The color, the composition… Where to begin describing such a masterfully-crafted piece of cinematography? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The mystery… no explanatory monologues or contrived conversations… The movie let’s the story unfold naturally to develop its tone; the pacing is spot on. A traditional Noir set in a modern era, the lack of clever dialogue isn’t due to poor screenwriting. Rather, it’s to the story’s advantage—the Devil is in the details, e.g. what isn’t said. Somehow the striking visuals don’t distract from the intriguing dynamics between characters. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to say which is more impressive: that out of the plethora of stars, none of them chews the gorgeous scenery or any of the aforementioned qualities that make this movie to mesmerizing.
Counter to its title, each main character is anything but courteous. High schooler, Ethan enlists the help of his techie classmate, Sean to prank their reclusive, cranky old neighbor by staging a haunting that will be secretly filmed for a school project. Initially, Sean agrees to Ethan’s plan to watch their neighbor’s reactions to occurrences (e.g. slamming screen door), which they control remotely. To both the pranksters’ disappointment, the response is minimal. As the incidences intensify, it becomes clear that Ethan has a deep emotional investment in psychologically torturing the old man. A falling out between the two prompts Sean to demand his equipment back but he’s essentially blackmailed into continuing with the experiment since it was all purchased on his credit card. When Ethan breaks in to adjust a camera toppled by the old man’s cat, he experiences his own unexplainable occurrence.
Often, teen dramas don’t get enough attention simply because their target audience already does. This cautionary tale—hypothetical yet plausible—depicts an online game, in which the viewers anonymously vote on the actions of the players, all being equal participants. A strong performance by lead, Emma Roberts keeps the story from falling flat. The ending is heavy-handed in its delivery of the movie’s message (a warning about the dangers of peer pressure fueled by social media) but considering the kind of behavior we see exhibited on a regular basis… is overstatement even possible? While this movie won’t go down in cinematic history, it’s fast-past and full of twists and turns; i.e. a clever and entertaining story. What else should we expect from the filmmaking duo, who brought us “Catfish” (which subsequently coined the term used to describe a fictitious online persona designed to deceive)?
I liked this movie upon first viewing and have re-watched it since. I should clarify: the original version; while Kate Winslet’s talent is undeniable, remaking a classic film in color serves no purpose. I would, however, be interested in seeing this reinterpreted in a modern context as the themes (e.g. permissive parenting and familial loyalty) are still relevant and need revisiting. History repeats itself, especially when Society fails to pay attention to former generations when they tried to warn us. Some viewers will automatically assume an old movie—particularly one in black and white—is outdated. But its archetypical style is precisely what will induce the connotations necessary to see the film through, such as not being in a hurry to get to the action or the assurance that it won’t rely too heavily upon sequencing gimmicks to explain background information. Ultimately, its enduring legacy can be attributed to superior filmmaking, which includes everything from acting to editing.
The very thing this gem has going for it is also its downfall, at least as far as marketing is concerned: its genre is unclassifiable. The closest comparison would be a musical, the likes of which have only been attempted during a few seconds of a TV ad. The score is the soundtrack is the playlist to which the main character listens throughout the movie. But rather than singing, choreography is the main draw. In fact, it’s practically a main character. Everything from windshield wiper blades swiping to car doors slamming to gunshots firing is perfectly synched to the rhythm of the music. Be ready to immerse yourself in the story of a silent getaway driver the moment it starts (e.g. the lyrics of the opening song are visually incorporated into the scenery as graffiti, product labels, print ads, etc.). The style of this film is certainly clever but excellent acting coupled with the unique premise of unlikely partners in crime is what makes it thoroughly engaging.