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Ratpocalypse (2017)

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Ratpocalypse

RatpocalypseStarring Casper Van Dien, Victoria Summer, Linda Bella, Catherine Oxenberg

Written and directed by Vladimir Uglichin


“Whoever doesn’t fight corruption will be turned into filthy, dirty rats!”

Like Noah before him, Senator John Perryman has a warning from God he wants to deliver to the politicians of the world – at least Russia, and maybe the United States. There will be no flood, no ark this time. The corrupt will be doomed to live out the rest of their lives as cartoonish looking motion capture rat people. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what this Ratpocalypse is all about.

Not a Syfy nature gone amok movie about rampaging rodents…

Not a Mulberry Street-style horror flick about killer rat people…

Ratpocalypse is about a American Senator on the run in Russia after corrupt Russian politicians and crooked oligarchs blame him when they begin transforming into humanoid rats right after he delivers his warning from God above to put an end to their greedy ways.

I’m still not entirely sure how to categorize this movie. I’m not even sure how to review this movie. Movies like Ratpocalypse only get made when a filmmaker has a particular demented vision that makes absolute perfect sense in their mind, but somewhere between their mind and the celluloid canvas, it all turned into a 22-car pile-up. I’m just an eyewitness driving by, slowing down, and getting a better look at the carnage before a reporter asks me to describe what I saw.

Originally entitled Higher Mission, Ratpocalypse is the creation of Russian architect/businessman turned first-time writer/director Vladimir Uglichin. I did a story about this movie way back in February of 2014. I’m going to go out on a limb speculating that Russia and politics being big in the news of late is why these rats finally got sprung from whatever shelf they’ve been on.

Ratpocalypse opens with United States Senator John Perryman (Casper Van Dien) having a nightmare about washing ashore on an island covered with rats that immediately begin covering him. Nightmare or calling from a higher power? He wakes up in bed with his money-grubbing wife (Catherine Oxenberg, also Van Dien’s real-life wife), who promptly answers the door to accept a briefcase full of bribery money from a mysterious figure.

Senator Perryman is so corrupt he describes himself later by advising, “Don’t look for anything positive in me except for my blood type.” But it’s going to be okay from now on because the message from high above he received in this dream has led him to warn the world (again, Russia, primarily) that the corrupt are about to be physically turned into the rats they are.

He loudly proclaims this while addressing the Russian parliament. Not surprisingly, they all laugh and agree he lost his mind, the President of the United States (looks more like the dad from “Family Matters” than Obama) apologizes on behalf of our country, and even Perryman’s wife is ready to file for divorce.

For vague reasons, the Russian government does not want him to leave the country and freezes his assets. At the airport his credit card is declined, and he only has $100 cash on him. He then does what any US Senator after being stranded in a foreign country in which he committed career suicide by standing before that government and proclaiming God will turn all corrupt politicians into rat people would do: He picks up two hookers named Polina and Anna.

At least, I think they’re hookers. One is definitely a hooker. The other is a student being talked into her first gig by her prostitute friend. I’m not even positive they’re actually supposed to be Russian. One sounds like a Boris & Natasha character when she speaks. The other has an accent that seems to come and go. Did I read correctly that this movie set almost entirely in Moscow was actually shot on location in Oklahoma?

Our Senator wastes no time taking both of them back to a ratty apartment despite, presumably, no way to pay for them. A matter never addressed; not that it matters since he’s too busy performing chintzy magic tricks for sex. Besides, any potential humping gets interrupted by news that there’s a mysterious outbreak causing people all over Russia to transform into human rats. A $20 million bounty has been placed on the Senator’s head; the Russian government is convinced he did it by hypnosis or something.

Really… The Russians initially speculate Perryman performed some sort of mass hypnosis during his speech, causing crooked politicians and corrupt oligarchs to morph into ratmen, who then either contemplate suicide over their rattiness or double down on their deviousness as they vow to become human once more, including turning to a diabolical spiritual quack who convinces the government she can undo the ratformations by crucifying Perryman and bleeding him out.

Now the movie turns into a chase flick with the two hookers helping Senator Perryman elude capture, even as one repeatedly suggests they turn him in for the $20 million bounty. There’s also an unlikely romance brewing between the Senator and the much younger student-hooker-in-training, including a scene where Polina sings him a love song and – not making this up – parallels are made between the two as potential modern day equivalents of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Ratpocalypse

This is the part where I would write, “You can’t make this stuff up,” but someone did make this stuff up; and that’s why I’m writing about it.

Much like the equally ludicrous US-Russian anti-advertising flick Branded from several years ago, Ratpocalypse is another movie that’s trying to make some kind of point but goes about it in the clunkiest, most head-scratching manner possible. Making comparisons are almost unfair to Branded, a far more polished turd than this. Part of me wonders if this movie would have held more meaning to me if I were Russian. On the other hand, as much as the filmmaker seemed intent on crafting some sort of surreal allegory it really doesn’t seem to have anything all that deep to say. Political corruption is a serious problem. You don’t say? The solution is to not be corrupt. You don’t say?

Characters and subplots are frequently introduced only to go nowhere or get blown off almost as soon as they’re introduced. Even the performances are schizo, with Perryman and Polina played with the utmost sincerity while others seem to be striving for camp with their characters. Once the chase begins, it all begins to feel like a series of interchangeable scenes edited together in a manner vaguely resembling a plotline, almost always off-kilter, periodically amusing, but one that drags more often than not.

Given the bizarre mix of comedy, metaphor, and body horror, I almost want to sarcastically call this flick “Cronenberg’s Birdemic” but that might mistakenly make this white hot mess of a movie sound more enticing than it actually is. Ratpocalypse could have been an all-time great WTF movie if it was actually more entertaining about it.

The film culminates with Casper Van Dien standing before the United States Congress giving a fiery speech as to how maybe a new species of rat people should inherit the earth since rats are by nature less greedy than man. Not since John Saxon stood before the United Nations at the end of The Bees proclaiming the hyper-intelligent killer bees were the new rightful rulers of the world because of mankind’s poor treatment of the environment…

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Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review – Rat Exterminator Simulator 2018

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Vermintide 2Developed and Published by Fatshark

Available on PC through Steam (Coming to Xbox One and PS4)

Rated M for Mature


On the scale of cathartic guilt-free wanton slaughter, rat-men belong up there with zombies, Nazis, and cops in a Rockstar game. No matter how many limbs fly off, skulls get crushed in, and whispered wishes to see their families one last time before the cold embrace of death whisks them away, you’re pretty much free to do whatever without any of the self-conscious pangs that usually come along with murder. If Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide taught us anything, it’s that this unrestrained dealing of death is made all the more enjoyable when the victims are slightly adorable, in a gross ratty way. Now Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is here to deliver on more of the same, but with Chaos. Nurgle Chaos in fact, who are kind of like zombies and Nazis. So now that the gang’s all here, time to feel good about some ultraviolence.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Vermintide tells the story of the heroic Ubersreik Five (…or Four, whatever). An ensemble of fantasy tropes, you’ve got the racist snarky elf, the cheerful and outgoing dwarf, the shrill and sneering Witch Hunter, the maniacal and bloodthirsty Bright Wizard, and Markus Kruber. The team is brought together by plot for the purpose of rat slaying, and together with three of your friends you’ll murder your way to saving the world (but not really, because canonically speaking the whole world is fucked anyways). The series is an FPS in the vein of Left 4 Dead, but with a much heavier focus on melee combat. You’ll also have to unlock new gear like in Call of Duty, but unlike Call of Duty the class you play and loadout you pick actually matters.

Vermintide 2

Mama shoulda taught you not to bring a bow to a Rat Ogre fight.

Once you pick your favorite fantasy trope and prefered loadout, Vermintide 2 drops you into your selected level to complete a series of challenges and hopefully score some fat loot. In terms of simple playability, the maps are all as diverse as they are entertaining. The objectives are varied (sometimes you’ll be hunting for keys, sometimes surviving waves of foes, etc.), but always the same in that particular level. The level design is certainly geared more towards being a “game” than a living breathing world, and that’s fine. Games should be games, and if putting a random fence or broken bridge here or there to direct me towards my objective helps me slaughter rats I’m all for it. The overall effect is that the more you learn the level, the easier time you’ll have overcoming the endless hordes.

Now if this all sounds a lot like Left 4 Dead… well it is very similar. The major difference is the aforementioned focus on melee combat. While Left 4 Dead 2 used melee as an optional replacement for your sidearm, melee is the bread and butter for most characters in Vermintide 2. In service of that, the melee combat system is far more robust. You’ll have to learn to alternate between heavy and light attacks, block, dodge, and even what body parts to hit. On top of that, weapons have certain properties like armor piercing and high stagger. Even more on top of that, certain attacks have different applications of those properties. If you have a halberd, you’ll have to learn the difference between your sweeping attacks and your piercing jab attacks. The elf and Bright Wizard are more ranged focused, but the basic principles of knowing what your attacks do and which moves pierce armor still apply.

Vermintide 2

Oh shiiiiiii-

This is all just the basic overview of what Vermintide 2 is, but that’s basically all you need to know to have a good time. The game gets far more complex, but there’s a very primal satisfaction to be had in chopping your way through hordes of rats. In terms of just jumping in and having fun, the game is incredibly accessible. Anyone can understand the concept of pushing the attack button to remove heads from shoulders. Delving into the game’s complexity beyond that is really up to you.

Vermintide 2

I have come to grasp the fundamentals of the flail/rat face relationship

If you do delve into it, you’ll find a hidden layer of challenge and reward that sets Vermintide 2 far above the competition. First off are the hidden tomes and grimoires. In every level there are three tomes and two grimoires hidden somewhere. These spots can be incredibly difficult to suss out, requiring excessive collectible hunting motivation to find them on your own. This can be a bit of a challenge when there’s an endless horde of rats nipping at your heels. In reality, you’ll probably just Google the locations and memorize them before the start of each map. Just knowing where they are isn’t all there is to it. Some are quite difficult to reach even if you know where they are, hidden behind jumping puzzles that are a bitch and a half. If you do pick them up, they will make your journey even harder. Tomes replace your potion slot—meaning that you cannot take a potion with you, not that you cannot ever heal again—and grimoires reduce your entire team’s max HP by 33% each. Collecting these prizes means more loot, but make sure your team knows their shit before you try one of these difficult challenge runs.

Now this is all stuff that was also in Vermintide. More of the same can be good when it’s well done, and Vermintide 2 is certainly well done. What makes Vermintide 2 a cut above the original is the new leveling system. Each character now levels individually, unlocking new traits and classes. There are 30 levels of traits to unlock, and two extra “careers” for each of the five characters. Each character levels individually, but loot boxes can be carried over between characters to make the grind a little easier. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of grind.

As a veteran of vanilla WoW, grind isn’t a dirty word to me. What matters is that the grind is leading towards something worth the time and effort. For Vermintide 2, that largely comes in the form of the different careers. More than just a visual change, careers can radically alter how your character plays. I’ve put the most time into Markus “Vanilla Ice Cream on a Waffle Cone” Kruber, as I like melee bruisers and I’ll be damned if I play a dwarf. Upon reaching level 7, I unlocked the Huntsman class and the character switched into a ranged damage role with strong melee backup. Reach level 14, and you’ll become a Man at Arms, an even tankier melee dude with a dash attack. Each career has its own skill tree, and certain weapons that only it can use.

Vermintide 2

So while I won’t see many people grinding all five of the crew to level 30, there is a lot of value to your repeated runs. The permanent progression that the leveling offers is a great way to add reward on top of the gear drops. The downside to this is that it’s far more difficult to hop between classes. While gear was certainly a factor in your success in Vermintide, you could still pretty easily jump into a character you only had a few pieces of gear for and do reasonably well. As your strength is now determined by your level, it’s not so simple in Vermintide 2.

This is a good segway into my biggest overall criticism with the game: playing with random scrubs is unbearable. If I had the choice between sleeping in an Arizona bar dumpster during the summer and trudging through all of the levels with random people, then I’d be using garbage bags as a pillow. Between having to know the locations of the tomes/grimoires and knowing how to actually be good at the game, finding a proficient four man team comprised of random people is like watching the last white rhino get hit by a shooting star. Even in my three man team, we’d quickly write off the fourth random player as more of a liability. The AI is decent enough at shooting stuff, but won’t pick up any of the collectible goodies without some inconsistent trickery. So you can either waste your time in subpar games, or get a solid group without other life commitments. And given the amount of grind that’s in this game, finding that consistently is the four-leaf clover wreath left on the rhino’s grave.

Vermintide 2

Pictured: Most of my teammates, before asking why I didn’t back them up.

It’s a pretty major gripe in terms of my own personal enjoyment, but even in my most frothing moments of scrub-induced rage I couldn’t exactly fault the game for just being what it is. And what it is is excellent. A huge cut above other cooperate shooters, the edition of new chaos units and the leveling system makes Vermintide 2 replace Left 4 Dead as the industry standard. Cleaving hordes of skittering rats has never been so fun, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Here is where the review should end, but wait, there’s more! You can’t talk about Vermintide without mentioning the exceptional developer support. The original game was still cranking out patches, updates, and DLC years after its release. With Vermintide 2, Fatshark has already been on top of releasing a slew of balance changes, updates, fixes, and more. It’s only been a month since release (yes I know, this review is late), and they are on their third major quality of life improvement patch. As a game it was already excellent, but that kind of community interaction and developer support truly makes the game exceptional. It’s a game you should definitely buy, and a company you should be happy to support.

  • Game
4.5

Summary

Ridiculously fun combat and near infinite replayability combine to form the perfect rat-smashing package. The best co-op shooter on the market. The only downside is that there isn’t a really good way to play without a solid team. Get your friends together and waste away the weeks.

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Basket Case Blu-ray Review – Find Out What’s In Arrow’s Basket On This Definitive Release

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Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Lloyd Pace

Directed by Frank Henenlotter

Distributed by Arrow Video


Director Frank Henenlotter doesn’t boast a lengthy filmography but he is the rare director whose work is instantly recognizable and nearly every one of his pictures is a veritable cult classic. His decision to reject the studio system in favor of remaining in the dingy alleyways of independent cinema may have something to do with that limited output, but the films he has delivered are wildly original and patently weird – and it all began with a freak in a basket. Even Henenlotter must be astounded that he went from maximizing a $35,000 budget to film his debut, Basket Case (1982), to thirty-something years later seeing it lovingly restored in 4K by the Museum of Modern Art (and, boy, what a job they have done). Henenlotter’s films are pitch black comedic Cronenberg, taking body horror into the gutter and always ensuring his audience festers down there with it.

Duane Bradley (Kevin VanHentenryck) is an affable guy with boyish charm who has just arrived on the seedy streets of New York City with a wad of cash and a large wicker basket. His friendly nature and apparent naiveté belie the fact he has come to the city with a singular purpose – one with deadly intentions. Duane checks into a shitty room at Hotel Broslin and gets to work on his first task: tracking down a Dr. Needleman (Lloyd Pace). He succeeds and quickly heads downtown to meet the doctor, at first offering up his real name before deciding to use a pseudonym (Duane isn’t terribly bright). After blowing the doc’s mind with his body-length scar, Duane returns later that night, basket in tow, to pay the old “family friend” a visit and to answer the question on everyone’s lips: “What’s in the basket?”

The answer is Belial, Duane’s detached and deformed Siamese twin. Belial may be no larger than a basketball with T-Rex arms but what he lacks in stature he makes up for with brute physical strength and a savage bloodlust. Dr. Needleman is quickly torn to pieces and the duo begins to hunt down their next target. You see, Duane and Belial had a strong connection when they were younger and attached, one that included a psychic link that only Belial is now able to control, but after their father demanded an ad hoc team of doctors forcibly separate the two they’ve made it their mission to kill everyone involved in the surgery. Duane is committed to helping his brother complete their task, but he’s also trying to live a normal life – something Belial doesn’t understand. When Duane meets Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), suddenly his dynamic with Belial begins to shift, and when Belial gets angry it usually means one thing: someone is going to die.

Rex Reed famously called Basket Case “the sickest movie ever made!” and although sicker pictures had been produced before this (clearly Rex never ventured into Italian cannibal territory) he isn’t too far off the mark. It isn’t just about the buckets of blood Henenlotter spills here but the locations, too. Viewers will feel like a freshly steamed street vendor hot dog that’s been dropped into the gutter and kicked around for 90 minutes by the time the credits begin rolling. The squalor of early ‘80s NYC permeates the screen and forces audiences into a sticky, unsavory world. Henenlotter brings viewers to the underside of his “backyard” in a cinéma vérité style reminiscent of Abel Ferrara.

But also, there is a lot of gore. And grue. The bloodletting seen here reminded me of low-budget schlock like Blood Feast, where the filmmakers try to cover up cheaply done effects using lots of little bits – intended to be flesh, bone, skin, etc. – and the result is like chunky blood red mashed potatoes. It just looks sick. Belial kills with impunity and a complete disregard for suffering, often leaving his victims mutilated beyond recognition.

Henenlotter brings Belial to life via a handful of mediums. There is a puppet, a head appliance that is able to have a physical person bring facial life to Belial, and then there is the stop-motion animation, which is always a joy to see on screen no matter how crudely it may be rendered. The craftsmanship just oozes off the screen; you can’t not love it. Nearly every scene with Belial in attack mode strains belief that this thing could do much more than gnaw at some ankles but, hey, that’s the magic of movies.

One thing that is surprising: pathos. Duane and Belial have the closest bond siblings ever could, literally attached at the hip, and the flashback sequence treats their relationship and eventual removal with a degree of respect and heartbreak that, frankly, made the film feel much more tragic. I’m not saying viewers will be moved to tears but it’s a testament to Henenlotter that in the middle of all this death and dismemberment is a touching reminder of how these two came to be killers. Basket Case doesn’t hit the insane heights of my favorite Henenlotter picture, Brain Damage, but it does offer up a bit more heart alongside so much head-ripping.

Although Basket Case has been issued on Blu-ray a couple of times, this is the debut of MoMA’s 4K restoration and, just as you might suspect, it smokes every previous release. It would be easy to forget this no-budget feature was shot on 16mm because the clean-up of dirt and debris, as well as the finessing of film grain, has left the 1.33:1 1080p picture looking immaculate. Colors appear lifelike and rich, striking new life into the glitz of Times Square and the ever-present flow of blood. Black levels are excellent; deeply dark and never hazy. Soft shots abound, inherent to the source, but many close-ups and the handful of 35mm blow-up shows included in this transfer offer up strong definition and minute details. I can’t imagine the film could or will look any better, ever – and really, it shouldn’t. Clean as this picture is, it still retains enough grit and roughness to maintain its grindhouse aesthetic.

An English LPCM 1.0 mono track delivers the audio, which is free from hissing and other deficiencies, offering a finessed and simple delivery of the lo-fi soundfield. Gus Russo’s score bounces between moody keyboard synth cues and upbeat jazzy tunes that come into play when Duane has his big date. Scoring is minimal but effective when present. Also, expect to hear lots and lots and lots of screaming. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

Two audio commentary tracks have been included; the first, an all-new track featuring Fran Henenlotter and Kevin Van Hentenryck; the second, a legacy track with Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, actress Beverly Bonner, and filmmaker Scooter McRae.

“Basket Case 3 ½: An Interview with Duane Bradley” is a fun short by Henenlotter in which he and a film crew head out to meet Bradley (Van Hentenryck) and interview him about life with Belial in present day, with an appearance by his diminutive double (naturally).

“Me & the Bradley Boys” is a new interview with Kevin Van Hentenryck, reflecting back on working with Henenlotter and making a cult classic.

“A Brief Interview with director Frank Henenlotter” is a weird, goofy thing that captures the director’s sense of humor, whether he’s in it or not.

“Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins” is a sit-down with twin actresses Florence and Maryellen Shultz, who play the nurses in the film.

“Blood, Basket and Beyond” is a new interview with co-star Beverly Bonner, who has apparently taken her character outside the film world and into theater.

“The Latvian Connection” features interviews with a few of the film’s key personnel who share a heritage.

“Belial Goes to the Drive-In” is a great new interview with legendary film critic Joe Bob Briggs, who was a key figure in helping the film gain traction upon release.

“Basket Case at MoMA” is a lengthy Q&A from the film’s 2017 premiere.

“What’s in the Basket?” is a feature-length documentary that covers all three films in the series. This was previously seen on the Second Sight U.K. trilogy set, which is still available.

“In Search of the Hotel Broslin” has Henenlotter and his guest, R.A. “The Rugged Man”, searching out the remaining locations from the film, occasionally getting shut down along the way.

“Basket Case Outtakes” is a reel of quick, cut clips along with brief text descriptions.

“The Frission of Fission” is a video essay by Travis Crawford on freaks and twins in cinema, with emphasis placed on Basket Case.

Image galleries are included for Promotional Stills, Behind the Scenes, Ephemera, Advertisements, and Home Video Releases.

A promo gallery contains trailers, a TV spot, and radio spots.

The Slash of the Knife (1972) is a mock PSA short film made by Henenlotter and starring many familiar faces from Basket Case, about the dangers of the uncircumcised in America. It is available with optional commentary by Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga. Outtakes and an image gallery for the short are also included.

Belial’s Dream is an animated short inspired by Basket Case. A featurette, “Making Belial’s Dream” is also included.

The package also includes a booklet with writings on the film, as well as reversible cover art and a basket-themed slipcover. All in all, a stellar release from Arrow Video.

Special Features:

  • Brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Uncompressed Mono Audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck
  • Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – Frank Henenlotter revisits Duane Bradley decades after the events of the original Basket Case
  • Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – a brand new interview with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from Basket Case
  • Brand new making-of featurette containing new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals
  • Blood, BASKET and Beyond – a brand new interview with actress Beverly Bonner
  • Belial Goes to the Drive-In – a brand new interview with film critic Joe Bob Briggs
  • Outtakes Featurette
  • In Search of the Hotel Broslin – archive location featurette
  • Slash of the Knife (1972) – short film by Frank Henenlotter
  • Belial’s Dream (2017, 5 mins) – brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan
  • Behind-the-scenes of Belial’s Dream
  • Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots
  • Extensive Still Galleries
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold
  • Basket Case
  • Special Features
4.3

Summary

Basket Case might be a dingy and gruesome slice of subterranean cinema but this excellent release from Arrow, touting the stunning 4K restoration by MoMA and packed with hours of awesome bonus features, is the kind of treatment Criterion usually provides. Highly recommended.

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Us and Them Review – Fantastic Acting Bolsters a Tense Standoff

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Starring Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun

Written by Joe Martin

Directed by Joe Martin


The age old debate of “Is this movie actually horror?” has been around for decades and will probably carry on for the rest of eternity. As Kristy Puchko recently tweeted, “Just because you think it’s also art doesn’t mean it’s not horror. It just means your definition of “horror” is too damn narrow.” Horror should be able to cast a wide net, just as films in the comedy and drama genres are able to. Where that goes awry is when a film simply doesn’t know its own identity, as is the case with Joe Martin’s feature-length directorial debut Us and Them.

The film follows Danny (Roth), a young man struggling in his lower class status and bristling with untapped rage at the 1% who use the downtrodden as footstools for their enterprises. Hatching a plan with his pals Tommy and Sean to break into the home of a wealthy banker, that scheme quickly becomes unraveled as thread after thread beings unraveling from the original tapestry. Determined but without a Plan B, Danny attempts to use the opportunity to drive home a message to the masses via social media to show that the 99% need to rise up against the 1% and create, as he says, some consistency. But as tensions arise within Danny, Tommy, and Sean, it’s questionable whether or not the night will end in triumphant rebellion or sadistic revenge.

Clocking in at a lean 83 minutes, Us and Them doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. Within the first few minutes, we’re already deep mix and ready to watch Danny take on the “man”, to see him wage war against the establishment. But as the film goes on, his mission begins to feel empty as his lack of a plan is mirrored by the misdirection of his anger towards a family that, for all intents and purposes, might be snobbish but haven’t been shown to hurt anyone personally.

This resulting conflict then raises questions about the greater fight that Danny has decided to undertake and champion. Who is the real villain of this story? Who is the hero? Who are we even supposed to care one bit about? While Danny spouts on and on about the injustices of the world, his tortuous methods are cruel and manipulative, undermining his own self-righteousness.

Us and Them practically screams its Ritchie, Tarantino, and de Palma influences. From split screen scenes to “hip” and “cool” licensed background music, Martin clearly wants to be seen in the same realm. The problem is that his script leaps around with reckless abandon in an attempt to overly explain the simple story instead of finding ways to break it into new and exciting territory.

Despite these issues, it must be said that the performances are fantastic across the board. Roth shines as Danny, torn by his own personal griefs that can easily draw sympathy, while Bentinck’s almost frothing, slobbering disdain splashes across the screen. Even with only a few lines each, both Colquhoun as Phillipa and Carolyn Backhouse, who plays her mother, Margaret, revel in their terror. And while I have my critiques about the violence Danny inflicts, I cannot deny that it is brutal and makes for a squeamish experience. Martin milks every drop of the family’s fear to great effect.

While Us and Them comes at a time when financial inequality is undeniably an issue, the film loses its purpose just as it fails to cement itself as a heist thriller, a horror home invasion, or even a black comedy. Its unwillingness to embrace any, or even all, of these genres makes it a lacking film experience.

  • Us and Them
2.5

Summary

Us and Them is anchored by stellar performances, Roth especially, but it can’t decide what it wants to be or whom it wants to champion.

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