Three Horror Films from Maple Pictures
Nine Lives (February 25/09)
While it'd be silly to expect anything spectacular from a horror effort starring Paris Hilton, Nine Lives quickly establishes itself as an uncommonly tedious piece of work in which Hilton's less-than-engaging performance proves to be its least problematic attribute. The storyline follows several friends (including Ben Payton's Andy, Amelia Warner's Laura, and Hilton's Jo) as they come together for a weekend of drinking and debauchery at Tim's (Patrick Kennedy) enormous Scottish mansion, with the fun-loving shenanigans coming to a swift end as an apparition named Murray (!) takes possession of one of the guests and starts knocking off the others one by one. It's a workable premise that's squandered virtually from the word go by writer/director Andrew Green, as the filmmaker places the uniformly interchangeable characters within a scenario that couldn't possibly be less interesting. It's subsequently not surprising to note that the film consists primarily of interminable sequences in which the survivors conspire with one another and creep around ornate yet barely-lit chambers, which probably wouldn't be quite so objectionable had Green infused the various kill sequences with even a hint of needless brutality (as it is, folks generally croak after receiving a sad little stab wound). Such deficiencies are exacerbated by a serious lack of logic within Green's screenplay, with Warner's character surely the most prominent recipient of the movie's relentlessly inconsistent modus operandi (ie she figures out Murray's body-hopping scheme almost immediately and doesn't seem terribly surprised by the whole thing). The absence of a mystery for the viewer to chew on - Green divulges the identity of the culprit right from the get go - stands as the final straw in terms of Nine Lives' ability to marginally hold one's interest, and it's worth noting that even Hilton aficionados (if there are any) will undoubtedly walk away unsatisfied (her character is Murray's first victim).
Pontypool (March 3/09)
There's little doubt that Pontypool is ultimately undone by its increasingly outlandish premise, which is certainly a shame given the effectiveness of Bruce McDonald's ominous directorial choices and Stephen McHattie's consistently compelling performance. The movie, which transpires primarily within the cramped confines of a church/radio station, details the chaos that ensues after an inexplicable virus takes hold of a small town, with the bulk of the proceedings revolving around disc jockey Grant Mazzy's (Stephen McHattie) efforts at broadcasting live updates and figuring out precisely what's happened. It's a promising set-up that's initially employed to unexpectedly positive effect by McDonald, as the filmmaker effectively (yet temporarily, surely) eschews his avant-garde sensibilities in favor of an appealingly old-school approach - thus ensuring that Pontypool often bears more than a passing resemblance to its various thematically-similar predecessors (ie John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13). The inclusion of several shockingly horrific interludes only cements the movie's early success, though it's difficult to downplay the strength of McHattie's charismatic, flat-out engrossing work as the progressively frazzled central character. It's only as the markedly abstruse elements within Tony Burgess' screenplay become more and more prominent that one's interest begins to dwindle, as the eye-rollingly outré rationale behind the outbreak is just impossible to swallow (and almost entirely nonsensical to boot). There's no denying that Pontypool subsequently loses its momentum somewhere around the one-hour mark and essentially limps to its anti-climactic conclusion, which ensures that one is finally forced to label the movie a promising yet thoroughly irrelevant horror effort.
R.S.V.P. (March 4/09)
The degree to which R.S.V.P. slowly but surely alienates the viewer is nothing short of remarkable, as writer/director Mark Anthony Galluzzo effectively squanders a fairly promising set-up by emphasizing the uninteresting, flat-out tedious exploits of several impossibly underdeveloped characters. The storyline follows sociopathic college student Nick Collier (Rick Otto) as he conspires to murder all of his friends during a going-away party for pal Jimmy Franklin (Lucas Babin), with the bulk of the proceedings thereafter detailing his efforts at surreptitiously knocking off his buddies one by one. It's an incredibly familiar premise that Galluzzo initially employs to mildly positive effect, as the filmmaker does a nice job of infusing the proceedings with a light-hearted and unapologetically self-referential atmosphere (ie Hitchcock's Rope figures prominently in Nick's devious plans). It's only as Nick's myriad of guests start flooding his uncle's roomy apartment that one's interest slowly-but-surely begins to dwindle, with the increasingly (and frustratingly) uneventful atmosphere proving a serious test to the viewer's ongoing patience. Despite the presence of several familiar faces within the supporting cast (including Grace Zabriskie, Nora Zehetner, and Jason Mewes), Galluzzo's refusal to develop their respective characters even marginally ensures that their fun-loving antics grow awfully tiresome as the movie progresses (ie a Twister sequence? Really?) And while there are a few breaks in the monotony (ie a discussion revolving around serial killers through the years), R.S.V.P. subsequently (and primarily) comes off as an uncommonly interminable endeavor that would hardly be able to support the running time of a brisk short let alone a full-length feature - with the total lack of intriguing kill sequences cementing the film's utter failure.