A Thousand Cuts (2012) Review

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The debate over violence created by media has been a long and arduous one. It’s been fought in schools, churches, congress, and apparently little indy films such as A Thousand Cuts. Unfortunately, A Thousand Cuts isn’t a commentary on the state of the mentally ill in this country or the over-simplification of issues created by politicians, lobbyists and the news. Instead this is a hateful little film that wants to be a hell of a lot more clever than it ultimately ends up being thanks to the poorly thought-out writing.

A Thousand Cuts follows around narcissistic horror director Lance, played by Michael Newcomer, doing his best Ewan McGregor impression. The film opens on an overly long party scene where Lance drinks, harasses women, and brags about how much money his “A Thousand Cuts” franchise has made. The party is interrupted by a blackout, during which a sparkler with a picture of Lance’s dead mother appears. Lance is understandably angry, but not enough to let the party stop, that is, until another blackout turns out to somehow be the last straw. After all the attendees clear out, the only two people left are Lance and the electrician Frank (Michael O’Keefe). Lance invites Frank in for a drink and as the two talk, Lance slowly realizes that Frank may be up to something. He tries to leave, but Frank pulls a gun on him and explains Lance needs to be punished for causing the death of Frank’s daughter: Susan.

Thus begins the action for the next hour of the film: these two talking. Frank threatens that Melanie, Lance’s sister who Frank has locked away, will run out of oxygen before the cops could find out where she is. Stuck in a standoff, the two slowly exposit their backgrounds and debate whether Lance is at fault for Susan’s death. Susan was murdered by a serial killer inspired by Lance’s films and although Lance followed the trial, he never publicly apologized or stopped making films.

This is the argument that the film is very obviously making. Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about the consequences of its actions and while they are most certainly not to blame for the crimes of serial killers like the one in the film, that doesn’t mean they’re not assholes about it. The idea of making stupid movies for a general audience is also a major theme as during the party scene there are continual references to how you either make movies that sell or get critical acclaim. This angst against the state of film indicates that the filmmakers here are fresh out of college. On top of that, this film is amateur in how it’s made, written, acted, etc… and there are many lines of dialogue that make mention of snooty graduate students or how USC is the biggest school in California. Lance even got his idea for “A Thousand Cuts” from an artistic short film he made that clearly was too pretentious for modern audiences.

The film climaxes with a timid screenwriter (who had previously shown up to give Lance his script) returning to give him the correct draft. He unties Lance and Lance quickly finds out that all of Frank’s plans turned out to be fake. Melanie was in the other room, gagged up and he hadn’t done anything to her. In desperation, Frank tries to kill Melanie, forcing Lance to shoot him. When asked “Why?”, Frank replies “I wanted you to feel what it’s like to actually kill someone,” before expiring. This is completely inconsistent with the actions of the character up to this point, making this idiotic ending the bow on top of a poorly written, paced, and thought-out script.

I make it a point to never hate films, as they’re are made with passion and love by the filmmakers, no matter how bad they are. That is, except for films that have some kind of palpable disdain for someone or something. I hated Chain Letter because it hated technology and my generation, and I hate A Thousand Cuts because it hates Hollywood with all of the passion that it claims that Hollywood has towards the critical audience. Not only is it insulting to say that the masses will consume any garbage you put in front of them, but it’s idiotic to spread hatred against the people you’re pissed at for hating you. An actual criticism of Hollywood or commentary on the violence in our society “caused” by media would make for an interesting movie, but A Thousand Cuts does nothing but regurgitate the same arguments we’ve heard about violent movies before and re-portray the Hollywood assholes that have existed in film for decades. I’ll admit that it sticks to its morals by having little violence in it, but all that makes for is a boring and anti-climactic film that isn’t worth anybody’s time.

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Chain Letter (2010) Review


A maniac murders teens when they refuse to forward chain mail.-imdb.com

In an attempt to come up with a horror movie that would actually scare this generation, I stumbled across the concept of using our technology against us. The idea of being hounded or even abandoned by this crutch of life would, if played right, make for some good scares or at least a thought provoking story. Deon Taylor, director of Chain Letter, has taken this concept and twisted into an old man’s rant at teens for their “new-fangled technobizzy” then proceeded to shit all over it and smash it to a pulp not unlike how I want this film to look after I get my hands on it. Chain Letter is a poorly made, mean-spirited mess of a movie that fails to live up to its pretentious message.

Now for being a 2010 low budget horror film called Chain Letter one should not expect the acting to be good or the characters developed. And believe me, expectations are met, however one would expect that the teenagers would look less like they were fresh out of college and more like they are oh… I don’t know… high school students! The accentuated racks on these “girls” are only rivaled by those in High School of the Dead and the men have facial hair that should be in an Old Spice commercial. The characters are… big shocker… fucking obnoxious! It’s that annoying cliché that has continued to survive through this decade where we refuse to develop people we actually care about and rather have targets that we can enjoy seeing getting slaughtered. The writers and directors always seem to forget that we have to spend a whole movie with these people, and the best they can offer in compensation is someone so bland they leave no impression at all, rather then a bad one. The movie is adequately made, but its more artistic flairs are all annoying. The overuse of chains. The overly long title sequence. That’s used twice. Seizure inducing cutaways that in a TV show would signal a commercial break. Special effects that awkwardly alternate between goofy and grotesque. These continually failed attempts to be stylistic end up getting no more of a reaction then a raised eyebrow and a disgruntled sigh.

Where this film ultimately and truly fails is the writing, both in the plotting and its message. Taylor seems to be using the anti-technology motivations of the killer not to satirically promote technology or provide a cautionary tale, but rather as a scorning of the current generation for being so arrogant. This mean-spiritedness, whether it was intended or not, is interwoven throughout and as a member of that generation I was taken out of the movie by it. I don’t needed to be ranted at that I’ve lost so much privacy and that I’m trusting the internet too much and that I can be tracked with my phone and that every bit of personal data could be stolen by a hacker. I’m aware of the consequences of my actions on the internet and a good chunk of my generation are too. Don’t get me wrong there are still plenty of people who act like complete assholes on the internet or bully or what-have-you, but they at least know that hey, I could get hacked. The idiocy of all the characters that “abuse” technology and the outstanding cleverness of those who don’t (yet do since they use it to start the chain letter) is a marked indicator of this, but odds are I’m just reading too much into amateur writing.

I dislike my generation, but to see us represented by a director who has no idea how teenagers act is weirdly insulting. The concept of a video game lounge, studying at an arcade and two girls calling each other “slut” and “bitch” are all the exceptions, not the rule when it comes to any generation, not just ours. We’re not all spoiled rich kids, and for someone who “is up to date on the state of technology” you would think that he would notice that it’s actually the opposite with the state of the economy. If it weren’t for these grandiose claims about technology and generalizations that are made, I wouldn’t care about any of this stuff but, like plot holes, you notice these things when the movie can’t get you to be immersed in it. In fact the very premise of how the killer operates seems nonsensical, after all how is it that those who blindly follow technology and just forward chain mail are those worthy to live? And as for surviving the email, why wouldn’t you just forward the chain mail to people in a foreign country? The killer’s not there now is he? But nooooo that would be far too much logic for these idiotic characters and this idiotic movie.

Chain Letter is not worth your time, unless you feel like being condescended to by a toddler. The pretentiousness required by a filmmaker to put a Nietzsche quote before their low budget email slasher movie is ridiculous. The plot is inadequate, requiring complete stupidity from characters to push it along. Luckily there’s a large supply of that thanks to the either boring or obnoxious over-age cast. The message is convoluted, exploiting serious issues in today’s society just so it can shit all over them. Don’t watch this, and don’t let your friends watch this, it’s not even riffable and for a slasher film, that’s saying a lot.