Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Douglas Elford-Argent
Writer: Wendy Elford-Argent
Producer: Ted Willett, Douglas Elford-Argent
Stars: Gwendolyn Garver, Kristian Capalik, Cal Thomas, James Symington, Bobbi Jean Bashe, Austin Kieler
The ghost of a murdered boy helps a young woman uncover the truth behind a series of deaths on the high school hockey team.
In the last two years alone, there have been enough supernatural mystery films bearing movie-of-the-week production values that cable broadcasters would be able to create a “Lifetime Midnight” channel where these supposed thrillers could burn endlessly around reruns of “Medium” and “The Ghost Whisperer.” The appeal to fright fans is limited because the suspense is too tame, which leaves the only possible target audience as someone who might respond to the personal or emotional dilemma that the movie is really about. These are the types of overlit and overacted potboilers masquerading as horror because a ghost is the one leading the female protagonist to lay a spirit to rest or to solve a crime of some sort.
“Aberration” hits the latter of those two options while adding “new movie” to its list of disguises. “Aberration” is actually the 2007 film “AfterThought.” Except it now features an equally unremarkable title along with updated box art intended to lure viewers with its ghost child’s shameless resemblance to the little boy from “The Grudge.”
Discovering that “AfterThought” is hiding behind a new façade only scratches the surface of suspicious things going on with the movie. Following the bread crumbs and digging behind-the-scenes unravels the production’s own mystery. According to IMDB, lead actress Gwendolyn Garver uses the name Wendy Elford-Argent for many of her non-acting credits, as she does in “Aberration” by double dipping as the movie’s screenwriter. Factor in that her husband Douglas Elford-Argent is the film’s director and there is no longer a question about how she ended up cast as a high school sophomore despite being 24 years old at the time of filming in 2006.
Twentysomething James Dean got away with playing a high school teen in “Rebel Without a Cause” in the same way that Kristen Bell did on “Veronica Mars.” Star quality screen presence goes a long way towards suspending an audience’s disbelief. Engaging acting and solid stories are just two more distractions that also make old playing young a non-issue.
The challenge with the “Aberration” cast playing over ten years younger than they actually are is not just that they do not look the age. It is that they do not even look like actors. Not in terms of performance ability, although that can be debated too, but in terms of their Plain Jane appearances that in some cases do not translate well to the screen. The assemblage might make for a believable group of faces in any average supermarket checkout line, yet being believable as leads intended to carry a feature film is an entirely different animal.
Christy Dawson is an ordinary teenager with the extraordinary ability to communicate with a dead boy who appears in her dreams. When players on the high school hockey team begin dropping dead under increasingly suspicious circumstances, it is up to Christy to solve the murders and to figure out how the little boy in her visions is connected.
To say that the final revelation is underwhelming would be an understatement. The hockey players fall under the category of either missing a personality entirely or having stereotypical jock jerk as the sole defining trait. Caring about anyone’s death or investing in the outcome of the killer’s identity is impossible to do with characters this flat and uninteresting.
Low-budget filmmakers are smart to work with what they have and to work around what they do not. Yet “Aberration” fumbles over simple gaffes that could have been solved with script revisions. Among other things, using a high school as the setting does no one any favors. The cast would be less of a sore thumb with a university setting and every scene and location could still remain the same. Pedestrian dialogue could have also used a facelift. When Christy’s best friend Mindy sees her the morning after a party, the first thing Mindy says is, “did I tell you about Jacobs?” Well no, Mindy. You didn’t. Seeing as how this is the first conversation we’ve had since the party, you could not possibly have told me about Jacobs already.
Misdirected editing trips things up on the technical end, too. A hockey game is shot and cut so awkwardly that the final goal is shown via scoreboard change instead of actually seeing a puck go into the net. The crowd pumps their fists and a girlfriend cheers “go!” while players skate to their positions following a blown whistle. Random shots of Christy driving the Zamboni around an ice rink inserted between blurbs of post-game locker room talk are just as nonsensical.
Unless a movie is shelved by a distributor bankruptcy, industry politics, or changes in studio management, such as in the case of exception “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” seven years between completing a film and seeing it pressed to DVD is never a good sign. After bearing witness to the dull mystery, the duller characters, and the uninspired production, it becomes clear that audiences would have been better off had “Aberration” stayed on that shelf in unreleased limbo.
Review Score: 25