Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Choice Is Actually Really Easy

Ripping off Saw isn’t necessarily a cinematic crime. But being terrible? Yeah, that is.

Quick Plot: A teenage girl comes home to find her parents tied up and gagged with a masked madmen waving a gun at their heads and threatening to kill both of them (plus the token little brother) unless the crying middle schooler can choose which one to take the fall. Pops volunteers himself, daughter stabs him in bad lighting, and credits roll.

Cut to the new apartment of college student Fiona (Amusement and Satan's Little Helper blond Katheryn Winnick, making a minor career out of appearing in mediocre-to-awful horror films) where the journalism major with a cop dad (Kevin Pollack, clearly owing someone a favor) senses something amiss. Through some fairly contrived investigating/remembering the suicide of her mother/dad's involvement in the case/let's tie the whole film up in one pretty character to watch in a tank top for the whole film, the killer contacts Fiona to play a not at all (except totally all) Saw-like game of stabbing and choices.

Ugh. Choose is the worst kind of mediocre genre film: it's one that thinks it's not a genre film. I imagine the marketing team sold it as a "psychological thriller" that's about the "characters" and the "choices" they make.

No, actually it's a dull horror movie too afraid to embrace itself.

Choose made me think back to an otherwise forgettable direct-to-DVD Seven-ish horror stupidly titled Dot.Kill. Now I never thought anything would ever remind me of that slog of a movie, but Choose's equally dire blue-hued manhunt has done that, so good on it. Dot.Kill: send Choose a muffin basket. Then crawl back into your DVD cave to hibernate until some other blogger stumbles upon you.

Truthfully, I don't know why I'm being so hard on Choose. I think I gave Are You Scared? more slack, and that even MORE blatant Saw ripoff was bad from every angle. I guess what annoys me about Choose is that it feels like it's fighting against every aspect that would make it interesting to an audience like me. There are some early hints of grisly violence, as our blandly disguised killer forces a pianist to pick between having his fingers cut off or ears drilled in, but the film then wanders away to invest all its energy in Fiona's ridiculous Lois Lane-lite investigation. As we slowly learn more about the killer's past, we're not entirely bored, but every step gives us a tease at what a better movie could have done. Creepy boys' reformatory with sadistic administrators and MORE sadistic inmates? Super! Cutting away from that to watch Fiona check out library books? Not super.

Worst of all, Choose ends with one of, if not possibly THE worst executions of exposition I've ever seen. Considering I've survived Diary of the Dead's comatose narrator explaining her theme, this is saying something, but SERIOUSLY, this is what happens:

Fiona is kidnapped (don't worry: Winnick's blond hair and perky tank topped boobs still look fabulous) and tied up by the killer, who now enters the full frame to reveal to us the fact that he wasn't in the movie previously, so all the effort put in place to ensure the audience didn't see his face was a waste of time from a behind-the-scenes standpoint. Sure, fine, whatever, just give us something to make the 80 previous minutes we watched mean something. Reveal a tentacle or flash back to a great backstory, give Fiona the biggest CHOICE of them all by making her decide if she gets to keep her shiny great hair or perky perfect boobs, SOMETHING!

Here's what Choose does: it has the never-before-seen bland antagonist reveal a fairly out-of-nowhere and not at all delivered interestingly story about how (SPOILERS, if you CHOOSE to care) he's actually Fiona's older half-brother because just before she was born, her slutty mom had an affair, got pregnant, CHOSE to have the baby, but Kevin Pollack said he wouldn't raise it so she CHOSE to give him up for adoption and so she instead married Kevin Pollack, had Fiona, then let her older son grow up in misery until she found him and bonded and stuff and eventually was killed when he CHOSE to give her a CHOICE about her life or Fiona's or --

Oh what, am I boring you? Are these two pages of written dialogue revealing the mystery that the ace minded Fiona was supposed to be researching not, you know, good screenwriting? Should we throw in a random little twist ending that you don't care about after the first 90 minutes that you didn't care about seem to be over and resolved?

My point is, this is a bad movie. I know, coming from me, what does that even mean? I'm the same person who planted a "hearty recommendation" tag on my review for Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part 2. My standards are confusing and I am well aware of that fact. I’m worse than the judging panel of Project Runway, who praise a runway outfit’s flow and color to the designer then cattily chat about how awful it looked to each other during deliberation (a SERIOUS bone of contention I’ve been having this season but what are talking about again?)

Sorry, I got distracted. It’s SHOCKING that I can’t stay on track when Choose seems so bent on being passive aggressively bad. This is the kind of film that hates everything, save maybe for the body and Pantene wonderment of its leading lady. There is no joy, fear, wackiness, mystery, thematic statement, or any other worthwhile thing that you sometimes find in movies to be found in Choose.

At least Dot.Kill had Armand Assante complaining about breakfast.

High Points
I guess the early maiming of the sad pianist isn't without interest, with some interesting post-finger-mortem staging and…that’s just about it

Low Points
So for all the movie's lines about how the killer makes people CHOOSE (a drinking game worthy magic word on Chain Letter levels), it would behoove me as one of the (hopefully) few people to see this film to NOT point out the fact that the killer's definition of "choice" is looser than a blond named Tina in an ‘80s slasher. Take the aforementioned pianist, who is told he has to pick between keeping his hearing or ability to play. Except then the killer says "Nah, I'll choose for you: I'm taking your fingers, but you get to pick HOW I do it," and then when the poor dude is understandably still unable to verbalize anything for a few seconds, the deceptively democratic murderer declares "Nah, I'LL choose how that's happening too, snip!" So the point of Choose is that you don't ever actually get to choose. Sort of like the point of Chain Letter was that chains will kill you no matter what. Weird. Now I want to rewatch Chain Letter. I can’t say I ever thought I’d say that…

The Don't Get Your Hopes Up Warning
A notice to my straight male readers: despite taking a bath AND shower, the lovely Ms. Winnick does not show any of her specialties. I'd just hate for you to queue up this film for that reason and be disappointed 

Lessons Learned
Nobody doesn’t love a girl who knows the Dewey Decimal System

21st century graduate university libraries are far more accommodating to loud-talking students who scream than the solaces of quiet study time of days of yore

To be a great journalist-in-the-making, do some research, then wait for the killer to inevitably kill you because then he’ll just TELL YOU EVERYTHING about what he did, why he did it, and how it all relates to YOU

In the spirit of today's movie, I'm giving you a choice: you can CHOOSE to spend 90 minutes watching a dull simplistically convoluted movie with no redeeming value or you could, let's see...cram in three episodes of Arrested Development on Instant Watch? Bake a pie? Clip your nails, shave your legs, moisturize, make a sandwich, eat that sandwich, wash it down with seltzer, urinate the seltzer, wash your hands, brush your cats, and make artistic stick figures on Draw Something. The point is, there are a lot of ways to spend your time. Don't give yours to a movie that clearly didn't use any of it to write a good story.

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