This one's an improvement. Too bad, it came 3 years before Alone in the Dark because I was really hoping I could say Boll is getting better. Still, it's an interesting film with serious subject matter. It's a film about alcoholism, drinking and driving, guilt, schizophrenia, seedy hotels run by Clint Howard (Big Bad Wolf and Ron Howard's brother). It's also a film that can be viewed in two ways.
Viewed the way Boll intended, it is an abysmal failure.
The movie stars Patrick Muldoon (Starship Troopers and Melrose Place) as Matt Sullivan. Sullivan is trying to get his life together after a tragic accident that left an innocent girl (Molly) dead. This accident is pieced together throughout the film via flashback. We know it happens in the past because Muldoon is wearing a backwards baseball cap in these scenes. His character is clearly past THAT stage in his life. He's got a new girlfriend, Dawn (played by the lovely Keegan Connor Tracy) and a best friend Jim. We know they are best friends because they call each other "numb nuts". Sullivan agrees to go away with Dawn into the Colorado woods to visit with her family. The road trip that follows is full of paranoid delusions and some good old fashioned drinking and driving. Clearly, Sullivan hasn't learned any kind of lesson.
Boll's initial twist is telegraphed immediately. It's obvious Dawn is not who she seems to be. One might even say, she's not altogether there, if you know what I mean. Ok, it's also obvious that she's related to the girl Sullivan killed and that she's leading him into a trap set by her inbred family. That is the first twist. What follows is like a cross between Fight Club and The Most Dangerous Game (or Ice-T's Surviving the Game). If viewed this way, the movie doesn't work, but there are still some good performances.
Muldoon is fine as Sullivan. He plays a Muldoon-like character. He's a bit cocky, moderately funny, thinks every woman is hitting on him, and gets his brain sucked out by a bug. Ok, that last part is from another film. Tracy is adorable as Dawn. She's cute and she managed to not embarrass her self acting-wise. My two favorite characters were the great Clint Howard (Motel Clerk) and the even greater Michael Pare (Sheriff William Harding). Howard is a scene stealer. Sullivan walks into his office to request a room and what follows is worthy of Abbott & Costello. Something tells me this scene was improv. With a straight face, Howard repeats his lines over and over. "Would you like a room? If you want, I could fix you up with a special room. It's got free porn. All the time. Just people fucking." Sullivan's reaction each time the line gets said helps to propel the joke. Damnit, I mentioned porn, didn't I?
Michael Pare (Eddie & The Cruisers) plays the small town Sheriff. He pulls Sullivan over as he enters the wooded town. He's initially suspicious when Muldoon mentions his girlfriend, but she's hiding in the back seat, so he can't see her. There's no humor here. This is straight faced acting at its finest. I've noticed Pare has been in a few of Boll's pictures. Tarantino should put him in his next picture. Pare basically pieces it all together and figures out who Sullivan really is (the drunk driving guy that killed the local girl who may or may not be related to the girl he is dating).
Anyway, one could view the movie that way and it would be fine (i.e. abysmal). Viewed the way I intend and this becomes a riotous comedy. I'm going to spoil the ultimate twist, so be warned! You need to be aware of it for the film to work.
In the accident, Sullivan, through a combination of guilt and head trauma, lost his marbles. Dawn is completely inside of his head (I guess that's why no one ever sees her). If we know this ahead of time, the scene where Dawn and Sullivan stop at the diner is hysterical and now the look on the waitresses face makes complete sense. In this scene, Sullivan is filming Dawn and asking her questions such as "When's the first time you had sex?" Can you imagine if this scene was filmed without an actress on the other side of the table? I guess this would make the sex scene (once again scored to a song by Boll's house band) just a masturbation scene, but even that is pretty funny because they try more than a few positions. Don't worry, it's still a pretty tame scene. No nudity. But the scene that would have brought the house down, would be the one where Sullivan ends up in the basement of Dawn's house for a trial right out of 12 Angry Men. It's the middle of the night, the house is deserted and there's poor Sullivan, in the middle of the Colorodo woods, miles from anywhere, strapped to a chair (by his doing) answering questions from an imaginary judge and taking a beating from Dawn's imaginary brothers. He's clearly found guilty of the girls murder (we now know her to be Molly aka Dawn) and sent off into the woods, so the brothers (imaginary) can hunt him (Surviving the Game). This could have been the comedy of 2002, but Boll got ambitious and tried to make a low rent Fight Club. I guess I can't fault him for that, but it would have been great to see Muldoon in a one man show (except for Howard and Pare, they were real).
I did have a question about one scene though. When Sullivan has fled into the woods, his friend Jim (also real) shows up. Sullivan, paranoid beyond return, kills his friend thinking he's in on the whole thing. The next morning, Pare finds the friends body stripped completely naked. We next see Sullivan wearing his OWN clothes, not his friends. Now, what is implied by this scene? I'll leave that for you to decide.
This was a hard film to judge. I enjoyed most of the performances, but Boll layed on too many twists. I say, get rid of all the twists and just have Muldoon act his brains out by himself (with a stunned Howard and Pare involved, of course). That performance might win him a golden globe nomination, if this thing didn't originally play on TV as I'm assuming it did. Maybe an emmy? Again, like Alone in the Dark, the fight scenes consisted of blurry, eratic, slo-motion. It is now clear that this is Boll's style. I think he just needs a better cinematographer and editor.
And so, my first night experiencing the wonders of Uwe Boll has come to an end. He is NOT the worst director in the history of moving pictures. He's a long way from good, but this guy can make an interesting and enjoyable movie. He could be better though. I think his films would be perfect as Sci-Fi channel originals, but he probably wouldn't go for that. This is a guy that takes his craft very seriously. The Sci-Fi channel, to him, would be tantamount to a slap in the face. I don't think so. I guess the best thing I can say about Uwe Boll, at this point, is if I'm flipping channels and I see one of his movies on, I might linger for a while. See what happens.
Give him a break.