Newest Review: ... just hammers a nail in the already apathetic coffin the audience finds itself lying in. Curiously for a direct DVD release, Amusement h... more
It's payback time!
Member Name: GentleGenius
Advantages: Starts off well, fairly good acting from Katheryn Winnick
Disadvantages: Ridiculous, way over the top, overbearing music, disjointed, silly
RELEASED: 2008, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85 mins
DIRECTOR: John Simpson
PRODUCERS: Neal Edelstein & Mike Macari
SCREENPLAY: Jake Wade Wall
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
Katheryn Winnick as Tabitha
Jessica Lucas as Lisa
Laura Breckenridge as Shelby
Keir O'Donnell as 'The Laugh'
Tad Hilgenbrink as Rob
FILM ONLY REVIEW
As the opening credits roll, flashes of written psychiatric reports with a voice-over describing the mental instability of a schoolboy, are shown on the screen.
The scene then shifts to young couple Rob and Shelby driving along a road in traffic. Shelby is anxious because Rob is driving too fast, and she begs him to slow down. He explains he is trying to start a convoy with a truck and a car. When the truck and car pull into a filling station, Rob follows and whilst there, the surly truck driver informs him and the driver of the other car that they ought to take a different route due to bad traffic jams on the main road.
Unsettled by the trucker's attitude and making awkward conversation with the friendly, but very nervous-seeming driver of the other car, Rob decides to follow the truck along a lonely, quiet route....with disastrous results after a girl leaps from the back of the truck, crashing into Rob's car window.
Rob attempts to chase the truck but eventually loses it, and when he heads back to return to Shelby and the injured girl, he finds they have vanished.
Meanwhile, and elsewhere but nearby, Tabitha goes to stay at her aunt's house to look after her two nephews, and becomes very nervous of a life-sized toy clown figure in one of the bedrooms....and, raging outside, is the thunderstorm from hell which creates power surges that make the lights in the house flicker and malfunction.
The basis of Amusement is split into three parts, and early on, the storyline is set around a very disturbed man who holds a continuing grudge against three girls who tormented him during his schooldays. The crux of the story is that he, many years later and in adulthood, seeks out these three girls (who obviously are Tabitha, Lisa and Shelby) with the intention of exacting brutal revenge.
Amusement opens quite well, and for at least the first 30 or so minutes, is quite intriguing. For me, the most gripping part was the section where Tabitha is looking after her nephews, yet becomes increasingly worried and scared by the life-sized clown figure perched on a rocking chair in a spare room full of strange toys. During that part of the film, the tension runs high and Katheryn Winnick's acting is quite commendable, as she portrays the growing unease of a normally very 'together' and sensible young woman whose fear throws her off balance.
From the point where Tabitha's story shifts into something else, I began to get a bit muddled, then as the film progresses, it gets extremely over the top, containing some quite nasty violence. I found myself confusing the female characters....not them as people, because each looks very different to the others, but how they connected up with one another, and I suppose, quite frankly exactly what was going on. I wasn't sure what, if anything, was supposed to be set in the present time or flashbacks to the past.
There is fairly brief scene in Amusement where Tabitha has to speak to a counsellor, and I found this decidedly bizarre, as the actress who played the part of the counsellor was indeed profoundly weird....so weird that it left me wondering if such was deliberate, but if so, then why?
The second half of Amusement is scrappy, bitty, and doesn't really hang together all that well. There are lots of loose ends left hanging in that it appears as if connecting scenes which would explain certain things away were omitted, and there isn't enough background given to throw light on how various people turned up in a certain place, so I was left with a big question mark hanging over my head as to how they came to be there.
For the most part, the acting in Amusement is merely borderline acceptable, with Katheryn Winnick stealing the show for me. The other cast members seemed as if they were tumbling through their lines almost as if reading from autocue, and my awareness kept shifting away from what was going on, to imagining the film crew standing around, with the director yelling "cut!!!" every few minutes, and everybody stopping for coffee breaks or whatever. This impression gave the film a very disjointed and amateurish feel.
The music to Amusement is truly in your face, loud, overbearing and far too over-dramatised, it consisting of intense orchestral violins and pounding percussion. I think a quieter, sinister-sounding score would have been much more appropriate for hiking up the chill-factor levels. This music was so distracting that, together with the disjointed aspects of the storyline, resulted in me experiencing a kind of sensory overload whilst watching.
The antics and demeanour of killer 'The Laugh' are over the top to the point of absurdity, although Keir O'Donnell did pull some interesting expressions on his face from time to time as he tormented and harassed his victims. I suppose the main crux of Amusement is the levels that a very seriously disturbed young man will go to in order to pay his childhood tormentors back for their 'sins', but such goes so far over the top, that it becomes ridiculous.
It is a pity that Amusement fell flat on its face after the rather good opening, as with a different format and an injection of a chilling subtleness rather than pulling all the stops out in the area of grossness, it could actually have turned into quite a good film. As it stands, it almost becomes laughable rather than scary, as it loses its sense of realism when it goes down 'Bonkers Boulevard'.
It is tempting to suggest that Amusement perhaps was intended to be just that.....amusing....but I honestly don't think that was what the director meant to convey....he managed it though, probably by accident.
All in all, Amusement is a silly, very over the top and in parts confusing film that needs a huge tidy up, and for the horror elements to be presented in a far more laid-back, sinister and chilling way. The music needs to be shoved far into the background, and some research should have been carried out prior to filming, into how a serial killer's mind really works. Amusement quickly evolves into something laughably disappointing, after a reasonably good start.
However, there is one thing I can say in its favour, and that is Amusement, even with all its glaring faults, isn't boring and I easily managed to stay focused from start to finish, but I definitely wouldn't want to see it again. It is probably a film that most people, if they watched it, would end up wishing they'd given it a miss, but it may contain a moderately acceptable, albeit tacky, entertainment value for some. Anybody deciding to give Amusement a spin should prepare themselves to be simultaneously entertained, confused, bewildered, irritated and amused.
At the time of writing, Amusement can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £1.56 to £9.99
Used: from £1.55 to £2.99
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: Entertaining, but otherwise rubbish