Home Video Hovel: A Resurrection, by Sarah Brinks
There are so many elements to a film; sound, editing, acting, lighting, screen writing… the list goes on and on. Any one of these elements can elevate a film to something great, they can also drag a good film down. The worst element of A Resurrection is the screenwriting. Lazy horror is one of my least favorite things, and there is a lot of lazy horror out there (just take a look through the Netflix Instant offerings). Poor editing, poor acting, and poor direction don’t help the film either but really it comes down to poor storytelling.
The basic plot of the film is that a school counselor Jessie (Mischa Barton) has to stay after school when a fight breaks out between a troubled junior named Eli and a group of jocks and their girlfriends. We find out that Eli’s brother was killed recently in a hit and run accident. He has been drawing disturbing images ever since and he claims that his brother Devon is still alive. Strange things start happening at the school and people start dying. Jessie’s fiance Travis (Devon Sawa) is a deputy sheriff. While all this is happening at the school he is called to Devon’s grave which has been dug up and is empty. The rest of the film is a jumbled mess of psychological horror, supernatural horror, and witchcraft. There is also a poorly developed religious undercurrent that comes out of nowhere in the third act.
The best word to describe the acting in the film is; uneven. Micheal Clarke Duncan in a small role as the school principal is quite good, Devon Sawa as the small town cop is also good, and J. Michael Trautmann as Eli does his best with a poorly written character. The film is dedicated to Michael Clarke Duncan. A Resurrection is one of the last projects he worked on before his untimely death. It is a shame that this film is the note he had to go out on, as it is really not very good and Duncan was very talented actor. One of his most distinctive traits was his deep voice. There is a bizarre scene in the film between Duncan and Mathew Willig, who plays an ex-NFL player and the father of one of the high school jocks. Willig is a huge man and a real life ex-NFL player. He has an equally deep voice and the scene he is in with Duncan all you can focus on is the unspoken competition for who has a deeper voice. The worst actor in the film is probably Mischa Barton. You have to ask yourself when you are watching a film like A Resurrection if having a recognizable name in a film is worth casting a bad actor just for their name. Personally I’ll take a “no name” talent of an established mediocre actor any day.
Films like A Resurrection make me ask myself what it is that makes the difference between a good horror/suspense thriller and a bad one. For me, it is a bit like the difference between a good poker player and a bad one; the good ones don’t show their cards too soon. Too many horror films tell you way too early what it is that you should be scared of. A recent example of this is The Conjuring. Sadly, that film shows you way too much, way too soon. A Resurrection suffers from a different sin; it tries to be way too many things. It wants to be a psychological thriller, a possession story, and a religious thriller, but it isn’t committed enough to any of them so it just becomes a mess. If it had been a film about a troubled teen who has convinced himself that his brother is still alive and he has to avenge him, that would have been enough. Or if it had been a supernatural horror film about possession and magic; that would have been enough. Or if it had been a messed up allegory for the resurrection of Christ, that would have been enough. Instead we have to watch as the film tries to be all three and fails at all three. Another big issue I had with the film was the fact that no one acted the way real people do in scary situations. When people make obvious and stupid choices because the film needs them to, it takes you right out of the film.
Somewhere around the middle of the second act I stopped caring about anyone in this film. People who are innocent die, people who are guilty die, people who have almost nothing to do with the story at all die. So there is really nothing to keep you interested or invested. First time writer and director Matt Orlando has got some serious work to do if he wants to be a good filmmaker or writer. The sound was also terrible, but I think that might have just been a factor of the screener I was watching. I do not recommend you watch this film. It just isn’t good enough to warrant ninety minutes of your life.