Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Only Fools Rush In.... - 2007

Director:           Chris Thomas
Writer:            Chris Thomas
Producers:        Chris Thomas and John Hogan
Executive Producers:   John Hogan and Chris Thomas
Special Effects:    Chris Thomas
Dir.Photography:    Kelly Wilbur

Valerie             Suzanna Hartzell-Baird
Tyler                Ben Schmitt
Jean               Larna Kay Smith
Hiker #1          John MacGilvray
Hiker #2         Michelle Shea Walker

No kisses

Maybe I missed the point of this movie, maybe I’m all wrong – but let’s face it, what are the chances of that?  The first time I watched this film I hated it.  But it kept bothering me; I kept thinking about it.  So I went back and gave it another chance.  I still hate it.
“Torture porn” may be too strong a phrase to use, but it comes close.  It also has one of the stupidest lead characters I have ever had the displeasure to watch.  I’m not sure how much is the actress’s fault, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Her character, Valerie, is obnoxiously dumb, shallow, clueless, greedy, selfish, and just plain irritating.  Why the lead guy is so deeply in love with her is a mystery that (if I cared) could haunt me to my grave.

And don’t get me started on the other female character, Valerie’s friend, whatever her name was…..  Ok, I’ll start on her….she’s simply repulsive.  Her only redeeming quality is that she is on screen for only a few moments.  And don’t think I’m ignoring the horrible male character, Tyler.  But, at least when someone is a psychotic, murderous baboon I can overlook a few other character flaws.  I’m going to put pretty much all of this on the shoulders of our Writer/Director/Editor/Producer/Special Effects/Make-up/Props/Everything-Except-Grip,… our Auteur – Mr. Chris Thomas.

Valerie and whatshername are seen first in a coffee house, having a little “girl talk”.  It is established that Valerie has dated a few men, each one briefly, the last one of whom was “psycho”.  It is also established that her friend helped her get a job in the same hospital where Tyler has just finished his residency.  It is also established that these two women are both idiots.  I can only hope Valerie is not supposed to be a nurse or doctor, or any other kind of health professional.  Hell, I hope she hasn’t been given the responsibility of mopping up the ER.

Valerie is waiting for Tyler to show up and take her to his cabin in the woods for the weekend.  Even though she has only known him for a month, she is pretty sure he is “the one”.  We first see Tyler after he drives up to the coffee house, and sits in his car for a minute making pained faces.  When he goes inside and sits down with the girls, he doesn’t speak to or look at whatshername, even after her greeting and attempt at small talk.  Not that I can blame him.

Ok, now we have had our first two clues that there is Something Wrong with this guy.  Presumably, Valerie has had other clues over the course of a month.  But she sees nothing wrong with him – he’s great and the fact that he has money “doesn’t hurt”.   Ick.  And why is Tyler so disturbed?  We never find out.  Note: According to the listing on IMDB, there are three other characters in the credits unseen on the DVD.  They are young Tyler, Tyler’s Mother and Tyler’s Father.  To be fair, I assume from this that there was additional material filmed which could possibly explain Tyler’s back story and help us understand his motivations.  Or not.  If the editor made a decision to exclude this material he should have had a discussion with the writer or director first.  Oh,…yeah.

I’m sure you can see where all of this is headed.   They go to the cabin, he acts strangely, she is dumbly unaware of anything.  He proposes and she accepts, ecstatically.  Then she has second thoughts and tells him so.  Right on cue, he becomes violently insane.  He beats her and ties her up, then tenderly takes care of her.  She runs away, he shoots her -same routine.  She tries to run away again, he handcuffs her and saws through both her Achilles tendons.

She now has an arm in a sling, is unable to stand, and is still very stupid.  All the while Tyler is telling her how much he loves her and is only doing this so they can stay there forever.  He tries to make everything up to her by asking what he can do to make her happy.  Valerie tells him she wants him to die, so he obliges by going into the bathroom and blowing his head off.  She is able to crawl out of the house and into the woods.  The end.  Credits.  We then see two hikers in the woods find a dead body - yes, it’s Valerie.

As most people know, in order to care about what happens to characters we have to have some empathy for or sympathy with them.  We have to either like them, or have another type of emotional connection to them so we react when they are in peril.  That is not the case with this film.  Neither of these characters had any likeable qualities and I didn’t care what happened to either one of them.  They both behave inexplicably, without any back story or logic to let us in.

My only response to seeing Valerie dead was irritation that she was so stupid as to not even put on a coat, or take some water with her, or even look for a phone in the house.  She’s going to crawl miles through the woods? -  hey lady, just set fire to the house! – someone would probably see it.  And, if the point was that she somehow deserved this treatment, then where is the drama?  It becomes merely a very violent, misogynous, incoherent mess. 

I’m only guessing here, but maybe Mr. Thomas over-extended himself.  Maybe he was putting on film his revenge fantasies after a particularly painful breakup.  Maybe he simply has issues with women.  I really don’t mind blood, gore and violence, but they have to have a point and make sense in the story.  This was just ugly.  Only fools rush in indeed. 

This movie has given me an idea for a screenplay of my own, which I have started to work on.  My pitch to the studios will be…

A naive, snarkily opinionated film reviewer writes a sarcastic review of a director's dream project.  He is pushed over the edge by her biting wit and starts making an elaborate plan for revenge.  He lures her to a remote cabin by telling her Roger Ebert will be there.  He chains her to a chair and forces her to watch his entire body of work over and over, without sleep.  She is made to write a thousand times - "this up and coming director is someone to watch, and is the natural heir to Alfred Hitchcock."  She is incapacitated by writer's cramp, but finally manages to escape after he falls asleep while watching a "Murder, She Wrote” TV marathon.  She crawls painfully through the woods but is helped by the cute, friendly forest creatures which come to her aid.  She eventually comes to a small hut, wherein live seven kindly dwarves who take her in and heal her wounds.  She decides to stay with them, and starts to write an advice column for their website.  They live happily ever after.  Until zombies find them, and kill and devour them all.

So Mr. Spielberg, whaddaya think? 

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