Judge Mike Rubino is a remake of a Japanese horror film.
"What are you, a booster for the Romanian Rotary Club?"—Davis
So you've just landed your first big movie, and now you're finally ready to become a director. Congratulations! A word of caution: along with the joys of the creative process, you must also be prepared to deal with the wide variety of problems that may arise without warning. If your cast consists of a bunch of accident-prone drug addicts, make sure you get them insurance. If you're filming in a location likely to flood, make sure you not only insure your equipment but the location as well. And if you're filming a remake of a cursed silent film that was destroyed because of gypsy ghosts…consider working in television.
Facts of the Case
In the 1920s, filmmaker Bela Olt (Eli Roth, director of Hostel) tried to make a movie about an old gypsy legend. It didn't last very long: not soon after cameras began rolling, Olt was killed and the whole production vanished.
Flash forward to troubled aueteur Marcus Reed (Reshad Strik), who's dead set on filming the unmade gypsy movie because of his unhealthy obsession over an old production photo. The thing about Marcus is that he's something of a mystic himself. He gets seizures, has visions, and has a bit of clairvoyance, so his reputation for being kinda crazy certainly precedes him.
As production begins on the original film's soundstage in Transylvania, strange accidents and paranormal happenings crash the set (literally): stage lights fall on people, ghosts show up on film negatives, crew members suddenly turn on Marcus, and a pack of smelly flies start swarming. Didn't they mention something in film school about filming in Transylvania?
Don't Look Up is a remake of a 1996 Japanese horror film by Hideo Nakata (Ringu).
Don't Look Up is an East meets West affair as Japanese horror sensibilities merge with American monster aesthetics to form a swarming pile of mediocrity. Despite this, the familiar premise mixed with some surprising casting and direction may interest some hardcore (or very forgiving) horror fans.
The film's opening sequence, in which Eli Roth (still wearing that mustache from Inglourious Basterds) plays an old-timey filmmaker, is a fun bit of camp. Sadly, the rest of the film fails to match that tone. The 1920s flashback fades out of the movie, becoming one of Marcus Reed's many seizure-induced "visions." It's these very dreams that send Marcus to Transylvania in order to finish the forgotten gypsy movie. Along with him are a film crew of stereotypes including the lovable, Romanian wiseacre Grigore (Lothaire Bluteau, The Tudors), a milquetoast producer (Henry Thomas, E.T.), and a feisty lighting technician (Kevin Corrigan, Big Fan). As the film progresses, and their movie production becomes engulfed in odd accidents and curses, the Romanian crew gets picked off one by one in generally unimpressive fashion.
The idea of a theatrical production being cursed by an angry specter isn't necessarily new. Sometimes it's just a cranky janitor pretending to be a ghost and other times it's Nosferatu himself—regardless of the threat, the setup plays out the same. Don't Look Up does nothing to challenge this relatively basic premise. It establishes the gypsy ghost in the beginning of the film, plateaus in terms of horror, and maintains a boring pace the rest of the way. The film-within-the-film doesn't fair much better; it ambles along without a script or an actual story and never feels like a real production. I was beginning to think it only consisted of a single reaction shot, until Marcus throws in a gross birth scene seemingly inspired by Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
The film's campy nature may be a selling point for some, what with the Transylvanian setting, the inconsistent acting, and the cheesy dialogue, but it's not awful enough to fun. It's a mediocre sort of bad. Don't Look Up is the American debut for director Fruit Chan (Three…Extremes), but he does little to set himself apart from other direct-to-DVD horror films. I can only hope that this will lead to better projects for the well-regarded director.
At least Don't Look Up comes with a serviceable audio/video presentation. While the film never looks spectacular—the CGI flies and silent film stock look as fake as can be—it never looks completely low budget. The audio is clear and the orchestral soundtrack elevates the mood the best it can. The DVD comes with a fairly in-depth "making of" featurette with plenty of cast and crew interviews, including some insightful discussion by Fruit Chan. There's also a throwaway "behind the scenes" video and a trailer.
I'm not sure what's more disappointing, the fact that this movie wasn't very scary, or that it wasn't terrible enough to be fun. Instead, it's caught in the middle. Don't let the tagline "from the creator of The Ring" fool you. This one's not worth looking up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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