E1 Entertainment // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // March 19th, 2010
This is going to hurt...just a little.
David DeCoteau has been putting out low- or no-budget fluffy male erotica for more than 20 years. While his first forays were hardcore porn, he eventually settled into a far softer mainstream vein, cranking out films with barely there plots that featured actors in barely there costumes. His greatest (for lack of a better word) achievement is a series called The Brotherhood. These films tell vaguely supernatural stories about guys who spend a lot of time in their underwear. There's not much to the plots, no real suspense or gore, but the idea of a walking, talking Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue apparently appeals to enough people that there have been six Brotherhood films thus far. DeCoteau has also given us a number of other DtV entries, including a few installments in the endless and futile Puppet Master series.
In the head-scratchingly titled Edgar Allen Poe's The Pit & the Pendulum, a bunch of "college jocks" -- and a couple of jockettes -- answer an ad looking for subjects for a hypnosis experiment. The goal of the experiment is to get the jocks to be able to work beyond their pain limits. Conducting the experiment is the mysterious JP Divay (Lorielle New, Grindhouse), daughter of a renowned -- yet unconventional -- hypnotherapist whose own experiments led to the demise of a few indigent patients.
They all hole up in a big house that used to be an asylum, and JP, using the old "look at my swinging pocketwatch" bit, puts them under and gets them to do things like lift weights and wrestle. Then, for no apparent reason, she kills them. These are awfully clean kills with nary a drop of blood.
The point here seems to be less about creating a thriller or an intriguing mystery than to make a movie about guys hopping around in their underwear. The machinations to get these boys out of their clothes are even less artful than the ones used by that porno guy to trick Irene Cara's actress girl in Fame. "We need to practice some hypnosis, so -- LET'S STRIP DOWN TO OUR UNDERWEAR!" "I'd like you to try wrestling your friend, so -- STRIP DOWN TO YOUR UNDERWEAR!" "Oh, I dropped something on your carpet, I'll just STRIP DOWN TO MY UNDERWEAR and clean it up!"
What do Poe, pit, and pendulum have to do with all this? Basically nothing. During the ludicrous "hypnosis" sessions, JP babbles something about a pit. The "pendulum" could either refer to the swinging pocketwatch or the big swinging blade that, for no apparent reason, gets trotted out at the end and used to ill effect.
While the actors all clearly have gym memberships, I'm not sure if they have SAG cards. Long dialogue scenes are presented with all the dynamism of a junior high production of Barefoot in the Park. As the transparently loony JP, New gives the closest thing to a performance, but it's not close enough. She's got a little Rebecca De Mornay circa The Hand That Rocks the Cradle thing going on, but this material is so lame, even having her dress up like a dominatrix and strangle an underwear-clad wrestler doesn't do the trick.
Tech-wise, it looks fine, kind of like a syndicated TV show, and the audio is perfectly acceptable. Besides a trailer, the lone extra is a behind-the-scenes number that shows DeCoteau directing a few scenes.
If you're a fan of other homoerotic literary adaptations -- like Nathaniel Hawthorne's Cruising or Upton Sinclair's But I'm a Cheerleader -- then this might fiddle your faddle.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated