Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Commune (2009)

I really wanted to love this movie, fiends, I really did!! First off, it’s written, directed, produced, etc. by firecracker filmmaker Lis Fies. I just love her spunk and attitude, especially when we interviewed her for Women in Horror Month! Secondly, it sounded like it was going to be an homage to the sleazy 70s satanic slashers where a creepy cult goes after a nubile young virgin. I love me some killer cult horror flicks! Thirdly, I had heard so much hype about this movie I was thinking there was no way I could dislike it.

Oops…I was wrong. Ultimately I was let down by The Commune.

Soon to be 16-year-old Jenny (Chauntal Lewis, looking, ahem, more than slightly older than 15) is sent to live with her hippie dad on a commune for the summer. The community of hippies seems pretty harmless at first, with their stereotypical Earth Mother worship, yoga classes and uber-healthy diets, but things take a sinister turn as Jenny’s 16th birthday approaches. Does the commune want to turn her into a hemp-wearing flower child or do they have more ominous plans for her?

Technically, The Commune was impressive. As a director, Fies excels at making the film look like it had a much bigger budget than it did. The film looks sharp and professional and includes many establishing shots of the commune to give the audience a feel for its atmosphere. I liked that Fies took the time to set up different shots and compositions to make the film visually interesting.

Also impressive was the acting (even though some of the actors couldn’t pass for the ages they were portraying…ahem Chauntal Lewis!). Chauntal Lewis did a great job with the naïve Jenny. While at first she comes off as bratty and annoying, her character really starts to grow on you after a while. I also thought that Stuart G. Bennett did an amazingly job as the creepy Dr. Polieos, Jenny’s dad, with glances at his daughter that last far too long and leave you feeling very icky.

However, despite these glimmers of greatness, the film overall lacked a certain “oomph!” I was looking for and in the end was pretty predictable. The script seemed a bit bare and it seemed the film would have worked better as a short. Without very much of anything happening, the pacing was off and the film felt drawn out and slow. Besides a few startling moments the film had neither scares nor did it create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere. The characters seemed pretty one-dimensional as well, with only Jenny and Dr. Polieos fully fleshed out. I would have like to have seen more menace from the members of the commune and more development of their characters. I understand the filmmaker may have wanted to make them appear as “sheep”, but they all could have used more edginess in order to give the film more suspense. And portraying them as “weird” or “evil” just because they ate healthy and were “hippies” seemed like lazy and irresponsible screenwriting to me.

The Commune is supposed to be based on Greek tragedy with a 70s psycho-sexual slant (which sounds pretty cool, right?), but for me it just failed to deliver anything but yawns, something I’m definitely not looking for when watching a horror movie. The technical aspects of the film make me look forward to Lis Fies future work behind the camera, but I do hope she bones up on her screenwriting skills and conceives a less predictable story than The Commune.

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