Starring Adrien The Pianist Brody & Keira Guenivere Knightley, with fine supporting performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh willing to look homely & Kris Kristofferson willing to be a whiny villain, it is just about possible to say The Jacket (2005) has a splendid cast.
The film certainly has its flaws, the main one being the script's inability to find an ending. The DVD extras include three alternative endings, all inferior to the one that was used, but all of them proof only that at storytelling art this tale just didn't know where the heck it was going.
Brody is a Gulf War veteran with a serious head injury. He is charged with a violent crime which he did not commit but is too brain-damaged to defend himself, so is condemned to a madhouse for the criminally insane.
Kristofferson, bordering on mad scientist, has a theory that psychological torture will cure men who are violently psychotic. The fact that his previous guinea pig was killed by the process hasn't changed his thinking.
Loaded up with psychotropic drugs, bound into a dirty ragged straight jacket, & stuffed in a morgue drawer to experience terror & deprivation, Brody finds escape by travelling forward in time where he discovers that he is going to be killed in the madhouse.
He tries, between bouts of torture, to change his apparent future fate. While tortured he time-travels in order to play detective with a newly met girlfriend hoping to uncover exactly how or why he was killed.
It's not actually much of a story & to make it seem less simple, it holds no answers. Is the man in the straightjacket really sane & innocent or is he the nuttiest of all? Is he really time-travelling or hallucinating he's doing so? Can he really change his fate or does he only imagine that he can?
The viewer gets to decide, because nothing in the film is certain. With a less interesting cast this wouldn't've worked at all. Even with a great cast, it only works a little.
Twenty years ago, a secret government project evidently amounted to experimental torture of little children for no earthly reason. No such torture is depicted in Crazy Eights (2006), a surprisingly sanitized horror film. But we're informed rather blandly that the project resulted in the "disappearance" of 600 children before the project was shut down.
We just have to accept this premise for its horror movie protential, as the film itself contains nothing that would make it seem likely. Nor will we ever find out what happened to the 600 missing; there are intimations they were all killed, but perhaps they were memory-erased like our current troupe, who knows, the people who made the film don't seem to have themselves known.
Rather than anything at all to do with the 600 missing, & we're not shown any part of the abandoned orphanage that could've housed more than a handful of kids. So we get, instead of a vast number of child-ghosts victmiized by the experiement, a single malicious ghost victmized by her fellow playmates.
The ghost is a little girl killed due to the bullying cruelties of seven of the self-styled "Crazy Eights." These seven apparently experienced the allegedly horrific experiments like a summer camp outing, & never once does the premise of torture in childhood give any context for the story. They might just as well have been in an ordinary orphanage ganging up on one small kid.
When we first meet the little kids grown up "today," they include the film's only recognizable actor, Traci Lords, who twenty years earlier was already starring in horror films, & in this film a bit crusty under the trowled-on make-up to convince anyone she was a little kid in the early 1980s. The casting in general gives no impression that they were all ten or twelve years old two decades earlier, when they would've been in their twenties rather than pre-teen orphans.
Another inexplicable premise is that none of the remaining six Crazy Eights remember anything about the experiments, their lives in the evil laboratory, or having been bullies whose behavior against the littlest of the eight resulted in her death. We can surmise the mysterious "experiments" have something to do with their lack of remembrance, but the awful script never makes a bit of it clear or comprehensible.
One of the Crazy Eights has recently died & for the reading of his last will & testiment, he's brought the remaining six together, & sent them on a mission. This results in them being locked in the laboratory & basement complex of the "orphanage" they only slowly remember is where they lived together when little. As memory comes back to them, sensibleness in the script does not.
Now the one strength of the film is it is not that badly acted, which can't be said of many films of the "picked off one by one" variety. Plus the cinematography is adequate to good. The mature stars bring a different feeling to a plotline that usually amounts to picking off the teenagers in the haunted house, or the ruins of the old asylum, or the abandoned underground lab, or the cabin in the woods. I was pulled into the story by the fact of it being adults coping with the revenge haunting, rather than the usual blande group of twenty-somethings fobbed off as teens.
But apart from the cast's ages, there's nothing novel here, & because this plot line is in most such films about the gore FX, this example is a further failure for lack of grue. This is especially surprising since the film was advertised as one of the "eight films to die for," a collection of films from the "After Dark Horrorfest" all alleged to have been too shocking & too bloody to find a distributor. So said the distributor. But the picking off is in the main perfunctory, gutless, or off-screen.
The creators of this drivel could be further lambasted for lacking the least notion of story continunity. The advertised premise was that objects from a time capsule they buried when children bring back their memories, but this never really happens.
And when later in the film they decide (without evidence of it being so) that things might be all right for them if they burn the stuff that was in that trunk, this amounts to a couple objects they brought with them when trapped in the lab & basement. Virtually everything that happens makes no sense; has no continuity from event to event; & the individual disconnected events lack imagination.
Some of the "films to die for" were really quite good-of-kind, rarely too gruesome as alleged but competent horror films. This one, however, reveals by its unutterable ineptitude why it was slow to find a distributor.
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