Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Cinema File #182: “A Resurrection” Review

Whenever I see a movie featuring an actor I like that’s been released posthumously, I almost feel an obligation to watch it, even if it isn’t necessarily the kind of movie I think I would enjoy. Such is the case with today’s review, the last film starring actor Michael Clarke Duncan before his untimely passing last year. His performance in the now somewhat ironically titled A Resurrection is easily the best part of the movie, which I suspect would be the case even if the circumstances surrounding his appearance didn’t lend it an added level of poignancy. The problem is, his relatively small role is pretty much the only good thing about it, and as much as I really wanted to come away liking it, there’s just too much to find stupid and frustrating about this god-awful film.

A Resurrection follows a guidance counselor trying to solve the mystery of a troubled young kid whose brother has recently died in a hit and run, who accuses a group of students of the crime, and ominously claims that his dead brother is coming back to kill them within the day. Paired down to an hour, I can definitely see this as a decent episode of one of those old horror anthology shows; maybe not Tales from the Crypt, but maybe Tales from the Darkside, or that Henry Rollins one I’m too lazy to look up the name for. As it is, it’s too needlessly complicated for its own good, piling twist upon twist to turn what could have and should have been a simple supernatural revenge movie, or perhaps an even cleverer non-supernatural one, into an increasingly farcical grab bag of horror movie clichés.

To its credit, the movie spends a lot of time maintaining the mystery of whether or not the older brother is coming back, or whether it’s just the fantasy of a lonely and angry kid. Unfortunately this set up is ruined in the last ten minutes when the secret is revealed, when it would have been much better if it had been kept ambiguous throughout. Going into this reveal we get voodoo witches, random serial killers, magic spell books, crazy hobos, slaughtered pigs, and a surprisingly heavy-handed and out of nowhere examination of faith that seems to exist only to lamely justify a deus-ex-machina ending that hinges on an atheist’s inability to remember The Lord’s Prayer. I’m as atheist as they come, and even I know that shit, but by that point, I’m too mad at everything else in this movie not making sense or paying off to be mad at this particular shitty moment amid all the other ones.

I’d say about 20% of this movie is essentially bad jump scare fake out theater. I lost count of how many times something jumped out at me only to turn out to be a broom falling or the kindly mute janitor doing his rounds. And apart from Duncan, the acting in this movie is just terrible, even by my generally low standards. Much of the film’s tension relies on the performance of the younger brother character, who is legitimately chilling up to a point, until the role demands that he actually start speaking, and you realize that he is very good at glowering, but not much else. And I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy Mischa Barton or Devon Sawa as adults, let alone competent professionals. I don’t know if it’s their acting choices, my own bias against their past work, or the terrible writing, but I just can’t engage with either of these characters.

You get about two or three different endings for the price of one in A Resurrection, none of them particularly satisfying, but then again, it’s not like they had much to wrap up that was any good to begin with. I’d say they would have been smart to trim it back a bit, but if they were going to do that, they might as well have cut it down to just the Michael Clarke Duncan parts I liked, and made it a 15 minute movie about this oddly muscular baritone voiced kindly school principal. It wouldn’t have made much sense, but at least I wouldn’t have wasted my time on this piece of crap. If like me you feel like you owe it to this late great actor to watch his final performance, trust me, it’s not worth it. Go watch Daredevil or The Green Mile if you need one last MCD fix. This thing just blows.

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