Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Bostin Christopher, Ashley Johnson, Daniel Stern, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Pollak, Jere Burns
Directed by Tony Krantz
Distributed by Warner Home Video
At one time or another we’ve been the outcast. As a result, some folks out there who have felt that way have become increasingly unstable and dangerous. Some do depraved things. Otis? He just wants to go to the prom with a high school hottie on his arm so he can boogie the night away and get a little after-party action going. The only problem? He’s in his thirties and is a complete and total psychopath. Unbeknownst to him, somewhere in the deepest, darkest corners of suburbia, he’s about to meet his match.
After five high school girls are kidnapped and found dismembered, a small community finds itself in a state of terror. Parents are living in fear for their children, and the FBI are proving themselves to be completely useless. All they know about the perpetrator is that upon capture of his prey, he likes to call the girls by the name Kim, and he digs on calling their heartbroken families to ask for permission to take their daughter to his prom. Riley Lawson (Johnson) is his latest victim, but she’s not like the others. She’s smart and knows how to play Otis’ game. This eventually leads to her escape, but the story doesn’t stop there. After letting her folks know she’s OK, her mom (Douglas) makes her promise not to tell the bungling FBI agents where she was being held captive. Why? Because it’s time for some parental revenge! This dude tortured their little girl. He doesn’t deserve a jail sentence. In their eyes, old Otis deserved a hell of a lot worse, and that’s exactly what he was going to get. Game on!
Simply put, Otis plays like the darkest sitcom you’ll ever watch. It’s amazing that the above plot could ever be funny at all, but there are parts of this film that will have you rolling. It’s the perfect satire of the torture porn trend. At points I even found myself wondering if it was appropriate to be laughing at some of the things going on in the flick. This slice of psycho-Americana really works the viewer over. One second you’ll be using your hand to slap your knee, and the next you’ll be using it to cover your mouth in revulsion. Everything is wonderfully off-kilter thanks to the spot-on direction of Tony Krantz. He manages to squeeze every ounce of quality out of his amazing cast. Everyone from top to bottom is memorable, but if I had to pick two people who go above and beyond, I’d have to say it’s Illeana Douglas as the vengeful MILF and Bostin Christopher as Otis himself. Every second that either of them is onscreen, they really steal the show.
Things aren’t all good, however, as the same things that make Otis tick also work against it every now and then. While for the most part the flick walks the razor thin line of comedy and horror without the slightest misstep, there are times in which a few slip-ups leave you with the feeling that the experience is kind of uneven. These a-little-too-frequent shifts in tone can sometimes pop you right out the action, but thankfully you’re never outside the box for too long. For a better look at the film itself, check out my cohort Johnny Butane’s review of Otis here, as it’s time for me to focus on the DVD.
Things kick off with an audio commentary by director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen. While informative (more from a technical standpoint), it played just a tad too dry for my liking. The film itself has so much energy I was hoping some of it would transfer over to their track. The inclusion of the cast with these two could have made things perfect, but for whatever reason that didn’t happen. Still, we do get to hear from them on the twelve-minute making-of titled The Twisted World of Otis. What elevates this from the usual behind-the-scenes tedium are the cast interviews. Everyone seems to have had such a good time making this movie that their enthusiasm and affection for the project is nothing short of infectious. Short, but good stuff. From there we get a five-minute alternate ending with an introduction by Krantz that for my money was better than what was used as the finale, Otis’ three-minute home movie Suite 16, which showcases his various victims’ plights all edited together to Big O’s liking, and of course a Raw Feed trailer gallery. All in all, this is a great little package that just misses the excellent side of the fence.
Funny, frightening, and engaging, Otis is the kind of movie some people will take great offense to. Sure there’s nothing funny about the subject matter per se, but this film is more about its over-the-top characters and less about its grim situations. In fact, it’s kind of hard to define really. All I can say is this — from its violence to its not-so-subtle political subtexts, Otis excels in bringing on the entertainment in the most delightfully inappropriate ways possible! Break out your boogie shoes, folks! This is the one Prom Night in 2008 that I’m happy I saw!
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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