Case Number 15186: Small Claims Court


Genius Products // 2008 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 9th, 2008

The Charge

Murder is an art form.

The Case

Meet Stan the detective (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man). He's a pretty smart guy, renowned for his ability to track serial killers. His most infamous case, unfortunately, ended without closure, but that hasn't stopped him from being the go-to guy for the latest wacko...and he's a live one, this guy. The unknown murderer has taken his killings and transformed them into art pieces. Quite literally. The bodies are positioned with artistic panache and a few of the crime scenes are interactive, forcing Stan to take part in the creation of art.

He's befuddled and not reaching out to his partner (Scott Speedman, The Strangers), who continually attempts to help. As each crime scene grows more and more gruesome and more and more personal, Stan will have to call upon all of his talents to reveal the identity of the killer -- even if it means he may become part of the exhibit. Permanently.

That synopsis makes the movie sound pretty cool, huh? While there are some decent ideas at work in Anamorph and it's a sure-fire visual treat, the experience can't quite stick the landing. Tedious and plodding, the pacing hamstrings the momentum, right out of the gate. I get that director H.S. Miller is trying to generate tension and does succeed in crafting an atmosphere of the unknown, but his snail-paced stylistic approach grinds the narrative to a halt. My guess is there were a lot of moments in the script that read: "Willem Dafoe Looks Pensive," because that's what he does -- stares off into space, usually while riding on a boat or something.

Stan's relationship with his partner never goes anywhere interesting, short-changing Speedman something fierce. His character seems to be necessary for only one purpose: To bail out Stan, when the script calls for it, in the film's most egregious plot contrivance.

The real disappointment is the wrap-up. A movie like this, that hangs its hat primarily on the reveal, while the plot twists and eventual head-to-head with the killer has a lot riding on the follow-through. Anamorph fumbles the ball in crunch time, giving us an unsatisfactory Final Bad Guy face-off, a last-minute and borderline nonsensical Big Twist and, frankly, a boring psycho.

Again, bummer, because there are some truly cool moments in the flick. The murder scenes are fascinating and disturbing, Peter Stormare is boffo in a pivotal role, and the idea of the twist -- it's all about perspective man! -- was nifty. But ultimately, it was all for naught. Anamorph fails to distinguish itself from the rest of its direct-to-DVD psychological thriller brethren.

The DVD is lean, but the video quality (2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen) is impressive and the audio mix (Dolby Digital 5.1) is solid. Extras: A nice making-of featurette and one deleted scene.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile
Studio: Genius Products
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurette
* Deleted Scene

* IMDb