Saturday, May 19, 2012

Film Review: 388 Arletta Avenue ?

Found footage films started out as a product of independent cinema but they have now grown into a major studio money maker. Not wanting to be left out of the party they ?started?, independent studios are sadly still in the found footage business. Almost by necessity, found footage films have a purposely low budget look and feel to them that blurs the line between an independently made film and a film produced by a major studio. 388 Arletta Avenue isn?t a good film but it succeeds in one spectacular way, it proves that bad found footage films can be released from studios both big and small.

James and Amy (Nick Stahl & Mia Kirshner) live at 388 Arletta Avenue. They?re an average young married couple; their relationship isn?t perfect but they?re in love and trying to make a life with each other. Unbeknownst to them they are being watched through the lenses of dozens of hidden cameras that a mysterious stalker has placed throughout their home. James and Amy?s lives are quickly torn apart by the escalating forms of terror that the stalker enlists.

Disappointingly, 388 Arletta Avenue isn?t nearly as exciting as my brief synopsis makes it out to be. It is neither scary nor thrilling and actually turns out to be quite boring since most of the film is spent watching Nick Stahl pace around and act inappropriately guilty. From the moment the studio logos disappear we?re brought into the videotaped world of James and Amy. They are watched by a mysterious figure that not only records them from his or her own camera but also sets up numerous cameras in their home, car, and office. What starts off as simple pranks like making oldies mix CDs and putting them into James? car quickly become more serious as Amy disappears with hardly a trace. This may sound semi-interesting but the way it?s told is infuriating since it?s usually told through a series of fishbowl lense cameras. Shot after shot is just Nick Stahl walking around the house asking the same question over and over, ?Is anyone there??

Making matters worse is that James lives in an intelligence vacuum devoid of rational thought; repeatedly he makes the most illogical decisions that turn an improbable story into a ludicrous farce. Every time there?s a decision to be made James makes the wrong choice. Whenever he?s presented with an opportunity to help his own situation he does whatever the script requires to make that situation worse and prolong the torment.

Adding to the misery is a pointless plotline involving Bill (Devon Sawa), a victim of James? ruthless bullying as a child that James is trying to make amends with. Equally irrelevant is Amy?s sister who runs the full gamut of being nothing more than a loud mouth who screams ?Where?s Amy?? Both James and Amy?s sister are worried about her disappearance but neither will actually talk rationally with the other which inevitably leads to the clich? ridden ending that will shock absolutely no one.

The characters are neither interesting nor are they likable. James is unsympathetic, Amy is hardly seen, Bill is a time waster, and everyone else looks on with disapproving looks of worry. The most interesting character is shrouded in mystery but even if he had turned out to be the ghost of Jack the Ripper it wouldn?t have saved this film from mediocrity.

Nick Stahl has done some interesting work and deserves better than being stuck in a forgettable found footage mess such as this. 388 Arletta Avenue doesn?t bring anything new to a genre that?s already starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel, nor does it succeed as a thriller or horror film. If you see 388 Arletta Avenue on your cinematic map in your near future you might want to just keep driving.

388 Arletta Avenue makes its US Theatrical Debut at the Gateway Film Center on May 18, 2012.

Be sure to check out my review of Sacha Baron Cohen?s newest film The Dictator at Movies Hate You Too.

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