Friday, January 21, 2011

Dismal and De Ja Vu : A Movie Review

*Full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Gary King.

**Some spoilers be here.

Director: Gary King.

Writer: Bo Buckley.

There is something that happens to you after reviewing hundreds of horror films. One becomes desensitized to the violence, but an individual also becomes less tolerant of films that do not break any type of mold. Dismal is one of these films whose qualities put the flick firmly in the horror genre; yet, there is lots of repetition here. Tried and true lines are delivered in Dismal, such as "we'll be right back," and "why are you doing this?" (Dismal). Other tropes deliver the overused mantrap, a hooded killer, and a family of cannibals. Some of the elements have been used in countless horror films before e.g. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jim Gillespie's Venom and Dismal does not break out of the box of horror cliches. Not even actor Bill Oberst Jr.'s (Priest) sneering Dale speaking "you got Dale's word on it!" breaks this overly straight-forward film exercise.

A little more background on director Gary King's (New York Lately) Dismal is required before jumping into the plot and review. This title was released in December of 2010 on DVD partially by Fearmakers Studios and this film has nothing to do with Ray Brown's 2007 movie of the same title: "which takes place in the swamp of the same name [Great Dismal Swamp]" (Brutal Shell). However, joining these two films together could have created a better film.

Dismal can be broken down fairly quickly, as a cannibalistic, male dominated family goes on a killing spree in the above named locale. A group of kids are lured to this location under the pretense of a fun field study for their Biology class. Research is replaced by sex in the backwoods, with one teaching assistant showing how to awkwardly sexually harass his students. Soon the cast is reduced to half and this reviewer was left scratching his head at the sheer repetitiveness of it all.

In order to avoid another "poison pen" comment from actor Bill Oberst Jr., this review will now look at the positive aspects of the film...(looking at watch pensively). Okay, now that this is done, let us return to the review. Seriously though, the acting of Bill Oberst Jr. and Tim Morris (In the Pines) makes some of the slower periods seem a little more interesting. Oberst puts his twelve years of theatre acting to good measure, with snarling witticisms such as "your a scrawny thing ain't yeah?" Morris also shows that characters do not necessarily need to be one dimensional. Bo Buckley's writing develops the bait and switch with quiet charm to later hellish delight. There are higher quality elements in Dismal, but the film as a whole does not rise above conventions.

Bo Buckley and Bill Oberst Jr on Set

Here are a few more cliches. The black guy (Jade Arnold) dies first, those having sex are quickly offed, young twenty-somethings lose cell phone service, and the other protagonists (Lydia Chandler, Capel Kane) are shortly isolated. Had enough? Also, the quiet shy character is, of course, the killer and vehicles are swiftly removed of value by having their tires cut. One more? The good guys are chained up in a dank basement, which would give the Tower of London a run for its money.

One final comment is necessary on this title, before director King and writer Buckley tell this reviewer to write his own damn movie. The video in the film seems to be a low quality digital reel, or something of even less quality. This film's low budget also hampered some of the special effects that went off like a whimper, instead of the much needed bang. Dustin Hall of Brutal Shell sums up this film's experience nicely: "you will not find much to make this film memorable."

This reviewer would not recommend this film, but he would also not tell people to run away screaming from Dismal, either. This scathing critic would recommend horror fans to seek out other reviews before dismissing this title. Otherwise, you will be getting only part of the picture, which is how this reviewer sadly felt at the end of the film.

Overall: 5.5 out of 10 (-1 for acting of minor, younger characters, -1 for uninspiring music, sorry Kenneth Lampl, -1 for special effects, -1 for overuse of cliches, -.5 for a wtf! ending).

The Dismal homepage can be found here:

Dismal Official Website

Another review of this film is available here, at Brutal Shell (Dustin Hall):

Dismal Review at Brutal Shell

Go in with low expectations:

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