Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Trespassing (USA, 2004)

(Spoilers) If online sources are correct, once upon a time this flick premiered at the 2004
Fantasy Filmfest and even had a cinema release in the US, where the four circulating copies earned a total of $8700. Too much, actually, considering the film itself, which sort of floats within the realm of the kind of movie that one should be paid to see and not have to pay to see. This, naturally, also applies to the DVD release, which, at least in the USA, was given a new title, namely Evil Remains.

Trailer to
Evil Remains:
Evil might, but the memory of what you see when watching this thing won't. Trespassing is pretty much so forgettable in every way and form, although director and scriptwriter and (partial) music composer James Anthony Merendino (of such noteworthy filmic artistry as Witchcraft IV: Virgin Heart [1992 / trailer], Witchcraft V: Dance with the Nevil [1993 / trailer], Evil Never Sleeps [1995 / film] and The Upstairs Neighbor [1994 / trailer]) should be given some credit for once again managing to put together an interesting cast of up-and-comers, has-beens, never-beens and regularly employed character actors (something he has done in most of his projects). Trespassing, for example, features a short appearance of an unrecognizable Bond Girl (Maryam d'Abo of The Living Daylights [1987 / trailer]), the always enjoyable Kurtwood Smith (of RoboCop [1987 / trailer]), and a pre-"assholism scandal" Clayne Crawford. It's a shame that no one is really given all that much to do, and that some were so obviously misdirected in how to do what they do.
That said, however, those with talent or at least presence (Clayne Crawford, Kurtwood Smith and even Estella Warren as the Final Girl Kristy Goodman) manage to get through the movie without too much egg on their face, while others (Daniel Gillies of Coming Home in the Dark [2021 / trailer]) wallow lost in an apparent misdirected thespian inability. In the case of the last name, one hopes nothing from this movie appears on his Film Projects Reel, because were Razzies awarded to movies of this lowly character, his ham-fisted turn as Mark, the dude who initiates the journey to the deserted house for master's thesis research, truly deserved a nomination far more than Estelle Warren ever did for her appearance in Tim Burton's first massive misfire, Planet of the Apes (2001 / trailer).
Set in Louisiana, Trespassing is a riff on the old chestnut of a group of young adults going to a deserted house with a bad reputation, separating, and then getting slaughtered one by one. In this case, the instigator of the field trip is Mark (Gillies), a college student out to do some on-site research regarding a modern myth (as opposed to urban legend) about a local boy named Carl Bryce (Jeff Galpin) who, as we see in the annoyingly pedestrian opening segment, killed John the Asshole Dad (Will Rokos) and Linda the Ineffectual Mom (d'Abo), and then disappeared. It seems that the house lies on cursed land, and the curse just went and made Carl plum loco — nothing but a myth, right? Well, what do you think? Needless to say, Carl is still there — or is he? The curse of the property, in any event, seems to have the effect of turning trespassers into annoying jerks (if they weren't one already), with the exception of the Final Girl, Kristy Goodman (Warren)....
As Mark, Daniel Gillies begins and remains a dislikable method-actor jerk; in contrast, as his brother Tyler, Clyane Crawford remains the most believable person on screen primarily due to his low-key approach to his character. Sharon (Ashley Scott) as the tag-along girlfriend of the Final Girl, is little more than fodder and as forgettable as the movie itself, but then her whole character, despite her distinguishing sexuality — the movie came out at a time when an oddly lez-phobic song like Kate Perry's I Kissed a Girl (And I Liked It), which came four years after this movie, could still be seen as a pro-lez song (Oh, wait! It's still seen as an LGBTQ anthem! Weird.) — is really just there to die. (The film is set in Louisiana, so clearly the character-there-just-to-die couldn't be Afro-American. Hell, he film's setting may be why there isn't even an Afro-American character of note in Trespassing [10-second appearances are not "of note"].)
The cursed-land aspect of the narrative allows the movie to veer into the territory of the supernatural, which is at least a bit more interesting than the typical killer hiding under the floorboards (see: A Crack in the Floor [2000]) or in the woods (see: any given hillbilly slasher). The house setting itself is reminiscent of such wonderfully run-down houses of horror as found in, say, Tobe Hooper's art-house exploitation-horror classic Chainsaw Massacre (1971 / dinner), but director Merendino fails to fully take advantage of it. Instead, he tends towards an overuse of close-ups and dark shadows that indicates a possible lack of directorial vision; for swathes of the movie, he also has an incredibly hard time visually establishing and keeping a mood of dread and fear. This handicap is already evident in the first shots of the flick, which have little to do with the narrative other than set location, in which he scores what looks to be a moving Mexican Day of the Dead-inspired Mardi Gras float to an almost hilariously generic example of a droning This-Is-A-Cheap-Horror-Movie synthesizer dirge.
Unluckily, while much is bad or generic in Trespassing, little is all that scary and even less is funny, which pretty much renders the movie non-imperative viewing.

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