388 Arletta Ave Randall Cole
Published Sep 06, 2011Generating chills from technologically exacerbated, cultural voyeuristic ubiquity isn't something new to the thriller genre, nor is the use of surveillance-style direction to implicate passive viewership as a mode of perpetration — the act of violence exists to fulfil our desire to watch. Even beyond this style, which is reminiscent of the superior My Little Eye, Randall Cole's addition to the oeuvre, 388 Arletta Avenue, explores themes and concepts handled with greater acuity in Michael Haneke's Caché.
And while the nature of originality is a redundant argument, one has to question the purpose of a work that liberally borrows from superior texts to make a far less thoughtful and comprehensive one.
Much like Caché, this Canadian psychodrama starts out with James (Nick Stahl) and Amy (Mia Kirschner), a young married couple, discovering evidence that someone is watching them. Here, the evidence isn't as overt as a videotape of their home. Instead they discover a mixed CD of oldies in their car and suspect their cat has been replaced with another that looks similar. This then escalates.
Since the explored concept of forced introspection through unspecified scrutiny is tenuous at best, we're left with the basic visceral appeal to maintain interest. And it works, for a while, as the unexpected pops up occasionally, with the young couple discovering oddities around their house, occasionally receiving weird emails and mailbox surprises, but this quickly fades as absurdity and ludicrous character decisions mount.
This is one of those films where people never explain themselves properly, leading to convenient misunderstandings exaggerated by bumbling, unrealistic police officers and illogical overreactions. It's frustrating to watch, since there's virtually no identification or empathy, which is heightened by the surveillance style, which never allows for cathartic, identifying close-ups or stylization beyond frenetic editing.
Somewhere in here is the kernel of an idea — a tight psychological thriller — but the awkward conventions and overall stupidity make laughable something that passes only as mild entertainment. (eOne)