two are the ones that will really drive you up a wall. It’s not even so much that they’re sociopaths – that’s a given once you read the plot description. But what they won’t tell you is that Travis (the “director”) comes off as a drunken punk from high school (they’re supposed to be in college). Imagine Matthew Lillard as Stu from Scream, playing one of the assholes from Funny Games, and you can sort of get an idea of how annoying this character is. Equally, and possibly more annoying, is Stephanie, who says each and every line with an eye roll and head shake. By the 97th time she gave that sneering “whatever” response to a question, I began to hope that the three of them would just kill each other and the rest of the movie would be an unbroken shot of their corpses lying on the ground from the dropped camera’s POV. It would be far more entertaining.
There’s also a wholly worthless scene where they walk around a video store and try to get ideas for kills. “How about something like Saw?” “Oh, in Oldboy...”, etc. I hope the filmmakers involved with each and every one of the films mentioned get an apology from director Scott Phillips for the (hopefully) inadvertent implication that these jackasses were inspired by their movies. I guess we can sort of take comfort in the fact that they had to go to a video store instead of going through their own collection? Again, we're not supposed to be rooting for these dumbasses, but it's still a bit insulting to see such a generic "let's use horror movies to get some ideas", and there are some really stupid people in this world who will probably think this is a real documentary and go on some anti-horror crusade. Silver lining, they finally opt for the non-horror movie Kill Bill Volume 2, deciding to place their victim in a box, though I assume they don’t expect her to wiggle her toe and karate punch her way out.
The box stuff is actually pretty terrifying. They keep shutting the light source down, so most of the sequence is just a blank screen and audio, but it’s still pretty nerve-wracking – claustrophobics will probably have heart failure. And to the film’s credit, there is one unexpected development here. However, the actual climax is fairly botched, as one of the trio is killed in a manner that isn’t entirely clear (I THINK he somehow shot himself?), the fate of the victim is left vague, and the movie just ends. Well, ends after we see yet another pair of clips from Travis and Stephanie's “confessional” type interview that Ryan shot at some point prior to even selecting their victim. These clips are inter-cut throughout the entire movie, and I fail to see their point. Travis just says the same stupid shit over and over, and Stephanie gives non-answers (or a simple “fuck you” before walking away) for pretty much every question. I guess they are sort of meant to further demonstrate what morons they are, but everything they say and do in the movie reinforces that. It’d be like inter-cutting shots of Hitler every 5 minutes of Saving Private Ryan to ‘remind’ you it’s a World War II movie.
On that note, the post production on the movie as a whole leaves much to be desired. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of repetition, all of which could be trimmed or excised completely in order to keep the movie’s running time to under 80 or even 75 minutes. Also, nearly every scene ends with about 5 seconds of black, as if they were going to insert chapter titles or “Day 2” or something along those lines, but forgot. It’s really awkward, and probably adds a full minute or two to the movie. Most annoying, however, is the score. I’m of the belief that these “found footage” movies shouldn’t have any score whatsoever, especially if there is no sort of wrap-around to suggest that we are seeing an edited version by a third party (as was the case in Diary of the Dead, where they at least tell you it’s part of the attempt to make it easier to watch or something like that – I forget the exact reason). But this movie has more score than some regular narrative features, at times drowning out the source sound entirely to play some strings and piano stuff. The worst instance is when the girl is first kidnapped, prior to when they put her in the box, as they play this obnoxious techno shit over the entire thing.
And for every pointless scene or moment, there’s one that seems to be missing. It’s never clear how exactly they managed to overtake the girl, for example, and this scene is half over by the time it’s clear that Ryan was not there with them. They also throw a party right before the kidnapping, and its filled with a bunch of other friends. So they obviously DO know other people (Travis even mentions being in a fraternity), but until that point it almost seemed like they lived in their own world. Showing how they interacted with people that they DIDN’T plan to kill might have added another layer to the film. Were they always annoying shits, or just when they were talking about killing someone for no reason? One of the best scenes in the film (not a difficult task to accomplish) is when they’re in a coffee shop and the camera starts to annoy another patron. The film definitely could have used more of them interacting with others, as there is a slight unease to the idea that these folks are part of a death documentary, unbeknownst to them (later, a hardware store owner even helps them plan their “coffin”). Or, you know, any scene that wasn’t just the three of them yelling at each other.
There’s a potentially decent, chilling movie to be made out of the concept, but Meadowoods isn’t it. I’d have the kidnapping occur no later than the halfway mark, have the guy’s reluctance only surface after the girl was already in the box, and scrap all of the pointless “interview” footage. The question of the movie is whether or not they will go through with killing her – but by the time the girl was even in any danger, I had long since stopped caring about the answer.
What say you?
P.S. The DVD’s only extra is an alternate ending. I read a description and it sounds even more vague, though I don’t know if it’s better or worse. I think a vague ending is only viable if the movie that came before it was interesting enough to warrant further discussion. You know, like Nothing But Trouble. Does Chevy plunge to his death at the end? Or did he land safely and go on the run from the Judge?