The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ferocious (2012)

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This is another submission from Kevin at MTI Video.  It's one I was interested in and I thought my readers would be interested in, because it stars DTVC favorite Kim Coates.  The trailer looked pretty cool too, and I liked the film's premise.  Let's see how it went.

Ferocious stars Amanda Crew as Leigh Parrish, a small town girl from outside of Saskatoon who makes it big on a US TV show, and comes home to see her family.  While there though, she has other loose ends to tie up, namely strip club owner Kim Coates, who is extorting her with a sex tape she made before she became famous.  That sex tape will ruin the wholesome image she's cultivated, and she's tired of being threatened like that.  That leads her to take some drastic measures, the consequences of which could be even worse for her career.

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I was trying to figure out why this didn't work for me, and it wasn't immediately obvious.  Sure, it was paint-by-numbers, from the All About Eve construct with the sycophantic girl Leigh bumps into at the club who helps her go after Coates, to the superficial puncture wound Leigh suffers trying to escape a locked room-- the kind of superficial wound that is only an issue when it's convenient to the plot, and suddenly isn't an issue when it isn't.  These things aren't a big deal, in fact we expect them in a movie like this.  It wasn't the Kim Coates either, because he was a fantastic baddie, taking the predictability and making it tense in that very Hitchcockian "you know something menacing is afoot, and maybe you know when it will happen, but you hope against all odds that it doesn't happen, because Coates seems so evil."  Then it hit me: Amanda Crew's character, the main character, was underused.  How does that happen?  And not only underused, but with so much promise unfulfilled.  We have this scene near the beginning, after Leigh does a local talk show, where she's in her hotel room wiping off her make-up and changing from her dress into jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.  Then, out of nowhere, she grabs a hunting knife off her bed and stows it in her boot.  It was such a "whoa, what's going to happen next?" moment, but it never got there.  We lost her for a bit, and then when we saw her again confronting Coates, it wasn't worthy of the knife in the boot scene.  Then we'd lose her for big chunks as she became tangential to Coates and his assistant (played by Michael Eklund), the sycophant All About Eve girl (Katie Boland), or her manager (Dustin Milligan).  Maybe I'm being too hard on it, because it is the kind of Lifetime Movie Network thing you'd see and say "oh sweet, it's got Kim Coates, let's watch this before we have to leave", and probably keep watching it no matter how paint-by-numbers it is because Coates is so great, and you end up being late for whatever you were supposed to leave for; but it felt like it could've been more than that, and it wasn't.

Coates is so good, and it's an all over the place good.  His villain is cold and calculating, but also neurotic and funny.  Coates moves through these effortlessly, in a way that is uniquely Kim Coates.  One thing that was odd about his role though, was that he seemed like he was in the film more, or at least had more meaningful scenes, than Amanda Crew's heroine.  As I was watching him with Michael Eklund, I had the feeling that, while Coates was great, where was Amanda Crew?  Then we'd go back to her for a second, and she'd look pained from her superficial injury, and her sycophantic companion would say a bunch of silly things, then we'd go back to Coates.  Under most circumstances the more Coates the better, but as a baddie he shouldn't be in the film more than lead.

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I really liked the idea of Amanda Crew's character, but man, when she picks up that knife it was supposed to be a game changer, and it wasn't.  I don't know exactly what I expected, maybe instead of Godard's "girl and a gun" we'd have "girl and a knife", but I think I wanted some kind of daughter of a rural hunter exacting bloody justice.  Maybe some great cat and mouse with Coates, but with the supporting characters taking a definite backseat to Crew.  I mean, when she packs that knife in her boot, the next time we see it shouldn't be when she's futilely ripping up floorboards with it while trying to escape a room she and the sycophant are locked in.  With that kind of emphasis on both the knife, and the way she stashes it in her boot after changing out of her movie star clothes, it needs to play a bigger role, and her character needs to live up to that.  Neither happened.

This movie had some humorous elements that felt out of place in what was an overall serious movie.  Like, what do we do with the manager?  Or the sycophant?  Both played for laughs until the end of the movie, but both played for laughs in a movie that had some very serious and gruesome scenes in it?  It was an identity crisis that I didn't know how to take.  If the rest of the film had more dark humor in it, this stuff would've been great, but because it didn't, the humor detracted, especially when it took the focus away from Crew, who was supposed to be the lead.

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Another area this film avoided that I would've liked to have seen it delve into, is this idea of the wholesome girl next door.  We never see in Ferocious how this idealized myth is problematic in our society, that there's nothing wrong with a woman having a healthy sexual appetite, that the wholesome girl next door is not better than a woman with a sex tape.  Our Leigh Parrish with a hunting knife should've been slashing these problematic constructs, not fighting to maintain them.  And the sense I got of her character, or at least the way Amanda Crew played her, is that she thought that construct was bullshit too, which is another area that she felt wasted.

This will come out on DVD in October (plus will have a limited film release in Canada).  It's pretty standard, pretty predictable, but it set itself up as something more, which made the fact that it devolved into what it was that much more frustrating.  Beyond that, we had a lot of great performances from all involved, especially Kim Coates, whom I know a lot of you love.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1753821/

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