Judge Christopher Kulik has some ointment to treat this rot.
Traditions were made to be broken.
The good news is ROT: Reunion Of Terror is better than some recent slasher films. The bad news is that's not saying a whole lot.
Facts of the Case
Six people, one-time high school friends, are requested to meet up at a cabin in the woods (hey, wouldn't you?) for a reunion of sorts. As they are getting to know each other again—complete with brew and weed—they are alarmed by certain warning signs. One of the guys has picked up an underage hitchhiker while on his way to the cabin, the park ranger is this slimy pervert with more than a few tricks up his sleeve, and two camping lesbians were murdered there the previous evening. Will they be able to survive this "reunion of terror"? Do you care?
Touted by the producer as The Big Chill meets Friday The 13th, you could pretty much substitute any slasher film in the last 20 years in the latter slot and it wouldn't matter. These films have become such a dime a dozen, with little to distinguish themselves from each other, it's now become an almost fruitless endeavor to locate one which expands genre parameters. ROT is an occasionally slick independent production which tries really hard to succeed, but all we get is a giant wheeze. Despite a few shifts in tone over the course of its 78-minute running time, there are no surprises.
As with others of its ilk, the lack of character development is what makes ROT sputter. Some of them are adequately introduced, but they all boast muddy motivations and have a difficult time rising above stereotype. Perhaps it's because director Michael A. Hoffman is mostly concerned with thinking of ways to thematically leap between slasher conventions, all to no avail. The tonal shifts, for instance, accomplish nothing but unevenness; at first, ROT is a mystery, then it switches to campy comedy, then to romantic drama, before throwing a gallon of blood in the viewer's face!
An unknown cast supplies the lion's share of performances, and they are all negligible. Only John Shumski (American Gladiators), as the drooling hillbilly ranger with a nasty tongue, escapes mediocrity. As with the situation, I simply couldn't buy into any of these performers, particularly when they rarely exhibit any kind of depth or dimension. The obvious dialogue certainly doesn't help either; it's impossible to accept any of these characters as college students, let alone high-school graduates. The bottom line is you could care less if any of these people lives or dies; the kiss of death for all slasher movies.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One effective element of ROT is the music score. Many of the filmmakers are connected to the music industry, with the director's resume including several videos. The score is done by a rock band called De-Composure, and its members are Ryan Copt and Joseph Butera III. Avoiding repetition like the plague, the numerous instrumentals by the duo give the film a genuine eeriness at times.
Kudos also to Shock-O-Roma for a surprisingly-good DVD release, absolutely packed with extras. Shot on digital video, ROT can be taken as naturalistic or vomit-inducting; either way, the picture is clean. There are two audio tracks: a 5.1 mix and 2.0 stereo, yet there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between them. No subtitles or closed captioning.
The best of the extras is a commentary track with director Hoffman, composer Copt, and co-screenwriter/co-producer Meghan Jones. A lively track with many enjoyable stories about the shoot, this is one of those cases where watching the film with the commentary is better than watching the film itself. Among other things, Hoffman and Jones talk about how everyone pulled triple-duty to get the film finished; as well as how they attacked the script, which had been in limbo for some time.
Featurettes are provided on production, the music, and post; totaling about 23 minutes. All are accessible, although I really wish they would have combined them all into one making-of documentary rather than splitting them up. There's also a pair of deleted scenes, an amusing blooper reel, and three music videos. Shock-O-Rama also provides catalog info and six trailers.
Fans of the genre will no doubt still check out ROT. Hoffman and Jones certainly give it the old college try, as the film still has its moments.
Despite good intentions, the film is found guilty. Shock-O-Rama is free to go
for giving the film a better DVD release than it deserves.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shock-O-Rama Cinema
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