Reviewed by John Weber
Rating: 6.5 Beans
This one is really borderline...I couldn't figure out whether this was supposed to be a parody of Roman Polanski's classic "Repulsion". That's when a nice young woman goes, shall we say, quite nuts, within the walls of her own apartment.
Writer-director James Merendino and producer-costar Rustam Branaman have walked this corridor - in a 1994 flick called "The Upstairs Neighbour" with some of the same cast members as "Terrified". That was a subtle spoof of Polanski's "The Tenant". So I hear, anyway.
I'm just not sure this was supposed to be a spoof. If I'm dense, then I'm dense. But if it was - nah, didn't work for me.
We meet our lead character, Oliver (Heather Graham, now doing great with leads in hits like "Bowfinger" and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"). She has been traumatized because her husband shot her lover and then killed himself while she watched. As she tries to resume her life she rather blankly picks up strange men in bars and has sex with them. Pretty much everyone she meets and deals with is obnoxious and selfish, even her friend Pearl (Lisa Zane). She keeps getting beat up and followed by a nasty fella who beats her up in her apartment, but doesn't take anything. Eventually, the police come to think she's making all of it up. Is she?
Yeah, baby, typical thriller territory. But what sets this apart is the weird, amateurish ensemble. Pearl throws a party for Olive with odd character-types that do nothing to drive the plot along. Every minor character has a showy moment that does nothing except make us think that maybe Olive is right, that she ought to retract from society. That's the only reason these scenes must exist, because they constantly drag the movie down. Hell, if this was my potential circle of friends, I'd lock myself in the attic with the cat!
One ludricuous scene has Pearl coming on to Olive in front of the kitchen sink, and of course, they sleep together. And Pearl's all full of regrets in the morning. She's just like all those scummy men out there!
Heather is all bug-eyed as Olive, and not altogether bad. But when the end transforms her into a nasty, mumbling, expletive-spewing creature, I just laughed out loud. (Was I supposed to? I dunno.) Her favorite word: scumbag. Lisa Zane is just terrible as Pearl, who plays it like an overbearing uncaring Rhoda to Graham's Mary. And Rustam Branaman is like a low-rent Chazz Palminteri, especially during a muttering, useless scene he has as the police detective investigating the case. It's only there because, hey, we gotta have a scene for our buddy and producer Rustam, right? And who was in charge of things when Rustam says, as the cop, "There are certain procedures you should take..." when explaining how to be safe from intruders? Um...didn't he mean precautions?
Anyway, "Terrified" is certainly a Grade Z variation of "Repulsion". I don't know if it was done as homage or spoof. But either way, it wasn't done particularly well. And the last scene is one of the most insincere moments I've ever seen at the end of a movie.
To sum up, now you know what you're dealing with should you decide to rent "Terrified". Make sure you take the proper procedures.
I mean precautions.
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