Saturday, January 21, 2012

On Demand Movie Review: Anamorph

This evening I’m introducing a new feature to this blog: The On Demand Movie Review. The premise is simple. I select a film from one of my On Demand channels, watch it, and then tell you what I think. Works for me...

Title: Anamorph

Selected From: Showtime on Demand

Playing Until: 02/16/11

On-Demand Synopsis: (2008) A reclusive, haunted detective who killed the brutal serial killer Uncle Eddie years ago faces the possibility that he shot the wrong man when new crime scenes perfectly match Uncle Eddie’s bizarre, intricately arranged style.

Going into it, I did not have high expectations for this film. The title called to mind the series of books by young adult author K.A. Applegate where a group of teenagers have the ability to morph into any animal they touch. I thought for certain my inner Mystery Science Theater crew would wisecrack about this throughout it’s entire 107 minutes. On top of this the serial killer was named "Uncle Eddie". Really? That’s what you want to call your killer? But, then again, what do I know? When I first read Silence of the Lambs I thought "Buffalo Bill" was a pretty stupid name for a psycho as well. So I confirmed my selection, lit a cigarette, and settled in.

Before the opening credits finished rolling, I already had a feeling that my initial misgivings about this movie would prove fruitless. It’s a hauntingly beautiful sequence with macabre imagery which immediately sets a tone that is carried throughout the production. I also realized, at this point, that it starred Willem Dafoe which bolstered my hopes further. I’m a fan of his work and can’t really think of anything I’ve seen with him in it that I didn’t like. So things were definitely looking up.

The movie begins five years in the past with Stan Aubray (Dafoe) sitting before an internal affairs committee due to his handling of the Uncle Eddie case. It is revealed that there are official reservations about the manner in which the suspect was killed, but since the serial killings stopped afterward it was determined Aubray had acted in the public’s best interest, netting him a promotion. In the present, Aubray has resigned himself to lecturing on forensic psychology and it’s slowly revealed that not only is he struggling with alcoholism but he also suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. "Hmm," you may be thinking, "a detective with OCD… where have I heard that before?" Well, crush that thought right now.

Whereas the title character from the popular TV series Monk almost seems to have a spotlight shining upon his quirks, Aubray’s are more subtle and natural. The OCD doesn’t define him, nor does it really play a part in the plot; it’s just one of those little details that really makes him human. And that’s one of the things I liked best about this film. The characters were flawed individuals. They had troubles, ambitions, regrets, and unspoken tensions… just like in real life From a cross-eyed coroner to an art expert who peddles Civil War era pornography on the side, these could’ve been people actually plucked from the streets of New York City.

Another mistake not to make is going into this film expecting it to be action packed. It’s not. Anamorph relies more on building a slow sense of unease than quick-cut shots of mayhem. You don’t see the victims being taken nor do you witness their fear as the maniac prepares for work. The viewer sees them as the killer sees them: the crime scene as a work of art, each detail staged with loving attention to detail. What’s more is that the scenes really do present as art, being something between medieval paintings and a Dave McKean Sandman cover.

Overall, I really liked this film. The only real problem I had with it was that it somehow felt incomplete. It had a definite beginning, middle, and end … yet for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it still seemed to be lacking a little something at the end. That can be a frustrating experience which is why Anamorph only gets four and a half out of six demons.

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