For a practising film critic whose primary readership is on line, there’s an, at times, uneasy feeling watching David Rakowiecki’s first feature.
The hero is Brad Zuhl (Daniel Bartkewicz) the self-described web-meister of www.TheGeek-Cave.com. From a one-room basement apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, the filmaholic passes instant judgement on Hollywood and indie productions alike. His reviews are peppered with such charming language as schlock, mucus, crap garbage and more, much to the delight (we’re told) of Zuhl’s legions of film warriors who have no qualms about reading the sarcastic diatribes and frequent plot revelations (a.k.a. spoilers) that are gleefully posted prior to release.
One of Zuhl’s best-placed industry moles has the codename Roboto but who more usually goes by Walt Grambling (Jarred Kjack). The two “filmerados” also have visions of seeing their own names on the big screen and will stop at nothing to get a production deal. As the film opens, it appears Zombies Versus Vampires (think Romeo and Juliet begins rather than ends in the crypt) is being picked up by Scattershot Productions provided the script is given a complete redo by others and the studio’s favourite leading man is signed as the undead star.
Geek Zuhl wants to fight for every word of their script while 50%-partner Grambling takes the pragmatic approach of selling their artistic souls on this first venture in order to “fall on our swords” for the next.
For most of us in the criticism profession, media release embargos and review publication deadlines (e.g., 12:01 a.m. on the official day of release) are honoured. Getting known as a non-team player soon dries up any flow of screening invitations and hard-to-arrange interviews. Subsequent articles that do contain spoilers are generally labelled with warnings.
As immediate and far-reaching as the Internet can be, the issue of quality and content control still lets “everyman” express their point of view. In recent years, many studios have deliberately kept the mainstream media from previewing their current releases in hopes that a huge opening weekend will generate enough revenue to withstand a slew of pans. These so-called cold openings inadvertently demonstrate the power of informed commentary. But when unwanted opinion influences box office results, the gloves come off faster than you can say “Show me the money.”
Meet Harrison Kane (Lars Stevens). His last flick, Bones of the Dead, got such a merciless drubbing from Zuhl that he’s lost his production company, agent and wife. Accordingly, he opts to drop in on his primary tormentor, permanently settle the score then fly off to exile in Brazil. The unconscionable critic managed to obtain a pirated copy—without effects and music, which, as an incomplete production, would never be seen much less written about here—and fired all verbal torpedoes with deadly results.
Rakowiecki’s script is a tad slow (perhaps similar to this review) in the early going, but once the back-story has been established and the murder-on-his-mind director swings into action, there are enough turning of the tables and genuine plot twists to maintain interest and score a few points on both sides of the filmmaker/film-reviewer divide. Things move so well it’s easy to forgive a couple of obvious plot deficiencies (Why not lock the door after the first assault ended in a truce?).
With virtually one set (save and except for a few cutaways of Harrison’s other epics and a hilarious on-line poll—Should Zuhl be killed or not?), the film belongs more on a theatre’s stage than a relatively static big screen (but let’s lose the “faggot” epithet in the next draft: it’s 2009). Yet, in many ways, that is what writer/director/producer Rakowiecki’s movie-within-the-movie is all about.
The acting is as promising as the premise (Tony Mui in the smaller role as The Delivery Boy is a hoot) and what little music there is works well (notably the fully orchestrated “Ariel’s War” track).
With economical-at-best production values and a single location, will this first attempt be good enough to get the next script made?
Let’s hope so, for there’s enough substance and talent demonstrated in this creative effort to merit a green light for another Rakowiecki project. JWR