MARCH 26, 2011
Somehow, despite the fact that I’m hovering around the two thousand movie mark, Servants Of Twilight is the first Dean Koontz-based movie I’ve watched for HMAD. I’ve seen a few of the movies based on his novels (Intensity, Phantoms, and Hideaway), but that was “back in the day”, so no reviews for those. Might be able to do Hideaway though, I can’t remember a goddamn thing about it. But I must watch the Watchers films first!
Anyway, it’s a pretty bland but watchable movie. I won’t remember a damn thing about it beyond what I write in this review, but I wasn’t annoyed or notably bored while watching either. Basically, there’s a cult that comes out of nowhere and claims this little Charlie Korsmo-y kid is the Antichrist, so it’s up to his oddly accented mother and Bruce Greenwood to protect him. It’s kind of hilarious how many people die protecting this kid, including what seems like Greenwood’s entire Rolodex of colleagues, but not as funny as the fact that the cult guys like to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to these borderline anonymous fellow bodyguard/PI types, but are unable to take out the mom or Greenwood. Yet, through all of this, no one ever bothers to really look into whether the cult may be on to something.
Basically, the issue is that they don’t spend enough time with the cult. What spurned them into action, anyway? The kid is like 6 or 7, but we’re led to believe that they never approached him or the mother prior to the start of the movie, and it comes out of nowhere too. Maybe if he had done something unusual that got people’s attention or something, it would make more sense, but the cult leader just sort of follows them around a parking lot one day and starts spouting nonsense. And this leads to the other major problem – obviously the kid IS the Antichrist, or else there’s no point to the movie. He doesn’t do anything that could be construed as a miracle (or, anti-miracle, I guess) or act strangely – he just plays his Game Boy and looks wide-eyed at everyone in sight. But it takes too long until Greenwood starts to suspect the kid might be evil; it should have been around the 45, 60 minute mark tops, but it’s more like 10 minutes before the movie ends.
There’s also a confusing framing device, in which we find Greenwood telling the story of how he met these folks and what happened. Luckily he has a beard in these scenes, because it’s the only way to tell them apart – there’s no flash or fade or anything to signify that they are going back and forth in the narrative. Worse, he’s telling the story to a guy he talks to several times in the regular part of the movie, which makes it even harder to penetrate, beard or not. The one successful thing about these scenes (the early ones anyway) is that we don’t see the kid or the mother, so there is that feeling that perhaps he’s gone crazy because he’s killed one or both of them.
I also liked how they worked a rather sad subplot into the Antichrist stuff, which I didn’t see coming. Early on, the cult folks chop off the family dog’s head (off-screen, thankfully), and the kid wants another dog for extra protection. And they come back with an identical looking dog, and I’m thinking “Aww, poor kid just wants his pal back, not a different one” (also “Aww, the production couldn’t afford another dog”). But it turns out it IS the same dog – he used his Antichrist powers to resurrect him. Which, I dunno, isn’t exactly the most evil way to use your Antichrist powers. Even the real Christ would have to admit that’s actually kind of sweet.
There are also a couple of other minor things I appreciated. For example, when the kid plays his Game Boy, we see that it’s Tetris, but we also HEAR that it’s Tetris. Usually a movie just tosses in some generic bleeps and bloops for a game (or the Donkey Kong soundtrack), but it’s that goddamn Russian music that everyone with a soul would turn off after 30 seconds (another hint that he’s the Antichrist). He even says “I want to play Tetris”. Helps make it a little more realistic. I also liked that they didn’t “cheat” during a fake scare involving a plumber. Now fully paranoid, Greenwood and co. assume everyone is a cult member trying to get them, so when a guy arrives in a white van unexpectedly, they assume he’s with them. But no, he’s just an actual plumber trying to clean a drain. Ordinarily, the filmmakers would go out of their way to try to trick the audience, but here if you pay attention, the guy’s van had the company logo on it, whereas the cult van was plain white. Good work!
However I sort of wish he WAS involved. It’s not spoiling anything to say that one of Greenwood’s men is part of the cult, which is how they’re always finding them (even when the traitor is specifically shown NOT being told where they are going), but it would have been kind of cool/scary if they showed up in more places. Like at one point they go out for some take out – maybe they could have had a cult member there. There was this comic a while back called “Global Frequency”, and it was about this group that had hundreds (thousands?) of agents all over the world ready to spring into Bourne-like action at a moment’s notice – it might have been cool if the cult operated like this, where instead of just constantly tailing the kid, they would have already been in key locations around the country (or, California, since they never venture far outside of Los Angeles county) and then been “activated” when they spotted him stopping into their hotel or restaurant or whatever.
But, it’s based on a Koontz book. I don’t have a problem with the guy, but the books of his that I’ve read tend to be a bit too straightforward for my tastes. He seemingly comes up with a concept and executes it in a very workmanlike manner without a lot of twists and turns or even complexity. And any book is “smarter” than its subsequent movie version, so I can’t really fault it for not having a lot of meat on its bones - especially since it comes from the folks who gave us Dorm That Dripped Blood and Soul Survivors, which is oddly close to a title by Koontz (“Soul Survivor”) but is not based on his book. Also worth noting, the original book is simply called “Twilight”, but they had the foresight twenty years ago to avoid being mistaken for a silly sparkly vampire movie and thus added the “Servants” part of the title. Good call!
What say you?