September 2006

The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy The Tooth Fairy is a bit of an oddity. It’s a cross between a ghost story and a slasher flick and, while individual elements worked quite well, the overall feel was mixed with the two genres undermining each other.

A short interlude at the start of the film, set in 1949, sets things up quite nicely. A malevolent witch lures children to her house to steal their teeth, after which she murders them horribly and traps their souls on Earth.

We then jump forward to the present day where Peter Campbell (Lochlyn Munro) has bought the now abandoned house and is busy turning it into a guest house. His first tenant has turned up – early – as has his former girlfriend, Darcy Wagner (Chandra West) and her daughter Pamela (Nicole Muñoz).

Pamela, of course, is “nearly twelve” and has one more milk tooth to lose. So when the ghost of Emma Inge (Jianna Ballard) turns up we have everything we need for a reasonably solid ghost story.

But we also have a pair of redneck brothers who, along with their silent sister, appear to have wandered in from am Italian remake of Deliverance. There’s the Tooth Fairy herself – and there really isn’t any suspense here as to what’s going on – who, along with a bit of cannon fodder provide everything we need for a reasonably straightforward slasher film.

See the problem?

The inserts of (occasionally quite effective) gore and the comic interludes undermine any attempt to build a reasonable level of tension. On the other hand, the filmmakers never really let rip with the sort of splatter that would keep the gore hounds happy.

On the plus side the characters do (apart from one glaringly obvious scene) behave reasonably intelligently, and no-one felt the need to give the Tooth Fairy any “witty” one-liners.

My problem with the film is not that it’s actually bad – on a technical level it’s quite good. And writer/producer Stephen J. Cannell certainly deserves credit for trying something a little different within the genre.

It’s just a shame that it doesn’t quite come off.

The Tooth Fairy isn’t for everyone, but if you find yourself in the mood for a little lightweight splatter, or a none-too-deep ghost story, it’s worth checking out.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw DVD cover Running a site such as this gives me the opportunity to see a number of low and micro budget films that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Some of them can be right clunkers, most range from being okay to quite good. But every now and then I get to see something that is nothing short of incredible – and these are the films that make the whole thing worthwhile.

Scott Staven’s first film, Jigsaw is just such a film.

Constructed from the outset as a puzzle, we are initially presented with a series of seemingly unconnected events slowly being brought together to allow the story to slowly emerge. In the early stages of the film, this very non-linear approach does leave you feeling more than a little perplexed, but it is well worth sticking with even though you have very little idea of what is going on. The style of the film is very helpful at this point.

Shot largely in black and white, Jigsaw has a very dark, very grainy feel that not only gels well with the film’s noir intentions, but really does hold your attention. Kudos, too, should go to composer Colin Andrew Ford for coming up with a soundtrack which fits the cinematography perfectly to generate an atmosphere that is both dark and disorienting.

But there is a lot more to the atmosphere than the look and sound of the film. The editing here is hugely important, linking (or, more accurately, suggesting links between) apparently unconnected scenes. All of which goes to underline the mind game at the heart of the film and encourages the audience to think about what is happening and to try and work out how the events being depicted are connected.

And then, at around the 30 minute mark, it all starts coming together and – as is so important in a film such as this – every piece of the puzzle starts to make sense. From here on in, every scene builds on what has gone before (or, given the non-chronological nature of the film, since) to shed more and more light on the plot as it builds towards a very strong ending.

No film is perfect but Jigsaw comes close and any criticisms I have are minor to the point of being trivial. And given the consistently excellent acting throughout as well as the assured and intricate plot construction, this really is a film that keeps you hooked throughout.

If intelligent noirish thrillers are your thing, then Jigsaw is unmissable. If they’re not, you should try and see the film anyway.

Daddys Home

Daddys Home poster Proving that less is more, Alex Ferrari’s Daddy’s Home is short – very short indeed. It’s also a very powerful look at domestic violence and it’s probably fair to say that to have made the film any longer would have detracted from its strength.

As with Ferrari’s earlier film, Broken, style is everything. In this case the style is very washed out, choppy and confused which very effectively brings the audience right into the world of the terrified little girl at the centre of the film.

There really isn’t much of a plot in this film – a violent father comes home and starts taking out his frustrations on those around him. But this is more than made up for by the very disturbing atmosphere of the film which leaves us with a genuinely shocking glimpse at the hidden abuse that goes on in far too many families.

Daddy’s Home is frighteningly realistic and a very powerful piece of filmmaking. I’ve watched it several times while writing this review and it still manages to give me a quite a painful jolt every time.

The film is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. If you get the chance to see it, I strongly recommend that you do so.