The Sundance Film Festival is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, yet somehow, the occasional stinkers make its way into the lineup. Unfortunately, I happened to be present for the screenings of many of these head-scratchingly sub par films.
Based on what I had read, I thought that Slacker was going to be a documentary about people in Texas who make their living by doing as little work as possible. The movie description was misleading. In reality, Slacker is a narrative (if you could call it that) that follows unbearably bland characters through their daily routine of doing absolutely nothing. Have you ever been stuck in a conversation with someone who is unable to produce an interesting sentence? Slacker possesses all the awkward banality of such a conversation and repeats the experience twenty times while teasing the audience with false hope that the “story” will somehow become meaningful. I watched plenty of movies at Sundance that I did not care for at all, but Slacker was the only movie that I walked out of. Truly painful to watch. (1/5)
Knuckle was a film that I was particularly excited about. The premise about Irish bare-knuckle fighting held tremendous promise, and I envisioned some truly epic fights matched with the personal stories of the fighters and their reasons for hating their opponents. Knuckle was what I expected with regards to story structure, but the actual subject matter was as captivating as watching two old Irish women chain smoke and shake their heads slowly. The filming took ten years to complete, and with that much footage, one would expect something interesting to happen. Even the fighting scenes elicited yawns from the audience. The story structure consisted of the protagonist fighting someone from the enemy clan then vowing to retire. This happened three times. I missed the third time due to being bored to sleep, however, and was awoken by half-hearted applause from the audience. I am always disappointed with a film when I feel that, under the same circumstances, I could have produced a better movie. (2/5)
Homework is bad. It is just a bad, poorly conceived cash grab aimed at the wallets of romantically oblivious youth in the audience. My initial thought was that Homework was just a version of Superbad without any of the funny parts, but even the lowbrow Superbad had some pertinent underlying themes that Homework could not pull off. Freddy Highmore’s character was just plain unlikable, Emma Roberts has the acting chops of a dead fish, and the dialogue gave me a headache due to the frequency of my eyes rolling in disgust. I would have walked out of this movie early had I not been stuck within the bowels of a gaggle of Highmore fangirls. I do not think that I could stomach a second viewing of this awful film. (1/5)
All Your Dead Ones
Like Vampire, All Your Dead Ones had a premise that seemed failsafe. Unfortunately, it was like Knuckle in that I slept through the climax of the film. The movie is about a simple Colombian farmer who stumbles upon a pile of dead bodies in his field. Sounds awesome, right? It very well could have been. The opening scene (which was borderline pornographic) set the tone for overly long, confusing sequences, and after the body pile was actually found, the narrative completely broke down. From what I could gather, the mayor comes and moves the bodies to a soccer field after roughly an hour of talking about what to do. I think that’s what happened… I was asleep for a lot of that part. There was no music, no interesting dialogue (or subtitles, at least), and the character motivations were unclear. There was nothing about this movie aside from above average cinematography to keep me awake, and my body must have found my inner eyelids more interesting. The people who I was with were as confused as I was even though they were awake through the ordeal, which does not reflect well on its clarity. The Q&A following the film shed some light on the political metaphors that the film was aiming to portray, but if you have to explain a film to your audience, you failed at your job. (1.5/5)
I am conflicted as I attempt to write this review, for I am unsure as to whether I should grade this film based on its classical merits as art or how entertained I was after watching it. On one hand, Vampire was without a doubt the most horribly produced pile of trash that I saw in my week at Sundance. On paper, Vampire seemed like it had an intriguing premise, but absolutely the production team took what should have been a great movie and completely dropped the ball. From a sensory perspective, the audio was all over the place in terms of volume and the sets were unrealistic and uninspired. For instance, the “hospital” was merely a warehouse. I was not convinced. The acting was creepy in parts that it shouldn’t have been, and I found myself deeply hating every character. I’m sure that there was at least one person I should have sided with, but I couldn’t wait for each character to die. The end of the film was the most confusing sequence of any film I have ever seen, and it was as if the director realized how bad his film was and just devoted the ending to messing with the audience. However, the bus ride back from the Yarrow Theater was one of the highlights of my trip, as it consisted of about 12 of m housemates laughing hysterically about how bad the film was. The disaster of a movie was actually a good bonding experience. (0.5/5)
– Greg Gentile