Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Snarking on "Devour" (the movie)

(Warning: long post)

This weekend, I watched a little direct-to-video horror movie called “Devour”. The opening sequence was done…well…carelessly enough that I immediately pulled out my trusty steno pad – the one I usually use when reading and reviewing books – and started taking notes.

Our POV character is Jake, a college student played by Jensen Ackles (who really needs a new agent/manager/career-advice-giver/whatever because he is much better than this material). Jake and his two friends, Conrad and Dakota, start playing a sinister on-line game called The Pathway, and bad things begin to occur. Conrad and Dakota both take revenge on others who have wronged them and then mutilate and kill themselves. Conrad also signed Jake up for the game, and Jake is having strange waking dreams and is worried about his own future. Meanwhile, he meets a woman through his job at a computer store and with whom he starts a relationship. Jake has to figure out what is going on to save himself.

The movie was disjointed. In the first half, Jake is kind of a hapless and confused character to whom things just happen. Then in the second half, he starts actually doing something, and the movie turns into an episode of Supernatural…except without the snappy dialogue.

My urge to snark the movie is overwhelming, so… (Warning! Spoilers follow.)

What caused my search for paper products after the opening scene? Jake is out in the woods hunting, carrying only a rifle and wearing a camo jacket. Not a speck o’ orange in sight. And less than five minutes on Google confirmed that yes, Washington does require hunter orange to be worn. But jeez, it’s also common sense. Jake is not carrying any kind of pack with the various useful items one needs while hunting – knife, rope, water to wash your hands off with when you’re done gutting the animal, emergency provisions, etc. It would have been really easy (read: cheap) to make this scene look more realistic. I had to watch it twice to make sure that the opening wasn’t part of one of Jake’s waking dreams (it’s not).

During the opening sequence, Jake shoots a cat...which snarls at him before it charges him. Unfortunately, in the real world, cats don't announce their presence. They quietly stalk their prey and knock them down, usually from behind. Read any account of a cat/human encounter in the wild. The first quote from the survivor usually, "I didn't even hear it coming." (I had considered not mentioning this faux pas, but then while looking for a link about cougar attacks, I found out that Vancouver -- where this movie was filmed -- actually has one of the highest rates of cougar attacks on humans in North America. So someone should have known better.)

In a scene a bit later, Jake and Conrad are smoking dope. At least, I think they are smoking dope. The dialogue seems to indicate that, but the actors (and this is one of the rare times you will hear me criticize Jensen Ackles’ acting, because I think he’s generally quite talented) were doing such crappy job of it, that I leaned over to my sister and said, “Aren’t they supposed to be smoking dope?” Here’s a dope smoker: inhale, hold breath for 5-10 seconds, exhale, talk, inhale, hold breath for 5-10 seconds and talk in a really pinched voice if absolutely necessary, exhale. Here’s a cigarette smoker and our actors: inhale, exhale, talk, inhale, exhale, talk. It's a very distinctive difference.

The relationship between Jake and Dakota is unclear. I think it could be described as “friends with privileges”, since Jake apparently has no qualms starting a relationship with the mystery woman shortly after having sex with Dakota (in a rather awkwardly staged scene IMO).

Aah, the mystery woman, Marisol. Jake meets Marisol when she brings her laptop in to be repaired. Jake extracts a piece of red wax from computer, and Marisol says “Oh, I burn candles when I read tarot cards.” Of course. Why use a $5 plate as a candle holder when you can use $800 laptop instead?

Conrad shoots two people in a dorm one night, and the first person to find the bodies the next day is Jake. The next day. No one heard the gun shots? In a dorm?

A character mentions burying an animal’s remains, when he clearly means burying the internal organs and other items removed during the process of field dressing an animal.

In a scene where Jake confronts his drunk father, the dialogue is right out of an After School Special (how many remember those? I think I just dated myself). Meaning it’s cliché and predictable.

Marisol finds a dismembered finger in…anyone, anyone…a cup of french fries. **cough**The Hitcher**cough. I’m not sure whether to call it an homage or a rip-off.

Jake makes two “what you do not smell” leaps of logic – one concerning a gun and one concerning the nature of the big bad.

In a little bit of stunt casting, probably unintentional given the mess that is the rest of the movie, Martin Cummins has two scenes as one of the bad guys – including a scene with Jake. Unfortunately, this immediately threw me out of the movie because all I can see is Ames White and MmmAlec.

And so on…

I won’t give away the ending, but let’s just say that I’m glad I got this through Netflix and didn’t pay extra to rent it.

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