JWR Articles: Film/DVD - State's Evidence (Director: Benjamin Louis) - March 15, 2007
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State's Evidence

3.5 3.5
90 min.

Suicide 101

With ever-increasing reports of high school killings, serial murders and teen suicides, State’s Evidence is both a thought-provoking and timely addition for the direct-to-DVD market. While it focuses on despondent, troubled youth, the film has much to offer, including warnings for parents or guardians from every walk of life.

The conceit revolves around Scott (Douglas Smith, who initially drives the action before slipping out of plot and sight as the unexpected horrors unfold) and his decision on “May 14, 2004” to go to school, say goodbye to his friends and off himself—all recorded as “State's evidence” on his trusty camcorder. A devoted reader of Kant, the curly-top, upper-middle-class sixteen-year-old lusts for the freedom of leaving the planet on his own schedule.

But as his friends learn of the plan, they decide to join the party rather than merely say “adieu.” Brian (Cody McMains) smiles with glee while learning the news in the washroom, sucking on a cigarette (oddly, no one smokes joints in the Glendale, California campus). The punk-accessorized Trudi (a convincingly bummed-out portrayal by Majandra Delfino) seems damp at the prospect as she opts to move from witness to co-participant. Indeed, Scott receives a store-room blow job from the suddenly aroused class tramp, Brigitte. Sandy (Alexa Vega overdoes both the intellectual delivery and emotional breakdown scenes) can’t wait to play Juliet to Scott’s Romeo—if only there’s time to lose her virginity before “curtain.” Tech wizard Rick (Drew Tyler Bell, who lights up the screen with every appearance even as his character is forced into unbelievable actions by Mark Brown’s too-preachy-by-half script) ensures that the now multiple cameras will be neatly edited into a no-holds-barred confessional for the files of the police and case studies of psychologists and other mental-health professionals. Finally, there’s Patrick. In his depiction of an emerging pervert, child molester and executioner, Kris Lemche soon steals the film from his colleagues and won’t give it back until he’s had his pent-up revenge "This is not the fucking movies" and final rant against his miserable world.

Director Benjamin Louis often succeeds in establishing a gradually quickening pace and ever-deepening suspense but has to contend with overly-long diatribes, an abundance of clichés (“At what price, freedom?”) and a few technical challenges (notably the blood on the wall before the God-fearing sophomore is dispatched to meet her Maker) that prevent the film from soaring into consciousness rather than just disturbing it.

On the plus side is Steve Yeaman’s vibrant, percussion-rich score and the combined talents of cinematographer Brandon Trost and master editor David Gati who seamlessly bounce the viewer back and forth from the personal “captures” of the “Kids in Black” to the universal points of view.

But nothing could prepare for the final scene where all of the elements come together and, aided and abetted by Beth Broderick’s truly spectacular reaction to the carnage and purpose of her truly unknown son, the film’s message comes home without a word being said. JWR

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