JULY 16, 2011
While I'm all for expanding horizons and what not, I'm not sure if B-D's third theatrical "Bloody Disgusting Selects" feature should be so horror-lite. The theater for Phase 7 (Spanish: Fase 7) was even less crowded than the last one and this was the opening weekend (and at a more accessible theater to boot - with free parking!). I love seeing the logo on the big screen and I hope that the series continues, but I can't imagine AMC or whoever being too keen on booking a film that only brings in six people on opening night (well, eight - two walked out).
It's also not a particularly good movie. I liked the concept, in which a guy named Coco, who is not too unlike Shaun from Shaun Of The Dead (i.e. oblivious to the panic around him), is quarantined along with a handful of colorful neighbors and Pipi, his pregnant, easily agitated girlfriend (wife?), as a mysterious virus sweeps across the globe. Rather than focus on the virus victims or them trying to escape the city, the movie just sort of focuses on the mundane side of a quarantine - sitting around with board games and bad TV, for example, as well as the minor issues that can arise that have no easy solution.
Such as burnt out light bulbs. I knew that this was a "zombie movie without the zombies", but I didn't know that what seems like half of the goddamn thing featured people asking/arguing about light bulbs, kicked off by an odd bit during the opening scene when a bulb is purchased at a grocery store and the cashier asks if he checked it to see if it worked (he lies and says yes). How the hell do you check a light bulb at the store? Is this really something you do in Argentina? I just assume that the brand new/wrapped light bulb I am buying will work, same as I do for every other product I buy (well, except for Xbox 360s, as I am on my 5th and thus increasingly convinced that the ones that DO work for more than a few months are flukes).
But this isn't the problem (well, not the main one) - it's just that the filmmakers failed to make their characters interesting. A surprise bit around the halfway point (if that far) decimates most of the supporting cast, some of whom we never really met. The first BD Selects entry, Rammbock, had a fun supporting cast (in another apartment building set film, oddly enough) that each got a moment or two, even though the focus was on our two main guys, but writer/director Nicolás Goldbart doesn't allow for much interaction before this mini-massacre. Worse, Pipi is a horribly unlikable woman; there's a difference between a pregnant woman prone to mood swings and just a total bitch, and Pipi is definitely on the latter side. If not for the fact that she was carrying another life inside her, I would have been demanding her death after 20 minutes, and if anything she just gets worse. At one point Coco gets a facial injury and a minor slip of the tongue results in her raking her fingernails across it - if this is supposed to be funny, it's not.
There are some good humorous bits though. I particularly liked the rather silly bit where the confused residents try to provide a head count for the hazmat-suited guys outside ("Sixteen people and a maid"), and I also enjoyed their oblivious non-reactions to the obvious chaos going on around them in the film's early scenes. Plus I liked that they didn't seem to care much about the quarantine; no panic or anything, just content to hang out for a while. I know as long as there was electricity and a source of food, I would be all for being "trapped" in my apartment; I could finally play Fallout 3! And it would be fitting!!
But those moments aren't enough to make up for the movie's near total lack of tension or engaging characters. Coco is sort of fun but not particularly interesting, and when the action kicks in (a crazed neighbor begins trying to kill the other residents) it's actually another guy who does most of the work, with him sort of standing nearby more often than participating. And most of this action is botched; there's a potentially cool shootout in a basement lit only by a single green glow-stick, but it goes on forever and it never becomes clear why neither side can manage to land a shot. Sure, a glow-stick might not be the best light source in the world, but it IS one, and looked like enough to at least be pointing in the right direction.
And again, I knew it wouldn't be filled with zombie/infected scenes, but there's not enough information about it to ever feel like a strong (unseen) threat, either. The movie is a (too long) 95 minutes, and "nothing happens", so there should have been a lot more TV/radio broadcasts to fill in backstory. Or at least given our heroes a more interesting conundrum to deal with, instead of just having them bicker without any consequence. Hell, even the cliche "She's in labor and we're not getting to the hospital on time!" would have been better than nothing. The movie Right At Your Door, which oddly enough I saw almost exactly 4 years ago today, did this sort of thing far more effectively, I think. It wasn't humorous, but it focused on the isolation and character drama instead of action, but yet still remained quite compelling and suspenseful.
As for its placement in the horror genre, again, it's pretty light. There are some gore effects you won't see in a drama, and the post-apocalyptic/virus concept is scary in theory, so I guess it fits, barely. But again, the characters barely seem scared about anything, so why should we? Even Shaun of the Dead, which was more of a full blown comedy than this, still had the characters being noticeably petrified at times. There's a good movie to be made about the "smaller" side of a virus/quarantine situation, but this, sadly, ain't it.
On the plus side - there was no awful short preceding it this time around, so there's something. Also, this makes my third foreign-language film in a row, which has to be a record amongst all my fellow Horror Movie A Day-ers. But that record won't climb - tomorrow's movie will be in English! Sick of looking at the bottom third of the image!
What say you?
P.S. I know it seems like I skipped one - BD put out YellowBrickRoad under the "Selects" banner in between Rammbock and this, however I already saw that one at Screamfest, and my association w/B-D doesn't get me into these for free.