Mediocre: Devil in the Flesh 2

Devil in the Flesh 2 (A.K.A. Teacher’s Pet) (2000)

Directed by Marcus Spiegel
Written by Richard Brandes
Produced by Betsy Mackey, Richard Brandes, Alicia Reilly Larson, Robert E. Baruc, Marc Forby
Starring Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall, Jeanette Brox, Christiana Frank, Todd Robert Anderson, Bill Gratton, Sarah Lancaster, Rel Hunt, Todd McKee, Alex McArthur, Wendy Worthington

Synopsis

Within a week, a pretty mental patient and aspiring poet (O’Keefe) murders a sadistically perverted nurse (Worthington) and the psychiatrist (McArthur) with whom she was obsessed, escapes from her psychiatric hospital, assumes the identity of a rich, dead collegian (Lancaster) who she resembles, flouts and outfoxes her dorm’s dictatorial, prematurely frumpy housemother (Frank), befriends and beautifies her nerdy roommate (Brox), seduces a studly professor (Garcia) of creative writing, undermines his unlikable fiancée (Kendall), and excels in his class by penning passionate poetry. Can the local sheriff (Gratton) and his dimwitted deputy and son (Anderson) apprehend this overachiever?

Script

With his former co-producer Kurt Anderson and a quartet of screenwriters, producer/second assistant director/author Brandes is credited for the previous picture‘s story. He reputedly wrote this goofier, glossier subsequence alone as camp invested with improved, precipitate plotting and snappier dialogue.

Direction & cinematography

Only a few ostentatiously skillful close-ups (some of which are in deep focus) draw attention to Spiegel’s otherwise ordinary oversight and M. David Mullen’s toasty photography.

Histrionics

Brandes reserved all of his best insults, retorts, witticisms and felonies for strutting, orally contorting O’Keefe, who hits her marks a step over the top with hysterically hammy panache. While Rose McGowan played a high school senior as a blithe vicenarian slow to slay, O’Keefe’s bouncy, butcherly bedlamite seems like a freshman of high school, not college. Among others, remarkably handsome Garcia and gawky Brox (a poor girl’s Clea DuVall) are fair foils who embody their archetypes as palatably as their castmates. Alex McArthur’s cameo corresponds to his unwilling objet du désir in the first movie.

Score

For a quarter-century, Steve Gurevitch’s music has primarily supplied tonal emphasis, as here. Some of his programmed percussion occupies.

Highlights

O’Keefe nails all of her rejoinders as amusively as she seethes spitting demented invective. Moments after this lovely, lovelorn lunatic screams, “Where the hell is my Prince Charming?!,” Lancaster’s spoiled brat accidentally kills herself with priceless inelegance.

Flaws

Not two minutes prior to her untimely demise, Lancaster spies coitus between disgusting hicks. Evidently superhuman hearing empowers O’Keefe to surveil her unwitting inamorato.

Conclusion

Its sex, criminalities, and gallows humor outshines that of this melodrama’s predecessor, and it was destined, sanitized, and almost too good for telecast via Lifetime.

Mediocre: The Overnight

The Overnight (2015)

Written and directed by Patrick Brice
Produced by Naomi Scott, Maya Ferrara, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Adam Scott
Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche, R.J. Hermes, Max Moritt

Synopsis

A budding friendship between their sons (Hermes, Moritt) introduces a married pair (Scott, Schilling) anxiously resettled in Los Angeles to another (Schwartzman, Godrèche) warm, wealthy and weird who invite the transplants to their home. After their kids are abed, the commonplace couple discover just how bizarrely talented, generous and uninhibited their hosts are, and they’re paradoxically pushed to party beyond their zones of comfort, and into new ones.

Script

Penned from the perspective of Scott’s and Schilling’s spouses, Brice’s story is among the most benignly bawdy you’re likely to see, sweet in intention if too Rabelaisian for some viewers. For everyone else, his raveling, disrobing revelations underscored by gamey tiffs and coquetry are flurryingly fun.

Direction

As evidenced in Creep and Creep 2, Brice skillfully supervises his productions on tight budgets and schedules, helming this one over the course of 12 days (and nights), largely at Adam Carolla’s ritzy house. His workmanship is respectably transparent in service to his cast.

Cinematography

Photic balance and colorful splashes amid otherwise muted tones distinguish John Guleserian’s camerawork.

Editing

Christopher Donlon times alternations of shots with conversational flow, if twice or thrice too often.

Histrionics

Schwartzman’s eccentric entrepreneur (who would’ve been a fit role for either of the co-producing Duplass brothers) is easy to overplay, but his effervescence is kept in confident check. As protean as any thalian thespian working, Scott interprets his insecure husband as an interchangeably restless and relaxed complement to Schilling’s adoring wife, who betrays little lusts and ruffles with droll niceties. Now an old hand as an inveterate flirt, Godrèche tempers her sensuality with a warmth shared by her co-stars.

Score

As in other projects by the Duplasses, Julian Wass has a perkily synthesized tune for nearly every tone.

Highlights

Brice’s highlights are surprises that would be undone by explication, one of which is foretokened by an acrylically painted motif and some of the movie’s posters.

Flaws

Scott and Schilling seem stiltedly self-conscious in their second scene together.

Conclusion

If most bagatelles were written and acted this well, many of us would never leave our couches.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

Execrable: Desecrated

Desecrated (2015)

Directed by Rob Garcia
Written by Cecil Chambers
Produced by Cecil Chambers, E. Dylan Costa, Chris Nassif, John Atterberry, John Boggs
Starring Gonzalo Menendez, Haylie Duff, Gib Gerard, Paul James, Heather Sossaman, Michael Ironside, Wilmer Calderon, Vera Rosada, Jack Rain, Kayla Shaughnessy, Mary LeGault

Synopsis

Six dumb collegianers (Duff, Gerard, James, Sossaman, Calderon, Rosada) cavort at an isolated summer house during spring break, and by trespassing on his home aggravate its domineering groundskeeper (Menendez), an insane ex-Marine who deviously dispatches them with a purpose and a plan.

Script

Little occurs in this story until its third act, and its ratio of discussion to action is proximately 10:1, which might be excusable if that predominant class wasn’t brainless banter and iterated confusion. Co-producer Chambers recycles devices established in classic thrillers sans a spark of suspense.

Direction

Fortunately, a good script wasn’t squandered on Garcia’s sloppy, amateurish direction.

Cinematography

Whether accomplished DP and FX specialist Bruce Logan contributed to this flick for charity or necessity is unknown to this reviewer, but his splendent (days for) nights are almost as artificially unattractive as scenes darkened by drab tinctures, for which he’s responsible as its DI colorist.

Editing

Neither am I aware if co-producer E. Dylan Costa, Robert A. Ferretti, or both were ripped on stimulants when they feverishly butchered Garcia’s footage, or if they did so to conceal even more of its shortcomings. Their ASL is 2 seconds.

Histrionics

Overlooking one fluffed line, the lesser Duff sister is a passable leading lady. Menendez treats his villainy with brio, as would reliable old Ironside were he accorded a meatier part. As one of those raunchy, obnoxious stoners who infest fraternities and later middle management, Calderon’s portentously pestilent. Everyone else verbally treads water until dead.

Score

Joe Faraci’s chintzy score is redolent of those heard in features broadcast from Lifetime’s limitless landfill.

Highlights

Some mild amusement’s to be had when Menendez upbraids and menaces these vexing vacationers. Scenery’s satisfyingly nibbled by Ironside in the role of Duff’s dad, who isn’t evil enough to provide sufficient grist for the grizzled Canadian’s mill.

Flaws

Even including its superfluous backstory, this half-hour of plot makes a mingy 70+ minutes. Thirty-one minutes after Menendez’s outdoorsman informs James’s pseudo-nerd that he hosts hikes and hunts, the latter discovers this from online advertisements and testimonials. Only Menendez and Ironside don’t play certifiable clots.

Conclusion

This offal insults one’s intelligence as much as studio-grade chum. If you can view it freely, mellow Ironside’s worth watching during his 10 minutes onscreen, shot to satisfy financiers unfamiliar with Duff.

Instead, watch Deliverance or Cabin Fever.

Mediocre: Creep 2

Creep 2 (2017)

Directed by Patrick Brice
Written by Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Produced by Carolyn Craddock, Jason Blum, Josh Braun, Christopher Donlon, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn
Starring Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan

Synopsis

Another day, another night, another hire, another murder….right? Her serial exposing the lonely men behind craigslist personals is an unmitigated flop on YouTube, so a frustrated, exploitative videographer (Akhavan) leaps at the opportunity to interview an oddball (Duplass) mired in a midlife crisis, who professes to be a serial killer. He’s thus far her only riveting subject; unlike his anterior victims, she’s unflinching and provocative. Who’s luring who?

Script

The first video was a microbudgeted marvel: cunningly contrived, well-acted, disquieting and hilarious with disregard to any distinction between horror and comedy, and possibly the only good movie that Blumhouse has ever produced. Brice and Duplass are deservedly praised for developing this sequel from a variant perspective that generates a few instances of silent and suggested suspense, and almost as many laughs, but this time the scares are stingy. Choice characterizations can’t sustain a script that loses momentum during the movie’s final fifteen minutes.

Direction

As before, all shots are either stationary or hand-held by the spontaneous stars, to whom Brice’s direction is largely overshadowed and subordinated.

Cinematography

Akhavan and Brice keep glare or shade from spoiling any shots.

Editing

Concatenating and condensing cuts are as adroitly effectuated by Christopher Donlon here as in the preceding pic.

Histrionics

Tensions and a commoving congeniality between its headliners form the nucleus of this production, interplayed by Duplass and Akhavan in outstanding, unnerving verisimilitude. Ever a comedic actor, Duplass inhabits his self-obsessed, homicidal lunatic with the ebullient enticement, dread despondence and manic outbursts that made his character unforgettable. Not merely a foil behind the camera, Akhavan renders her documentarian manqué’s desperation, ambition, doubt and fear just as believably, and with teeth — this could just as well be titled Creeps.

Score

Spanning not five minutes, two percussive, synthesized tracks by Julian Wass are as listenable as anything he’s recorded for the Duplass brothers’ other projects.

Highlights

Nearly half of the runtime consists of Duplass’s spoken exposition; this wouldn’t work, but his locution of these monologues mesmerize, as does the contrast of his wolfish insinuations and effusive ingratiation. Akhavan counters him with a tough skepticism that’s never inordinately bitchy or self-conscious.

Flaws

First blood spilt during an otherwise fun prologue is observably digital. After an hour of discussion and misdirection, a protracted, uninspired anticlimax at Donlon’s only bad splice fordoes the story, and isn’t redeemed by a clever end.

Conclusion

Nobody reasonably expected this to match its predecessor (which loses much of its power after it’s first seen), but Brice and Duplass couldn’t land that last punch, or replicate the affright that made it great. As a result, this is that most disappointing of mediocrities that falls short of the considerable talent invested. Remakes, ripoffs and unimaginative franchises for bottom-feeders are Blumhouse’s lifeblood, but we expect more from these two. Feel free to blame Jason Blum.

Execrable: Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!

Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006)

Written and directed by Chad Ferrin
Produced by John Santos, Trent Haaga, Giuseppe Asaro, C.W. Ferrin
Starring Timothy Muskatell, Charlotte Marie, Ricardo Gray, Granny, David Z. Stamp, Jose I. Lopez, Marina Blumenthal, Amy Szychowski, Kele Ward, Trent Haaga, Ernesto Redarta

Synopsis

While working her nursing night shift, a sonsie single mother (Marie) intrusts her retarded, adolescent son (Gray) to the care of her boyfriend, a sordidly psychotic career criminal (Muskatell) who invites a bloated, crippled drug dealer (Stamp) and a pair of putrid prostitutes (Szychowski, Ward) to party at her residence. Neither they nor other lurking malfeasants (Lopez, Blumenthal, Redarta) are safe from a stealthy, resourceful murderer who’s observing Easter behind a leporine mask.

Script

With repulsive prolongations and domestic disputes, Troma alumnus Ferrin stretches 25 minutes of story to occupy 90 minutes of running time forming his trashy, inane, admittedly fun farcical horror, which piques a lot of laughs but no scares for anyone beyond their pubertal years. Its comic crudity is as stupidly amusing as one could hope for.

Direction

His claustrophobic close-ups, zooms, full-figure and drifting shots (no few of which shamelessly blazon busty Marie’s considerable cleavage) are all framed with calculated carelessness, but Ferrin has a knack for capturing his players’ most unflatteringly, goofily humorous angles.

Cinematography

Most of this flick’s interiors are lit like begrimed bedrooms from which camgirls stream, and the lurid hues clothing Giuseppe Asaro’s shiteo beseem its sleazy cheese.

Editing

Jahad Ferif hacked Ferrin’s footage together with occasional flair, though this reviewer can’t readily tell how many of his overzealous cuts are imputable to ineptitude or imitation of B-schlock.

Histrionics

In adherence to Ferrin’s style, everyone onscreen overplays their one-dimensional roles by yards over the top to some risible effect. As the fat, flagitious felon, Muskatell seems lucky to swagger and fume through the movie without suffering cardiac arrest. Only Granny, a plumply precious rabbit cast as the pet of Gray’s peevish peabrain, performs naturally.

Score

Synthesized noodlings and tacky, often funky prog rock courtesy of Goblinishly epigonic duo The Giallos Flame is crummily fun, like most else here.

Highlights

Marie’s buxom mother alternates between indulgence and violent discipline while voicing minced oaths; the piggish pervert portrayed by Stamp is gleefully aroused by a chance to prey on a mentally disabled teenager; every exchange and murder is in some way funny.

Flaws

True to his roots, Ferrin created a video that’s as embarrassingly edgy and intensely ugly as it is legitimately laughable. Every shot is shoddy, and all presagements patent. One predictable twist is explained with a fatuous flashback.

Conclusion

This is less like exploitation movies from the ’70s than how Xers and early Millennials would like to remember them. If you’ve an appetite for raunch and gore, and absolutely nothing better to do, it’s a tickling way to pass 1.5 of your overtly disposable hours.

Palatable: Gregory’s Girl

Gregory’s Girl (1980)

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth
Produced by Davina Belling, Clive Parsons
Starring John Gordon Sinclair, Robert Buchanan, Graham Thompson, Billy Greenlees, Dee Hepburn, Jake D’Arcy, Clare Grogan, Alan Love, Caroline Guthrie, Carol Macartney, Douglas Sannachan, Allison Forster, Chic Murray, John Bett, Alex Norton, Dave Anderson

Synopsis

His unrequited crush on his secondary school’s sportive star striker (Hepburn) prepossesses a zanily ungainly student (Sinclair) who’s more girl-crazy than his eccentric friends (Buchanan, Greenlees, Thompson), but too clueless to find romance without help from his sagacious sister (Forster) and female peers (Guthrie, Macartney, Grogan), who’ve a clearer perspective than he of his prospects.

Script

Quirks of characters and consequences constitute most of Forsyth’s affable humor throughout his gentle yet earthy charmer, which is slimly plotted but so entertaining that most won’t mind or notice.

Direction

Forsyth sets his shots with commonplace skill, but draws eye and attention with panning and tracking shots, as one oscillating to follow Sinclair and Forster revolving on a playground’s carousel.

Cinematography

Rich and restrained colors mesh through Michael Coulter’s lenses, even during a few fuzzy shots.

Editing

Most of John Gow’s splices are inconspicuously sensible, but some conversations are overcut to insinuate a certain dubiety regarding Forsyth’s blocking.

Histrionics

As goofy, gawky, gangly Gregory, naturalistically twitchy Sinclair secured a funny footnote in the annals of British cinema. Dully pretty Hepburn, toothily exuberant Buchanan and sardonic Greenlees are fun foils to their lovable leading man. Murray understatedly steals a couple of scenes when his stern headmaster indulges cibarious and pianistic passions.

Score

Colin Tully’s saxy, reedy instrumentation is typical of MOR in the ’70s and ’80s, and his upbeat music is of a sort that most probably prefer to Muzak when waiting on hold.

Highlights

A contrast between precocious, enterprising preteens (such as Forster’s junior sibling) and the oversexed, excitable teenagers who they jeer produces some hilarious incidents. Anecdotes of his sexual adventures are recounted by a young window washer (Sannachan) to admiring upperclassmen. Buchanan repeatedly, ridiculously fails to chat with schoolmates of the opposite sex by reciting revolting factoids.

Flaws

Only a few half-flubbed lines and excessively edited scenes are noticeable.

Conclusion

Forsyth’s popular comedic classic is satisfyingly silly and sentimental, a sweetly simple fiction of awkward adolescence in all its bubbly, breathless glory. Scotland’s rightly renowned for its provincial humor and proud of movies like this, in which it’s enjoyably exhibited.

Palatable: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Produced by Ronaldo Vasconcellos, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park, Karen Beever, Natascha Wharton
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Olivia Colman, Kevin Eldon, Stuart Wilson, Edward Woodward, Anne Reid, Adam Buxton, Billie Whitelaw, Rory McCann, Karl Johnson, Eric Mason, Kenneth Cranham, David Threlfall, Lucy Punch, Paul Freeman, Ron Cook, Peter Wight, Julia Deakin, Trevor Nichols, Elizabeth Elvin, Bill Bailey, Tim Barlow, Lorraine Hilton, Patricia Franklin, Ben McKay, Alice Lowe, David Bradley, Maria Charles, Robert Popper, Joe Cornish, Chris Waitt, Stephen Merchant
Wright’s comedies elicit overvaluation from the magnifying pathologies of approving British audiences, but they do meet a demand for nimble humor that Hollywood can no longer produce. Shaun of the Dead hardly met its hype, but this follow-up — an uproarious lampoon of overcooked actioners by the likes of Tony Scott, John Woo, Michael Bay, Guy Ritchie, et al. — merits its repute. From London, an accomplished, finical sergeant (Pegg) is transferred for his inconvenient superiority to a goofily idyllic village in Gloucestershire, where he’s partnered with the oafish son (Frost) of his constabulary’s chief (Broadbent). He chances instanter upon delinquency, deplorable dramatics, an overabundant arsenal, and a spate of murders that befall some of the locality’s notables — mistaken as mischances by his unskilled and complacent colleagues (Considine, Spall, Colman, Eldon, Johnson) — just beneath a provincial veneer nurtured by its hospitable businessmen (Dalton, Wilson, Woodward, Whitelaw, Mason, Cranham, Freeman, Wight, Deakin, Nichols, Elvin). Pegg’s again cast well to type as an authoritative straight man opposite clownish co-stars, funniest among whom are dopey Frost and lupine Dalton, who steals his every scene as a conspicuously sinister supermarketeer. That Welshman’s fellow old hands play up their quaint parts with as much esprit as the director’s usual collaborators; Whitelaw is meted a few droll scenes for her final appearance. Fans of Wright’s circle will also enjoy snappy cameos by Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy as the overachieving officer’s injudicious top brass. Most Anglophonic, contemporary cinematic comedies dole hors d’oeuvres for occasional laughs; here, Wright’s and Pegg’s buffet is crammed with frantically cut one-liners, sight gags, prefigurations and adversions intrinsic and extrinsic, many of which rely on the cunning casting of its older players. Featured clichés of the targeted genre include ostentatious rising pans and 360 shots, overzealous foley, digital blood, and dumb catchphrases. Whether they enjoy or abhor tasteless action pictures, this is recommended for whomever can stomach its multiple bloody homicides, especially Britons who need two hours of respite from metropolitan police farcically focused on trifling offenses, if only to divert public attention from their failures to curb violent crime.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Burn After Reading.

Palatable: Tenue de soiree

Tenue de soirée (A.K.A. Ménage) (1986)
Written and directed by Bertrand Blier
Produced by René Cleitman, Catherine Blier Florin
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Michel Blanc, Miou-Miou, Michel Creton, Bruno Cremer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Caroline Silhol, Jean-François Stévenin, Mylène Demongeot, Jean-Yves Berteloot
Joyance is rare in the gutter, where immiserated spouses (Blanc, Miou-Miou) languish until they’re enriched and debauched by a charismatically manic burglar (Depardieu), who seduces both after introducing them to his nomadic, intuitive pursuit. From the brawny bisexual’s schemes come prurient escapades through interrelational and epicene permutations, each more depraved than the last. Blier’s fourth film starring his (and everyone else’s) favorite leading man is energized by Depardieu at the robust peak of his powers, as a force of nature capable of channeling any vim, violence or vitiation that the novelist and filmmaker could conceive. The headlining trio consummate his rapid loquacity with a kinky elan, seamlessly vacillating between thalian perversion and touching tristesse, all penned and directed with equal elegance, and suitably scored by Serge Gainsbourg. Like Imamura, Breillat or Almodóvar, Blier elicits from smutty scenarios stories of remarkable inspiration; for whoever knows what to expect from him, this one is satisfactorily scabrous.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Going Places or Bad Education.

Palatable: Valley of Love

Valley of Love (2015)
Written and directed by Guillaume Nicloux
Produced by Catalina Restrepo, Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon, Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Genevieve Lemal, Patrick Batteux
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Dan Warner, Aurélia Thiérrée
Is it truly a revenant’s invitation, or a posthumous ruse to reunion? Two aging cinematic stars (Huppert, Depardieu) meet in Death Valley for a week to visit landmarks selectively scheduled for them in letters by their alienated son, posted proximal to his suicide eight months prior, which beseech their visitation for the promise of his own. Ailing under the western territory’s oppressive ardor, they reminisce and wrangle through grievous stages with themselves, each other, her belief, his incredulity, and auspices that they can’t easily interpret. Chilly Huppert and lumbering Depardieu perfectly play themselves as well as any characters, without a false note or needless motion in Nicloux’s affecting and oracular fiction. No mere vehicle for its weathered leads, it delivers their fish out of continental waters to a transcendental confrontation that validates the endurance of filial love. Charles Ives’s classic The Unanswered Question emphasizes its plural portentous profundities.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Loulou.

Mediocre: Vernon, Florida

Vernon, Florida (1981)
Directed by Errol Morris
Produced by Errol Morris, David R. Loxton
Starring Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris, Joe Payne, Howard Pettis, Claude Register, Snake Reynolds, Henry Shipes
During the ’50s and ’60s, residents of the tiny northern Floridian city (pop. approx. 800) submitted a superfluity of insurance claims professing accidental dismemberments, which amounted to two-thirds of all such requests filed nationally. This deviant distinction prompted speculation that many applicants amputated their own limbs for quick cash, and coinage of a grisly byname. Nub City was also to be the title of a documentary wherein Morris probed these bruits, but local oppugnancy deterred his enquiry. Instead, this mild, genial presentation of Vernon’s eccentric provincials is couched in the town’s ambience and anecdotes, of hunting turkeys, farming worms, a dead mule, one mysterious gunshot, encroaching sands, a casual suicide, lexical research informing a quirky sermon. Don’t expect the uncoordinated humor or poignance of Gates of Heaven; produced between two of Morris’s early classics, his second feature is sometimes discursively dull, but as straight as its subjects.