Alternative Tentacles // 1999 // 79 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // March 18th, 2011
"I've got a surprise, honey, we're going for doughnuts!"
It may only be March, but if I were to see a worse film than The Widower this year, I'd be extremely surprised -- not to say desperately unlucky. A black comedy (apparently), The Widower is a film desperate for cult status. Sure, most of the ingredients for an underground hit are present, from its quirky setup, cast of oddball characters, and "WTF?" moments. However, there's nothing of substance to be found, meaning that this tale of endless love, insanity, homosexual cops, and doughnuts soon goes from being simply appalling to downright annoying. I doubt many will sit through the film in its entirety, save for the poor saps tasked with reviewing it.
For Milton Smythe (Shawn Milsted), death is not the end. Sure, his wife (K. Ramona Orr) may have passed away some time ago, but that doesn't mean she can't still keep him company. You see, Milton agreed to be with his wife forever, and that's just what he plans to do. Unfortunately his wife's rotting corpse is starting to stink the place up, arousing the suspicions of a nosy neighbor who reports the odd goings on to a pair of bumbling detectives. If that weren't enough, Milton's sanity is starting to suffer, which sees him frequently conversing with his wife, while nighttime brings bizarre nightmares.
The film moves along at a snail's pace, meaning that even at a mere 79 minutes, the film outstays its welcome by a good, oh, 70 minutes. The Widower plays out as a series of poorly conceived sketches, with nothing of incident to note, and no narrative arc to speak of. Much like the plot, the characters really begin to grate after only a short spell in their company.
The acting, in keeping with the rest of this tawdry production, is utterly abysmal. The cast, to their credit, seems to be in tune with the film's "quirky" vibe, but their performances suggest little time was spent on retakes. Not helping matters is Ed Kedzierski's screenplay, which fails to find any real direction with its central premise. The film isn't dark enough to be classified as horror, and lacks even a single laugh, meaning any claims to being a comedy are easily rebuffed. Compounding matters is Marcus Rogers' direction, which is flat, languid, and lacking even a hint of a signature style that might mark him out as a potential talent.
As for the DVD itself: picture quality is poor, with a soft image that lacks much detail. Colors are dull, while darker scenes are riddled with noise. The stereo soundtrack is a little better, with dialogue clear at all times; that said the mix lacks range. Along with the film, the package also contains the film's soundtrack on CD. While this would normally be a welcome addition, the music featured is as dreary as the movie itself. The extras on the DVD kick off with a making of. With a movie this bad, it's always a guilty pleasure to see the misplaced belief the cast and crew have in the picture. Along with a few production stills and a music video, the disc also features the original black-and-white short that begat The Widower. Hardly an improvement, its reduced running time at least makes it more bearable.
It's never nice to slate a film, particularly one from a first-time director, but The Widower fails on every conceivable level. I simply detest this movie, and am struggling to think of a film I've seen that comes close to the levels of despair The Widower drove me to. Please, for the sake of all that is holy, avoid this movie. You don't need this in your lives.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Alternative Tentacles
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film
* Music Video