Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blood Ties (2009)

Overeager students, shady faculty and a masked killer in the midst

Back in '85, a reporter named Michael Archer and his significant other were heinously killed. He uncovered a scandal that accused a football coach at Hollow's Pointe University named De Luca and a quarterback named Jake "The Snake" for the Red Devils for accepting a bribe from a rival school to throw the game. Eighteen murders and twenty something years later, a group of students decide to write a paper surrounding the subject to four staff member's panic who still work at the school. They're trying to figure out how to silence the students that made the connection when one of the shady staff gets brutally slain after hours at the school. The group of youngsters put their lives at risk to investigate further, as well as the remaining staff try to stop the slayings in order to save face from their past involvement that's resurfacing. Yep, no one here are police advocates, because their egos might just be bigger than the killer's blade.

"Blood Ties" was no doubt made by a couple of diehard, aspiring movie nerds that are probably so wrapped up in celluloid that the brightest light they've seen in years is the stage light shining down on their locked away set. The result is a pure cinema invention so far gone from the real world that it feels about as overly coincidental and far fetched to be a Scooby Doo like story for adults. Depending how easy you are, it still comes with a quicker pacing and, apart from some confusing plot twists, a share is laid out to do the work for you. These amateur students are brighter than detectives that have been at it for twenty years and connect dots in a short amount of time like it was a cakewalk between their rambunctious partying and jokes.

The performers have moments of being over-the-top and exaggerated and it's hard to say if they're just badly acting or it's on purpose--possibly both--to get an instant reaction from a viewer than a gradual one that will grow. Jason Carter is the most believable of the bunch as their British accented professor named Fredericks who taught them the ropes but is now their rival in the ring. The story feels like it combines parts of an episode of a soap opera murder mystery, a generic slasher, a softcore porno and a trendy National Lampoons movie into one. The tone feels all over the place: one moment cartoonishly surreal, raunchy with sexual references and drugs, the next serious with melodrama and danger, or be it sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek. The filmmakers show they have an array of potential for future projects but it feels like they tried to make several movies at the same time without always being tuned in as to how to put them together cohesively so the audience could get some breathing room and move at the same time as it's speeding by them.

This has a lot of personality but it feels like one too many inside jokes that aren't always enough for outsiders to fully enjoy what's so funny, cool or exciting. Maybe on the third time or with a cast member to shed some light from coming on too hard and too fast the first go. Some are obvious, such as "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" rivalries, but still feel too random and misplaced regardless. A frat party where a guy does magic tricks that converts money and makes a girl's top disappear, had to do with what again? Or just little odd comments and banter that seem to come out of nowhere. Their brand of humor feels like a YouTube video with an actual budget that's more for long time friends and family of the participants that would get them more than a newcomer.

I can see where "Blood Ties" was going: to give a little pep before they get to the usual darker elements, but the late transition over doesn't always make this tension filled, shocking or scary, not to mention the audience could really care less when the characters get knocked off because they were just pure and simple entertainment monkeys prior to switching over tones. After going through the filmmakers channel surfing for the first half, it narrows down to a more serious and steadier picture as shown in the trailer--definitely misrepresented before that--where upstarting ambitions, built up reputations, tarnished pasts and the innocent and guilty have their lives hanging in the balance from an omnipresent homicidal maniac with a mask and superhuman strength. Some answers come about with an over-the-top explanation while others are brushed under the rug for brevity's sake. It includes an ambiguous finale that seems more a sacrifice for getting your senses riled in the direct moment rather than lining up 100%.

Rating: 3.5/10

Director: Nathaniel Nose (Talent)
Link: IMDB

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