Monday, September 3, 2012

Reality Check (Canada, 2002)

Aka Reality Kills. Here's a mildly pleasant trifle directed by Rafal Zielinski, a jobbing independent Canuck director whose repertoire of seldom-seen films spans from T&A comedies (Screwballs I [1983 / trailer] & II: Loose Screws [1985 / "Do the Screw"]) to totally forgotten bad actioners like Under Surveillance (1991) with the sexy Melody Anderson and Charles Napier to low-grade horror like Hangman's Curse (2003 / trailer) and/or Spellcaster (1992 / scene) starring (anyone remember?) Adam Ant, and even "gritty" social dramas like Downtown: A Street Tale (2004 / trailer). This film, Reality Check, an obscure, bottom-shelf bodycounter that is as unknown as most of Zielinski's other films, is surprisingly entertaining for a flick that really offers nothing new to the genre and doesn't even feature the most creative of kills. In fact, the killer uses the same method throughout the film: first putting the victim down with some sort of shock gun and then killing them by injection of gawd-knows-what. But one can't help get the feeling that the killings were of less importance to the filmmaker and screenwriters (one-shot wonders Brent Askari and Chum Langhorne) than simply having fun with the characters and setting.
The setting? Oddly enough, the same as that found in two other better known horror films also released that very same year that didn't promptly go to DVD and on the lowest shelf of your local rental store: Halloween: Resurrection (trailer) and My Little Eye (trailer) – both of which display obviously bigger budgets but only the latter of which is in any way better. The already-not-new plot of Reality Check deals with a mixed-sex group of mostly attractive twenty-somethings taking part in a low budget Reality TV show who set up home in a distant house where a mass murder once occurred  – done by the "LSD Killer" – and who suddenly find out there's a killer amongst them. Like, wow! That's really scary and oh-so-original!
The year earlier, in 2001, Reality TV shows were already ridiculed in the far more challenging Series 7: The Contenders (2001), and like that earlier film Reality Check uses interspaced contestant interviews to achieve a certain level of verisimilitude, but whereas Series 7 is very much a serious satire of the format, Reality Check – like H:R and My Little Eye and Cruel World (2005 / trailer) and Killer Movie (2008 / trailer) or even the enjoyably stupid Piñata: Survival Island (2002) – is less interested in making a social statement about the modern world's voyeuristic (and exhibitionist) tendencies than simply being a traditional bodycount film. The Reality TV situation, in its need of only one basic location, like the use of but a singular murder weapon and surprisingly low amount of blood and guts, almost comes across as more of a budgeting factor than anything else.
But then, as inferred before, Reality Check is a trifle, a film that does not seem to have any lofty aims, but rather than be a detriment the film's very lack of pretensions helps make it rather enjoyable, especially since it is combined with some nice if often equally understated humor. And, oddly enough, all the characters, though stereotypes and typically attractive (but for one) in a contemporary scenester fashion, come across as surprisingly 3-D archetypes. The only true surprise the movie offers are the Final Girl and Guy, for in most bodycount films they would surely have been among the first to go.
The murderer is relatively easy to figure out if you ignore the logics of the mobility the killer would have needed to for the first two kills and follow the logical "who-made-the-coffee?" line of reasoning used in Mindhunters (2004 / trailer) – where, actually, it didn't work – but that aside, the sly humor snuck into the deaths is truly fun. We, for example, had a hearty laugh when April (Kristen Miller of Cherry Falls [2001 / trailer] and Swimming Pool [2001 / trailer]), fails to realize the danger of her situation and entertains both the killer and viewer with imitations of The Exorcist (1973 / trailer), Scream (1996 / trailer) and The Blair Witch Project (1999 / trailer). Other nice laughs were instigated when Eugene (Andreas Olavarria) goes into his "pain is pleasure" mantra or when a dying character suddenly starts professing his love to another future victim or when the bulimic Serendipity (Natalia Cigliuti) is worried that her hair isn't right for the camera as she kneels there puking out the evening's dinner.
Whatever. Reality Check doesn't try to be anything else than what it is – a low budget, low gore direct-to-DVD genre film – but for that delivers some nice humor and doesn't overstay its welcome. For gorehounds or slasher fanatics it's probably too milquetoast to be enjoyed, but it is in the end truly much more enjoyable than any of the real reality shows we here at A Wasted Life have ever had the displeasure of watching.

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