Monday, November 26, 2012

The Cinema File #41: "The Selling" Review


If your going to make an indie film, trust me, ghosts are always a better hook than butter.

A lot of the movies I review on this site are pretty low brow, if not simply low class, and no more low than the Straight to DVD fare I watch in between the major releases. That's not to say they are bad, just dirty. FDR: American Badass had me in stitches, but then I recognize that my sense of humor is in line with the dark twisted mindset that birthed a movie about a werewolf hunting Roosevelt. My point is, in light of this, and in light of my own preferences, its always surprising to come across a movie that seems to consciously and deliberately avoid going down those dark paths.

The Selling is a movie about murder, hauntings, blood dripping walls, demons, and ritual sacrifice, and its also the most upbeat, wholesome, and good natured comedy I've seen all year that didn't have the Tooth Fairy in it as a major character. The story is simple and more clever in execution than you would think, about two real estate agents who wind up forced into the position of selling a house they quickly learn is haunted, with 12 ghosts doing everything they can to warn them off, as well as any prospective buyers. The only reason I even watched this movie is because FDR himself, Barry Bostwick is in it for a cameo as an exorcist, but the tone of that film and this one is practically the difference between night and day.



Apart from the horror imagery of slit throats and stabbings, which is relatively tame but still graphic enough, I'd almost say this was a family movie. After a few pointless pop culture references thrown out in the beginning that had me worried, the humor became so sincere and organic to the story that I couldn't help but smile, and keep on smiling the longer it went. It reminded me of an old-timey screw ball comedy as this exasperated goof almost channeled the spirit of Don Knotts in his flummoxed frustration. The little subtle nods to horror cliches, which could have been obvious and eye-roll worthy, were instead charming, as he lectures the house on refraining from making ladies appear in bathtubs that turn into old women when you kiss them, or in the many montages of him fixing up the house only to have furniture re-arrange itself or fall into a closet that's become a doorway into the nether realm. There's even a recurring poop joke that involves a literal torrent of feces, and yet it makes sense and didn't for a second strike me as crass or gratuitous.

It's not all great. As I mentioned, it does take a little while to get going, and the third act sort of goes off the rails a bit. The concept of demonic possession is introduced in a bit of a shoehorned in sort of way, and leads to an extended sequence where said demon goes through several comical mishaps trying to find and subdue his next victim. Its not as funny as it could have been and almost seems like filler after a while. Also, some of the supporting characters took a little while to grow on me. The best friend and the paranormal expert both started out as kind of annoying, but ultimately came into their own by the end. And speaking of the end, it is somewhat abrupt all things considered. There's a last minute twist that's fine for the brief moment its there, but isn't the kind of punch I was expecting after how much I was engaged with the story up to that point, and the credits are filled with what I would think are deleted scenes except that they seem to have been made after the fact, as I can't really see where they fit into the movie, nor why they were included, as if the actors just had some extra schtick they wanted to try out while they still had cameras.

Overall, The Selling was an enjoyable if somewhat low key experience for me that I recommend fairly easily. I can't say I was laughing out loud a lot, but I smiled quite a bit, and never had my good mood deflated by anything not in keeping with the unusually pleasant tone. If only to marvel at how any movie nowadays could be as good as it is without succumbing to South Park style subversive stuff, I'd say give it a watch.

Wow, after this and how I excoriated Butter for Olivia Wilde's boobs, I'm starting to come off like some kind of puritan. Cock. Shit. Fuck Nuggets. There we go, all better now.
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