Case Number 16378: Small Claims Court


Anchor Bay // 2007 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // May 15th, 2009

The Charge

You never know who's watching.

The Case

Imagine an indie drama shot completely from the point of view of cameras in malls, dressing rooms, school parking lots, ATM machines, grocery stores, cop cars, elevators, offices, storage rooms and cell phones. Look has one central gimmick coupled with a good idea behind it. The entire feature is filmed to appear as if video surveillance cameras are fueling the narrative, so we are supposedly watching several stories unfold before us in the "real world" environment modern security has created. George Orwell would have loved it, and shouted "See! I told you!" Big Brother seems to have nothing on this concept of eyes always trained on our every exploit no matter how mundane. What a cool concept. Unfortunately, the movie's dramatic moments are not as slick and well executed as the premise.

Director Adam Rifkin (Underdog) says he was inspired to make Look, after he received an automated traffic ticket while running a red light. Included with the citation was a photograph of the writer and director making a silly face thinking nobody was looking. It made him begin to think about cameras and how often they are taping us even when we are mild mannered law abiding citizens. The film begins with text claiming the average American is caught on camera over 200 times a day. Look stars nobody you've ever heard of, and it appears like a Robert Altman project or a Crash wannabe. At the end of the day Look shares most in common with George Romero's Diary of the Dead given the sensationalized nature of the scenarios presented. It opens with two teenage girls trying on clothes in a dressing room. They strip down to thong panties and tease each other about goofy things like the state of their butts. Then one of the girls decides to shoplift, and stuffs her shirt with unpaid for merchandise. We're torn between titillation, guilt, and a hope they will get caught just like Winona Ryder did that fateful day when she was caught on tape in an upscale department store. Things get more and more outrageous as we see a store clerk fondle all of his coworkers, a student seduce her teacher, and we follow a pedophile as he stalks his prey in a mall. Heck, even John Landis shows up in a cameo to make us wonder where a movie ends and the real world begins.

The transfer is hard to judge when you consider it is shot from strange angles and made to resemble found footage. It's a widescreen look at stuff supposedly captured from God's-eye views, and blurs and fuzziness are part of the whole design. Rifkin admits he wanted to shoot everything from actual security cameras, but instead opted for a traditional HD shoot with a degrading process done in post production. It was the easiest way to insure footage was useable and sound was clear. The pictures look too clear to be tapes taken right off a security camera, but that's part of it.

Anchor Bay gives Look excellent supplement treatment for a film that made festival rounds primarily without much of a traditional theatrical run. They've provided a lively audio commentary from writer/director Adam Rifkin, two of his producing partners, and one of the lead actors. There is a collection of deleted and alternate scenes, as well as a series of outtakes. A behind the scenes featurette rounds out the robust extras package which is accompanied by a trailer and tv spot. Certainly this is a great set of extras for a feature, and Anchor Bay deserves a lot of credit for lavishing all this on a small budget project.

Adam Rifkin has certainly delivered a film that plays with conventional structure quite well, and one that offers us something not seen before. The grand experiment works to make us feel like voyeurs, and this is the rare flick that is made even creepier at home. The video format works well for this material, and experiencing Look on DVD is the way to go. In the end, the film's gimmick is what is genius about it and at the same time does it in. We follow all of these sensationalized plots, and it begins to feel too fabricated to work as found footage. It's funny and titillating, but the actors seem to be far too aware of the cameras. Also there are way too many fart jokes to make it feel even slightly truthful. In the end the film is a slave to its own idea, and one wonders what could happen if a filmmaker really did use only surveillance cameras to make a feature. It certainly wouldn't look or sound this polished, and in the end that is what makes us feel safe watching Look. It feels artificial, and that makes it a whole lot safer than it should be.

The Verdict

Guilty of being a neat idea, but an unruly mess of too many sensationalistic plots. Look is a fascinating experiment that goes awry in the execution, but wins points for feeling like something new.

Review content copyright © 2009 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile
Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurette
* Outtakes
* Trailer
* TV Spot

* IMDb