DVD Review: Amusement

Three former childhood friends — Tabitha (Katheryn Winnick), Lisa (Jessica Lucas) and Shelby (Laura Breckenridge) — find themselves at the mercy of a madman obsessed with terrifying them for his own personal amusement. One by one they are trapped within his spacious industrially gothic lair and if they don’t play his game he might just decide the whole lot of them are better off dead.

On and off the theatrical calendar for over a year, thanks to Warner Bros.’ internal absorption of New Line and Picturehouse the horror-thriller Amusement makes its premiere on DVD in all its completely unoriginal glory. Granted, this little Saw meets “The Twilight Zone” wannabe has its effective moments, with a couple of moments burrowing under my skin far more than I’d expected them to, but Jake Wade Wall’s screenplay is every bit as asinine and as mind-numbingly idiotic as his ones for remakes of The Hitcher and When a Stranger Calls. The characters do so many stupid things over and over again at a certain point I just stopped caring about the lot of them, any emotional investment I may have made instantly flew out the window only to never return.

Thankfully director John Simpson manages to mask many of the script’s numerous flaws by using every nook, cranny and darkly lit hideaway found within Craig Stearns eye-popping production design. Story aside, the film is a visual winner belying its low budget roots.

Simpson also stages some truly frightening moments that knocked me cold. An entire bit in a room full of stuffed clowns is inspired, while the opening gag involving a semi truck and a flying body certainly gets the blood racing. I also liked the way Simpson overlaps Wall’s narratives, and while it’s not an original conceit by shuffling back and forth between the girls’ storylines, he gives the film a sense of mystery it otherwise would have lacked.

Ultimately, the sheer stupidity of it all ends up canceling out the positives. While the actors are fine, what they’re asked to do is so insanely idiotic a person can only take so much before the incredulity of it all starts to weigh on them. By the time the three ladies started running around their assailant’s abode like rats trying to escape a maze I’d kind of tuned the whole thing out, and I imagine even the most easy to please horror fanatic will disappointingly give up and turn the darn disc off.

Speaking of the DVD, there isn’t much to say about it. There are no special features, the only extra being the ability to watch the film in both Widescreen and Full Screen formats. The transfer is solid, and the sound is excellent, but other than that I have nothing else to talk about.

All we’re left with is the movie itself, and while I admit to being curious to see what Simpson moves on to next if Wall never wrote another screenplay I can’t say I’d lose any sleep. Amusement has its merits, and it certainly offers a few scares, but overall it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd, too much of it proving to be a waste of time and energy I doubt few will ever return to.

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