Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Vote This Movie Off the Island

are currently two films perched atop my Netflix Instant Watch queue with near identical premises involving a reality TV competition gone awry. I watched this one, and that is that.
Quick Plot: One year after the filming of "Castaway Island," the cast reunites for a weekend special. Among the mostly white people in their early 30s is Nigel, the newly crowned millionaire winner, Jen, the level-headed blond (played by Cut's Jessica Napier or as some might call her, the poor man's Naomi Watts), Lisa and Matt, a couple who fell in love despite Matt's off-shore marriage, a tall dude, and a bitchy brunette. I'd offer more character details but the plot doesn't, so we'll move on.

The mildly attractive people drive the show's yacht to an empty island where they expect to reignite old declarations of not coming there to make friends. Instead, they're greeted by an empty hut with a threatening blood-written note, plus a bunch of dead rats--6 dead rats, to be precise and foreshadowish. It doesn't take long--actually, it reallllllllly does--for the cast to remind each other and tell the audience about the seventh contestant on Castaway Island, a loose screw named Warren who was voted off after swinging a machete a little too close for primetime comfort.
All of this sounds promising and fine, right? Dead Set did great things with Big Brother, and the The Running Man made us all long for a future rich in jumpsuits and overabundant puns. Brian Keene's novel Castaways mixed monsters with human sociopaths to good enough success, and the tragically underrated ahead-of-its-time Series 7: The Contenders summed up reality TV with brilliant black comedy. It's a subgenre of horror that's still quite fertile for the picking.

Except Safety In Numbers is a fairly dreadful film, mostly because despite being a slasher set on a tropical island, it's incredibly dull.The people are dull. The dialogue is dull. The kills, when onscreen, are dull. The nine endings are dull. And there are nine of them. Or maybe fifteen or three, I really have no idea. They're all equally dull.
See just when you THINK the 85 minute Safety In Numbers is over, the screen fades...into the next scene. Until it fades...into another scene...and another...then it's really ov--oh no, another...and then credits. Which can be confusing, since it ends on an incredibly bizarre note that has no explanation whatsoever. Here's my theory:
The movie was made and came back from the editing booth at just over one hour long. That's a problem, since most films at that length won't get any form of release. So the screenwriter decided to add a mild twist, filmed it, then realized he had a 67 minute movie. Still too short. So he shrugged and added another twist. 70 minutes. Hmm. So he added a "the killer isn't really dead!" chase but realized with limited means and talent, there wasn't that much to show. So at 75 minutes, he decided to bring in a coda. He started to get excited at such an idea, for suddenly, it seemed like there were more possibilities to explore something he'd totally forgotten about for the entire filming process. Perhaps it was a subplot that seemed so perfect once presented. Yes, Safety In Numbers, you FOUND it.

Except then director David Douglas remembered that there needs to be credits, which run a good two minutes, and he now had an honest 85 minute film. So he shrugged again (I imagine Mr. Douglas does a lot of shrugging) and figured, much like James Caan did with children's literature in Elf before he was redeemed by the love of his Elf son Buddy, that nobody would *really* care whether they knew how his movie ended.

And you know what? He might have been right.
High Points
There's a great moment of tension that involves a snake, but that may have just excited me because it reminded me how much better a world it is we live in due to the mere existence of Snake Island

Low Points
Aside from being a slow and ill-paced film, Safety In Numbers commits one of those cinematic crimes that inflames the female inside me. I understand it was directed by a man and costumed by one Robert "Doll" Smith (really), but really: no woman would ever JUST sleep in her bra and pajama pants. Sure, a token shot of a cute actress in her whities is in demand, but a) the bra was the least sexy bit of lingerie I've ever seen, unless Playtex's 18-Hour Bras turn you on and b) SHE WOULDN'T SLEEP IN THAT!

The Winning Line
"Where the HELL is my YACHT!?"
Mostly because it's delivered with such pompous Britishicity that I had to laugh
Fun Fact/Lawsuit Alert
Apparently, Survivor did not copyright the term "voted off the island," which surprises me. Unless they did and Safety In Numbers will be sued by Jeff Probst

I pretty much hated this movie, and as anyone who's read my reviews of Blood Gnome knows, that's a harsh statement to make. On one hand. Safety In Numbers is certainly more competent than something like Unborn Sins, but there's just no spark of life lurking anywhere in its draggy 85 minutes. It's as if someone started with a potent idea for a slasher--reality stars stranded on an island--and forgot that an idea alone isn't what writes a screenplay. Unless you're simply a gigantic fan of Survivor and crave any form of ripoff, I just can't recommend Safety In Numbers, even as an instant stream. It's not that it's bad--I've recommended worse--it's more that this movie just doesn't care. So why should we?


  1. Well I had better luck with the slasher flick that I watched last night-Deadly Manor. It was a decent movie that had a few twists on the slasher formula (the possibly psychic, wise Latino girl dying first, practically no clear definition on just who will survive) and it ended with the killer being ARRESTED! BY THE POLICE! Haha!

  2. Wait, the police actually ARREST people? I just don't believe it!

    I think the predictability of victim order might be the biggest issue I have with modern horror. As soon as a female displays an ounce of intelligence or likability, it's incredibly obvious that she'll stick around to the end. I'm all for strong women on film, but COME ON!

  3. The sleeping-in-a-bra thing always annoys me, too....
    I remember the film "Congo," in which there's one scene where we can clearly see Helen Hunt sleeping in a bra. It totally take me out of the movie. Every time.

    I know, I'm weird....

    Good review!

  4. No, you're not weird, you're perfectly reasonable. See, bras are important. They help keep us comfortable when going to work, running to catch a train, huffing through the office, etc. They are perhaps the most valuable item of clothing a woman wears...

    DURING THE DAY. Because as soon as she walks through the door of her home, The Woman tears it off. It's not a sign of protest or anything; she just wants to relax, and that can't happen when that fabric is tightly clasped around her top half.

    NO WOMAN SLEEPS IN A BRA. Maybe in a t-shirt, maybe a camisole that happens to have a built-in bra (which only works for the select few anyway) but never in a bra. It'd be like coming home from a baseball game and heading to bed without removing your cup. It just doesn't happen.

    Anyway, thank you Andrew for letting me rant.

  5. Thank you for reminding me to see snake island soon.

    This film sounds like an excercise in tedium, duly noted "to be avoided."
    Re: Bra's
    Yes wearing elastic on the upper body would be super annoying in bed..on most occasions i suppose.

  6. I will always remind you to see Snake Island. Is it Tuesday? See Snake Island. On Wednesday, I can also remind you to see Snake Island.

    Bras have their place. The bedroom just isn't one of them.

  7. I am making it top priority : Snake Island.. William Katt here I come!

  8. I truly live in gulag snake island is not available here at all..(Thank you netfux..) /goes off to slit wrists

  9. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  10. I will procure a copy somehow (think i have some firstborns in maine for bargaining chip purposes)

  11. It's always good to have multiple firstborns. I've gone through about 17 so far, and that's not counting the ones that I've lost.

  12. 17..that is impressive. Also impressive is the copy of snake island i found via back alley sources...

  13. Did you find any of my firstborns in that alley? I think I left my wallet in one if those blankets...

  14. Sadly i fear any wallet would quickly be pilfered at Firstbornz r us.