I honestly have mixed feelings about this movie. While there were plenty of times I just wanted it to be over, there were also moments that I got sucked into and thoroughly enjoyed. I’m not really sure how to review this movie, so I’m going to go with the “compliment sandwich”, ok? Here we go.
I really enjoyed this film for the cinematography, lighting, costume design, and pretty much everything else that could possibly affect the visual aesthetics. The movie specifically chose lighting in certain scenes that was extremely reminiscent of German Expressionist silent films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu.
The scenes do reflect back to older horror films and have an odd sense of nostalgia about them, despite their content. Thus, I can’t say I entirely hate this film because the people creating it obviously have knowledge of film history and know, visually, what they’re doing. They not only visually referenced the films mentioned above, but they also seem to have been influenced by futuristic dystopian films such as Blade Runner.
I can appreciate a film that knows where the medium has been, and I really do appreciate them using these visual styles as references to cinema history, yet still adding to the visual aesthetic.
Alright, now to the bad parts of my “compliment sandwich”. I honestly thought a majority of the songs in this were atrocious. I cannot express how happy I was when Nathan slapped Shiloh after her “Seventeen” song.
It’s not even that the music in these songs is awful, but a lot of the actors in this film were over-acting (especially during the songs) and it made them annoying to listen to. The only songs I enjoyed in this film were sung by either the Graverobber or Blind Mag, and all the other songs were either just sort of awkwardly there or were so annoying that I just wanted them to end so I could get back to focusing on the story.
Speaking of the story, I’m honestly sort of confused. Not that the story didn’t make sense, but why was pretty much everyone in love with Marni? Why was she so special? The film goes to great lengths to explain the love triangle between Rotti and Nathan both loving Marni and the fact that Blind Mag was Marni’s best friend, but honestly I don’t know what was so special about Marni. If she was so important, you think they would have done more character development on her rather than “she’s dead now but EVERYONE loved her. EVERYONE”. I found myself wanting to know why everyone thought she was so great and not really caring that all these people were still caught up in a grudge over her. I mean, sure, she’s dead and has been for a long time, but you could at least give us some reason as to why the whole plot surrounds her former existence.
Speaking of Marni, I honestly don’t see why they even had to add the whole bit about Blind Mag being her best friend. She’s an excellent singer who happened to be blind and Geneco gave her new eyes. I’m sure Geneco would have given her the lifelong contract to work for them knowing how talented she was, so I’m not sure why they thought it was necessary to make her Marni’s best friend. I think the love triangle thing works on its own and I just think it got cluttered trying to add Blind Mag into that equation.
I understand that this film was low-budget, but I really wish they had been able to do better casting, or maybe just better cast motivation. Most of the actors never really seemed to have their characters pin-pointed, nor did they seem to think they had to. Anthony Head was fun and interesting as Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer so it was really disappointing to see him in this movie seeming like he didn’t really want to be there. Giles, I mean Nathan, was sort of a strange character that I never exactly figured out. For someone who says he hates his job, he sure seems to enjoy it.
To be fair, I really did enjoy Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag, and I enjoy all the work Terrence Zdunich put into this film and his character, the Graverobber. There is a reason the Graverobber is a fan-favorite, and it’s because Terrence Zdunich gave that character his all (unlike a majority of the cast, unfortunately).
Segueing back to the good things permanently though, I did appreciate that the filmmakers seemed to embrace that this film was cheesy and campy. There were a handful of moments that seemed as though this movie took itself too seriously, but there were plenty of other moments that showed the filmmakers awareness of how ridiculous this project was. Case in point, the Graverobber using a dead body as a battering ram.
I laughed so hard at this scene for how visually ridiculous it was, and yet it still said so much about the film. In this movie, people don’t care about each other and will use others to their advantage, even if that means using a dead body to break into a building so they can hide from the cops. Another visual aesthetic I loved about this film was the use of comic panels to montage parts of the story. It fit well with the overall campiness of the movie without being jarring, and it was a nice break from the expressionistic scenery and lighting.
I would not watch this movie very often because I honestly can’t sit through some of those songs again anytime soon. However, this movie has great visuals and you can tell that the people working on this movie have a working knowledge of film history, which is always appreciated. I honestly think this movie could have been done much better had it been given a larger budget and had more people working on the music. Overall, I would have to say that this movie ranks in my book as “awesomely bad”.