Film Review: Frozen (2010)

What's the worst way to die?

Joe (Shawn Ashmore) and Dan (Kevin Zegers) have been friends since kindergarten. For years, they have gone on weekly ski trips to escape from their real lives. This week, Dan invites his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell), even though she can’t ski. Dan and Joe convince Parker to flirt with the lift operator to get cheap passage up the slopes all day. She does, but her lack of skill in snowboarding causes tension between the longtime friends. They convince the lift operator to let them take one more run when the resort is closing and he does, placing them well-behind the flagged off “final chair.” Through a series of surprisingly believable events, the trio is left stranded on a chair lift at a ski resort that only opens on the weekends.

I’ll admit it. I was one of the people who was very cynical about this concept. What can be done with a film that takes place entirely on a ski lift? And a horror film? Forget it. To writer/director Adam Green’s great credit, I have to admit I was wrong. Frozen actually works as a horror film. If anything, in an effort to preempt the cynics, Green plugs up every possible plot hole and does not let a single incorrect fact about the mechanics and physics of the scenario through to the final cut.

Continue reading

Film Review: Mother (2010)

Mother and Do-joon Need Each Other

Mother is a brilliant crime drama that breaks all expectations of the genre. The fact that a senior citizen is doing the investigating is enough to make the film stand out. Kim Hye-Ja plays the titular Mother. Her adult son, Do-joon has major mental issues, specifically an inability to remember what happens in his day to day life. He is accused of, and confesses to, the brutal murder of a local high school student and is sent to jail to await sentencing. Mother knows that her son couldn’t hurt a fly and sets out to solve the case when everyone else abandons it. She breaks into houses, confiscates evidence, and tracks down potential witnesses however she can to free her son.

Continue reading

On Exploitation in American Idol

Exploitation and reality TV go hand in hand. They always have. Producers chose contestants just shy of mentally stable to create interest. From the consistent casting of rural Americans who’ve never left their hometown and don’t know how they will be edited into backwoods stereotypes to college students who are crucified for making the same mistakes that all young people make, reality TV producers are a particularly insidious breed of muck rakers. They will take either the absolute best or disgusting worst of a person from hours and hours of footage and turn them into a flat stereotype. The producers tip their hats towards dramatic interaction by stacking house-based shows with gallons and gallons of alcohol or denying contestants food and sleep. Whatever pushes the contestants out of the comfort zone becomes acceptable practice if it brings in the ratings.

But American Idol is a particularly bad offender in exploitation tactics. From the very first season, the executive producers have made sure people were cast with sob stories. The trend started with Season 1 finalist Jim Verraros, who did not give a single interview that didn’t mention how his deaf parents never heard him sing. While my description is cynical, I am not the one who thought exploiting a young man’s most personal regret in life was a good idea. I’m not the producer who goaded the information out of the contestant and I’m not the contestant who gave the show permission to reduce me to a sob story. I’m a viewer who was disgusted back then and remains disgusted now.

There are those who claim the contestants have no choice in what information is revealed on national Television. That is simply not the case. Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino successfully hid many parts of her life she didn’t want aired out on national television. We may have learned she was a single mother who dropped out of high school to raise her child–something she did not view as a sob story but an integral part of her life–but we did not learn about illiteracy until well after she won the show. We didn’t learn about the fights in her family, her great financial struggles, or even her hopes or dreams beyond American Idol. While the producers exploited the single mother angle, she did not allow herself to be turned into a stereotype by refusing to play into the producers’ machinations. If a contestant can win the show on the strength of her voice and character over any sob story, then these contestants who reveal even the most minor tragedy to advance have no excuse. If you don’t feed the producers information, they can’t use it against you.

And yet, many contestants feel it is essential to exploit themselves to be on American Idol. We’ve had contestants talk about losing everything in Katrina. We’ve had rape victims, assault victims, car crash victims, spider bite victims (in full casts, nonetheless), and molestation victims. We’ve had former drug addicts, people dating drug addicts, and people raised by drug addicts. While I am not trying to take away from the horrible experience of these contestants, I do believe that after a certain point, the sob story angle and exploitation of it become a joke. It quickly swings around from tragedy to comedy as you can see the judges acting very out of character and passing mediocre contestants through because they have character arcs over good singers who lived happy lives. The comedy comes from the constant assertion that “this is a singing competition.” It is not and never has been. So long as the show pushes the judges to exaggerate their praise of the poor paint salesman or the girl who grew up barefoot on a ranch over working singer-songwriters, it will never be a singing competition.

None of this is new. What could have possible spurred me to write about exploitation on American Idol after ten seasons? The answer is sad and disturbing.

On 26 January 2011, American Idol‘s tenth season aired its Milwaukee audition episode. The producers showed their usual melange of sob stories, including the horrors of working a full time job and the monumental tragedy of being rejected from the show in the past. Then they went to the most disturbing story I’ve seen on the show.

Contestant Chris Medina became engaged to his girlfriend, Julianna, a little over two years ago. They agreed to be married two years to the date of the engagement. Two months before the wedding, his girlfriend was left mentally and physically disabled by a car accident. She was left in a coma and suffered brain damage. Juliana’s mother and Chris are his primary caretakers.

I’m going to stop right here and ask why? Why is this relevant to a singing competition? Why would anyone in their right mind reveal this information in a way that leads to camera crews descending upon a suffering woman and filming her twitch in a wheelchair for a lengthy audition segment? How is this deemed appropriate? How is it entertainment? And, again, what does Julianna’s physical and mental conditions have to do with a singing competition? Nothing.

I want to blame the producers here. I really do. But that would be short-changing a particularly horrible breed of contestant’s behavior. Chris Medina didn’t allow his girlfriend to be filmed for Idol; he brought Julianna to the audition with a big shiny sign encouraging the judges to vote for her boyfriend. While the families are often invited to the first televised judging round, they aren’t always invited into the audition room. More than that, most contestants aren’t shameless enough to say they are only there because of their disabled girlfriend and how it would be her dream to see him advance in the show. He actually said to the judges, “If I were to make it to Hollywood, it would get her to be happy about something again.” He sang a mediocre rendition of “Breakeven” by The Script, slowed down because he doesn’t have the breath control to make it through the long, tongue-twister-like verses, and was told to bring his girlfriend inside.

I don’t know who made the decision to bring Julianna into the audition room. I don’t know how much prep the judges were given about the situation and how long Chris Medina’s audition actually was. They conveniently edited the home package into the middle of his audition, which would suggest that he volunteered all these details to the judges. The judges did, however, ask him if he had a wife before the segment began. It’s scripted, yes, but to what extent?

The producers could not have known about Chris’s girlfriend at the open call. He had to reveal that information himself. If he really believed in his singing voice, he could have said something like “Yes, I have a girlfriend, but she does not want to be on the show” or “Yes, I have a girlfriend, but she recently became severely injured and I don’t know if she is mentally or physically ready to appear on the show.” I know from personal experience the hard sell the producers of any reality TV show give to convince you, as a contestant, to spill everything. I also know from experience that if you hold fast and are right for the show, you can make it pretty far into the process. So I don’t buy the excuse of “having” to tell anything to the producers. Chris Medina volunteered this information and he is just as responsible for the exploitation of Julianna as the show is.

But bringing his girlfriend into the room would not be enough to upset me. The judges’ behavior was disgusting. They all left the table to give Julianna hugs and kisses and talk to her like she was a two year old. I was waiting for someone to give her tummy kisses and hand her a rattle. Only Steven Tyler managed to treat her in an appropriate way during those interactions, but he’s been involved in the industry as a public figure long enough to have experienced this before. He went down to her eye level–suggesting they were equals–and spoke to her like an adult and talked about how he reacted to Chris’s audition. He gave her a hug and a kiss and left it at that. The other judges leaned over Julianna like they were staring at a baby in a crib and acted like meeting them would be the thrill of her life.

As if the baby talk moment wasn’t bad enough, the golden ticket to Hollywood was put in Chris’s wife hand. He then wheeled her out of the room while everyone celebrated around his girlfriend holding the ticket in her permanently closed hand. It was physically slid in and there was nothing to suggest she took it voluntarily.

I am not trying to explain this in a cynical way. Julianna’s expression did not appear change once during the episode. She appeared to be struggling to breathe and her body was constantly twitching, as if she was suffering from constant minor seizures brought on by the brain damage. She didn’t seem to be able to close her mouth and she didn’t seem to be able to make eye contact with anyone. The one time Julianna was shown outside of the wheelchair was when Chris was literally carrying her down a staircase. If the woman cannot walk, cannot talk, and cannot respond to stimulus around her, there is absolutely no way Chris, his family, her family, or the producers of American Idol received her consent to put her on this show. There just isn’t. I don’t care who has power of attorney or what her dreams may have been before; parading that woman around on national television just to help someone advance in a singing competition is pure exploitation. I can only hope that the appropriate rights organizations go after this show to explain point by point everything that is wrong with what they showed in that ten minute scene.

I know that I will be writing the Fox network to let them know my disgust with the show they put on last night. I can only hope that you will do the same. If we stand up for people that have been convinced they have to be exploited for the sake of a TV show, we can start to make a change in the system.

Breaking Down the 83rd Annual Academy Awards: Best Original Song

Best Original Song is one of the categories at the Academy Awards that seems to confuse people the most. Constantly changing rules mean anywhere from two to five songs can be nominated in a given year for the Oscar. In a two song year, the Internet (as a whole) denounces the category as useless and tries to strike up enough discourse to eliminate it. In years where lesser known songs are nominated, the Internet does the same. I believe it is confusion over the category that causes this rhetoric and not the actual quality of the music itself. Therefore, I will be first explaining how the voting process works, then exploring the four nominated songs at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

The first and most important rule for Best Original Song is eligibility. The song must be submitted by the songwriter or songwriters with an application available from the Academy. If the songwriter chooses not to submit, they will not be considered for the award. All those great songs you heard written for films that aren’t even on the long-list were most likely not even submitted for consideration. That’s the burden of the songwriter (same with Original Score–the composer must submit herself for consideration).

Second, as if having to submit the paperwork themselves was bad enough, if the forms are not received 60 days after a qualifying Los Angeles release, the songwriter is ineligible. Songwriters can submit for the category in anticipation of the release, but all entries must be received by December 1 of the release year. This is because the music branch has to wrangle up all its voting members into a special screening to vote on the possible nominees. Again, technical loopholes like this could trip up some possible nominees.

Third, the song must be used in a substantial way in the film. If the Music Branch deems it insignificant, it’s out. If it’s only used in the credits, it has to be the first song or it’s disqualified. If the Music Branch deems it unintelligible, of poor audio quality (even as an intentional device in the film), not strong enough in lyric and melody, and used later in the closing credits, it’s eliminated. Songs not containing lyrics are ineligible for not having substantial lyrics. Those instrumental songs, if not part of a larger score by the composer of the film, cannot be recognized at all for an Academy Award. Only two songs from a film can be nominated even if more than two songs meet the eligibility requirements.

Fourth and finally relevant to the quality of the music, the song must be an original work written specifically for the film. It must serve an important dramatic purpose in the film and show collaboration between the songwriter and the filmmaker. Fair enough. It finally sounds like an awards category.

As if the eligibility requirements weren’t enough, there’s a cap on how many nominees can come from a given song. No more than three songwriters can be considered for Best Original Song. That means, even if a team of four writers could prove they had equal input on the composition, only three could be nominated. Furthermore, at most, two statues will be made for a song. Most of the time, it is only one. It must be such a great burden to have to actually print the awards for all the winners that the music categories have a tight cap of one trophy for up to three people. A songwriting team of three people has to petition the Academy to get three statues.

When a song is put under such scrutiny to determine who the eligible songwriters are, there’s a good chance the Academy can find a way to disqualify the work. Did they hear a hint of a Protestant hymn? Goodbye. Maybe the songwriter references some of their earlier work? See-ya. Perhaps the songwriter picked up a theme from an earlier film in the series? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. The more attention you draw to yourself, the more likely you are to be disqualified from the category entirely.

With an understanding of the rules, we can move onto the mysterious voting process. If there are less than twenty five songs on the long-list of potential nominees, the Music Branch can recommend that there only be three nominees. If there are less than nine songs, the Music Branch can recommend no nominees.

Once the potential nominees are capped, all the Music Branch voters are invited to a screening. This screening plays the eligible songs in the context of the film. By context, I mean the voters see the scene the song is in, literally from cue point A (song begins) to cue point B (song ends). From this glimpse, the voters give the song a numerical rating between six and ten. The scores are averaged to determine the nominees.

While I applaud the Music Branch for adding the screening and forcing their members to vote based on the song’s use in a film, I take issue with how it is presented. There is no way a short song (under two minutes) will ever be nominated, even if it is the crux of the film. The use of “substantial” makes those potential nominees seem insignificant in the context of the screening. Also, how much can the voters tell about the use of the song in the film from just the use of the song in the film? If the leaders of the Music Branch determine a song eligible that really does come out of left field, it could block a song from being nominated that could have been the key moment of a better film. That’s a hypothetical situation, obviously, but it’s one that I keep thinking of when I go over the rules in this category.

When the votes are tallied and averaged, the following decisions are made. If no songs score at least an 8.25 average, there are no Original Song nominees. If one song scores at least an 8.25 average, that song and the next highest scoring song are nominated for a total of two Original Song nominees. If two to five songs score an 8.25 average, they are the nominees for Original song. If more than five songs score an 8.25 average, the top five songs are the nominees.

That means, for the 2010 film year, the Music Branch voted that only four songs were of sufficient contextual quality to be nominated for the Original Song Academy Award. Perhaps they were right. While I’m a fan of some of the songs that didn’t get nominated, they didn’t all serve an essential function in the film. These songs that were nominated were all used in context, rather than in the closing credits, which I think is a good direction for the category. What reason, other than tricking people into staying in their seats, do filmmakers put a song over the closing credits? It’s technically in the film, but can’t be compared to songs sung by characters in the film or used in the background of critical scenes.

The first nominee for Original Song is “Coming Home” from Country Strong, written by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges, and Hillary Lindsey. The country almost-musical starring Gwyneth Paltrow did not fair particularly well with critics or audiences because of the plot, but the original songs and musical performances were always praised. “Coming Home” is a somber country/pop ballad that encapsulates the theme and tone of the film Country Song. This is not that silly song that Gwyneth “danced” to in the leaked promotional video; it is a substantial composition that elevates the film in a significant way.

The second Original Song nominee is “I See the Light” from Tangled, written by Alan Menken and Glen Slater. This Disney fairy tale, remarketed to appeal to a wider audience beyond the princess films, featured strong Menken-pop music and solid vocal performances from leads Mandy Moore, Donna Murphy, and Zachary Levi. “I See the Light” is one of the most beautiful moments in the film, where Rapunzel shows Flynn a magical waterway filled with floating candles as far as the eye can see. It is a lovely pop duet with simple orchestrations, heartfelt lyrics, and a memorable melody.

The third nominee for Original Song is “If I Rise” from 127 Hours, written by A.R. Rahman, Dido, and Rollo Armstrong. This song is used in a very different way from the other nominees. It is a recurring theme in 127 Hours as trapped mountain climber Aron Ralston tries to find his way out from underneath a large rock that has crushed and trapped his arm. For such a grim subject, the tone of the film is rather hopeful. This song, about contemplating the power of change, is a haunting and moving reflection of the reason the film exists. While I think the use of a children’s choir to show hope is rather cliche for a song that is otherwise so ambitious, it is still a very good and inventive composition.

The fourth and final Original Song nominee is “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, written by Randy Newman. Randy Newman has written the theme songs to all three Toy Story films and they always establish just the right tone. This song, about how the strength of a friendship can only be defined by how much time the friends spend together, is brilliant. It’s a perfect pop song. Forget how clearly Newman defines the theme of Toy Story 3. The song is a great doo-wop influenced pop song. It sounds like it belongs in an animated film and that animated film is Toy Story 3. This is a man that understands how much a song can influence a picture and he never fails to impress in his film work.

Who will win the Academy Award for Original Song? Country Strong will most likely not be seen by enough Academy members to get enough votes, and Tangled will be pushed aside because it wasn’t nominated for Animated Film. That leaves “If I Rise” from 127 Hours and “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3. “If I Rise” has the benefit of being used multiple times in a film, in different contexts, actually evolving the storyline. It’s also written by the Music Branch’s newest darling A.R. Rahman, who broke out in a big way with Slumdog Millionaire and can probably be a regular nominee for his US film work. “We Belong Together” has the advantage of being the only up-tempo song in the field. Sometimes, it just takes being different to win. Randy Newman is a big name in the film world and there is a lot of love surrounding Toy Story 3 and Pixar. I think “If I Rise” will win in the end because the film is also nominated for score, but I won’t be surprised if “We Belong Together” is takes the prize.

Film Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Lisbeth/Computer Hybrid Edit

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has become somewhat of a phenomenon. The novel, the first in the Millenium trilogy from late author Stieg Larsson, concerns the exploits of Lisbeth Sanders, an unbalanced computer hacker. After being raped by her legal custodian, she takes full control of her life and forces herself into a mystery case being helmed by disgraced reporter Mikael Bloomvist. The novel has become an international best seller and will see its second film adaptation brought to life by director David Fincher in 2011.

The original set of films, produced in Larsson’s home country Sweden, has also done very well. The trilogy has been sold to twenty five different countries and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars internationally so far.

For fans of the book, I may seem to have described a small fraction of the plot. This is intentional. If there is a flaw in The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo film, it is that Mikael Bloomvist does not come alive as a character. All his introductory scenes–the trial, the exile from Millenium, and his initial investigation into the Vanger family–fall flat. It is not until his life collides with Lisbeth’s that the film takes off. By that time, people unfamiliar with the book might lose interest. Rest assured that all the slow-crawling exposition of who did what in the Vanger Group is there; it’s just not particularly compelling on the screen.

The strength of the film lies in Noomi Rapace’s performance as the titular character. She is ferocious and fearless. You never know what this slight little gothic/punk girl is going to do next, but you never doubt her ability to do it. Whether she’s defending herself in a subway attack or hacking into remote computers for pay and pleasure, Rapace’s performance feels real. There is something so immensely expressive in her face. Her character may be a creature of impulse, but Rapace makes those impulses seem authentic. She is wild and unpredictable. Her physical demeanor suggests a hard-lived life for a woman so young. Most impressive of all is how effortlessly she accesses the most physically and emotionally draining moments of the character. The rape sequences are graphic and tragic, and the revenge sequences even more so. Simply put, I cannot think of another working actress who could have performed all the elements of this character so well.

Where Rapace’s performance fails, the wonderful editing by Anne Osterod succeeds. The problem with adapting a book like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is how much of the action is driven by research. Lisbeth and Mikael are constantly digging through libraries and archives to stare at tiny photos, old receipts, business books, and newspapers. It’s not content that screams cinematic treatment. The only thing more boring than watching a writer onscreen is watching someone read onscreen. Osterod’s editing uses a lot of cross-cuts, fades, and overlays to engage the viewer in the research. Lisbeth will be digging through a pile of receipts in the library, bringing out stack after stack of folders and boxes to examine. The various papers float transparently over her face as she scans them for anything she can use. This is cross-cut with Mikael investigating a house on the remote island setting of the mystery. Osterod jumps back and forth, creating natural beats that rarely drag when Lisbeth and Mikael are following a lead in the case. True, such techniques have become the bread and butter of TV crime shows, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable for a film when done well.

For fans of the novel, the film is a must see. It is an almost-perfect realization of the book. For those who didn’t like the book or haven’t read it, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is a solid mystery. It takes a little too long to really get going, but once it does, it’s an enjoyable diversion.

Rating: 6/10

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

The First 15 Minutes of The Human Centipede: The First Sequence: A Visual Study in Horror Film Stupidity

I believe I have officially joined Team Ebert regarding The Human Centipede: The First Sequence. This really is an un-reviewable film. Why? It is so horribly inconsistent and so narrow in its subject matter and audience appeal that the people likely to watch it will watch it no matter what. I, sadly, am one of those people.

While the film eventually produces some very effective and long-lasting suspense sequences, the first fifteen minutes of the film are the most mind-numbing and offensively stupid I have ever seen in a film. The two lead girls make every possible mistake they can in a horror film and invent some new ones. It must be seen to be believed.

Therefore, on the eve of the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations, I present to you, dear reader, this handy visual guide to every bad decision made in the first fifteen minutes of The Human Centipede: The First Sequence.

One: Get Directions from a Non-English Speaker to a Killer Rave

Jenny Gets Directions

I know that when I travel to a non-English speaking country, my main priority is finding where the hottest local backwoods kegger/rave/disco/par-tay is. I also know that I will always insist on driving myself and not let anyone else know where I’m going.

Two: Get Invited to a Killer Rave by a Local Boy

Lindsay Brags About Local Catch

It’s an extension of stupid choice number one, but it bears repeating. The worst thing you can do in a foreign country is hook up with a random boy and let him lure you out into the backwoods of his native land at night.

Three: Take Unmarked, Unlit, Poorly Paved Back Roads

Unmarked Unlit Roads are Safe

If you have to turn around in an unmarked dirt road to go the opposite direction on an unmarked and unlit back road in an unfamiliar location, it might be an idea to head back to your hotel. But no, our intrepid leads soldier on.

Four: React like this to a Flat Tire

BJs for Flat Tires

I know when I get a flat tire, I often open my mouth wide and jerk my head forward repeatedly. It’s a coping mechanism.

Five: Raise Your Cell Phone to Find Reception

The Signal's Just a Little Higher

When has this ever worked? If you don’t have reception at five feet high, you aren’t going to have it at five feet ten inches high. Why don’t you climb on the roof of the car or scamper up a tree while you’re at it?

Six: Never Even Consider Learning How to Change a Tire

And Brag About It, Too

OMG, like, who know how to change a tire nowadays? Yes, bragging and fighting about your stupidity will surely solve the problem of a flat tire. As opposed to, you know, opening the trunk and changing the tire. It’s not that hard so long as you don’t lose the lug nuts.

Seven: Ask Non-English Speaking Pervert for Help in English

Didn't I See You Girls in a Tape?

While I appreciate this sequence for actually calling out slutty tourists for dressing like slutty tourists, it still demonstrates stupidity in many ways. One, the girls assume everyone speaks English. Two, when that fails, they just speak English slower and louder to break the language barrier. Three, they have an English/German phrasebook in the car that they don’t use for a good two minutes. Four, they look up the word the pervert is saying–”fucking”–rather than how to say “help” or “phone.”

Eight: Abandon Your Car at Night to Walk Down Unlit Back Road

Late Night Dark Road Walks are Safe

The safest thing to do when you’re lost in a foreign country at night is to abandon your car and walk along the road, right? At least they stay on the road and everything turns out well. Yup, just walk along the road straight back to the hotel and ask the front desk to call the rental car company.

Nine: Abandon the Unlit Road for the Dark Woods at Night

Late Night Forest Excursions are Safer

Really? Trouncing through the woods in skimpy clothes and high heels? They bring their purses, but not the English/German dictionary or their cell phones.

Ten: Throw a Temper Tantrum

I Want it NOOOoooowww…

When you throw a fit greater than a spoiled rotten child at a chocolate factory over trudging off into the woods at night, you have problems. And by problems, I mean a proclivity for stupidity.

Eleven: Run in the Rain in the Woods in High Heels

How to Break Your Ankle

I get it. You see a light in the woods and head towards it. If Janet and Brad can walk at a leisurely place towards a creepy gothic manner in sensible shoes during a big rainstorm, you can surely choose a safer pace than sprint to get through the woods during a shower at night.

Twelve: Don’t Go to the Door for Help

Doors are for Losers

I know when I go up to a house for help, I try to spy on the owners and bang my fists against the windows rather than use the door. There’s no way to know that it’s bullet proof glass from appearance, either. These girls risk severe injury in their quest to be the stupidest horror film characters in cinematic history.

Thirteen: Don’t Go to the Door Again

Doors are REALLY for Losers

Because spying on a house is just as good as asking for help at the door. Who knows? The police might show up to handle the peeping Tom case before you even meet the creepy owner. Then your car can get towed and you can be barred from entering the country ever again.

Fourteen: Run on Concrete in Heels or Bare Feet

How to Break Your Other Ankle

It’s not like I have seen kids at camps break bones or get really bad cuts and bruises from running barefoot on soaking wet blacktops. Nope. Nor have I seen their counselors get hurt even worse for doing the same in traction-less shoes. This is one hundred percent the safest thing you can do. Besides, everyone knows if you run while it’s raining you don’t get wet.

Fifteen: Narrate Your Actions at the Door

Self-Narration is a Life Skill

It’s so nice that the screenwriter suddenly cares about making sure the audience knows what’s happening. I know I was clueless that the loud doorbell ringing sound was one of the girls ringing the doorbell while the other one knocked on glass again. I just thought a jackhammer was playing a cello.

Sixteen: Talk Really Loud and Really Slow in English While Asking For Help, Again

Loud is the International Language

Forget about Esperanto. If you want to communicate with anyone in the world, treat them like a hard of hearing child. They will undoubtedly understand everything you say and not be tempted to perform horrible experimental surgery on you.

Seventeen: Mime Talking on the Phone

Can You Hear Me Now?

Everyone knows that a pinky to your mouth and a thumb to your ear is the international sign for “I need to use your phone.” To be fair, I’m including this because it’s one of my pet peeves. They are, however, TAAALLLKIIIING LIIIIIKE THIIISSSS, so the stupidity is still rampant.

Eighteen: Tell the Stranger that No One Knows Where You Are

I Have Candy

If there is a positive in this exchange, it’s that our young heroines stop TAAALLKIIING LIIIIKE THIIISSSS to simply say “no” when asked if anyone knows where they are. The creepy skeletal man in pajamas who lives in the middle of the woods speaks English, so they can trust him with all their life secrets.

While there is one more stupid choice (walking into this guy’s house), the film actually kicks into some decent suspense here. The characters start acting in realistic ways and the surgical imagery picks up. If the film had a different opening that made the audience care about the characters at all, it would be a very good thriller. Unfortunately, it suffers from this opening stretch. Believe me, if you want to watch this, you can safely skip ahead to the 15 minute mark and not miss a thing. You just need to know the husky trucker was brought in with a tranquilizer dart before the slutty tourists.