Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Red Hook (2009)

Can't stay locked away forever

This is a modern day slasher about a girl named Jenny Traylor who had an older sister that was brutally killed when she was younger in front of her. Now as a young adult she's rigid and untrusting, which results in a share of awkward moments when she changes scenery from North Carolina to the fast moving university campus in New York City. Everyone's either a snob, overeager or a prankster with little in between until she meets a down-to-Earth guy named Gavin. He invites her to a small scavenger hunt held by the persistent resident advisor Tim but then fails to show up while her roommate Angela and others she's getting to know arrive--though with me-or-you competition in their sights. The participants have to find an object from clues sent to their phones via "Red Hook," then snap a picture and send it back to get another all before midnight for a grand prize. Eventually another kind of sport is made out of the game when the bodies start to rack up from Jenny's past coming back to haunt her or something else.

After seeing the sister bumped off, this turns somewhat light as if nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen. Though this plays the part a little too much as if it's just the latest, derivative dramedy pilot about one girl's growing pains. Time was spent showing the character's lives on the surface but it still comes off as mundane: Jenny can't find a seat in the lunchroom, her new neighbors pull pranks on her, her roommate is one moment nosey but then the next needs space to perfect her acting chops. This is no "Carrie" in college, that's for sure. The major driving point is about Jenny being afraid to go outside because her sister was killed after running out the door of their home to get away. Something doesn't chime about that as it was such a random, unprovoked attack as to seem a fluke and not something that could be repeated again...until now of course. "Red Hook" presents a far-fetched world where psychos grow on trees and are sent out into the world as an innutritious pang in your stomach. It's like the filmmakers only studied other films by coping their villains and situations instead of starting from the ground up.

To get a momentary reaction the film leaves gaping holes with more questions than answers, which ultimately gives it zero replay value. It tries to be sneaky with its story to keep one from guessing anything outright but the issue is it's to the point of not being able to follow around activities on most of its characters as a few are potential suspects till it gets revealed which one it was at the end. Not to mention the death scenes are delivered quickly and abruptly with no build up prior due to little being shed on what's going to happen. One scene of someone stabbed years ago foreshadows everything that's to come? By the time it gets to the bloodshed the audience long forgot which genre they were watching. Up to a certain point there doesn't seem to be any real danger to fear apart from one character having a general anxiety disorder that appears to come and go. The horror feels oddly misplaced once the bodies start to pile up as even the scavengers are lead to believe it's a joke since one aspect feels only loosely tied with the next. It amounts to a lack of tension and little anticipation past a certain point. The clues they're sent to find are hardly a challenge: most are uncaring employees at businesses who take the scavenger's pictures next to the objects that have little significance to do with anything and feel like padding in between. Maybe if it was an equal part cat and mouse game where the clues could have potentially prevented a death, it could have redeemed itself and made to be more engaging.

There are a share of characters and not enough time to concentrate on them all. As a result, the amount of room for their performances only reaches a middling point with little that stands out as exceptional since they're just caricatures of regular, hip college students: some jerks, some quirky and some you can befriend. The only piece that might have stood out here is the scavenger hunt gimmick, or possibly some unique deaths to make this memorable, but the finale of it all was so over-the-top as to lose the audience with eye rolls and double checks on watches to see how much time they've wasted for something that looked a big bang but only came with little backing power.

Rating: 2.5/10

From Black to Red recommends instead: "April Fool's Day": This '80s slasher came out with a unique concept that keeps one guessing.

Director: Elizabeth Lucas (Clear Blue Tuesday)
Stars: Christina Brucato, Tate Ellington, Bryan Fenkart, Terrence Mann
Link: IMDB

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