Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Brian Coyne
Writer: Brian Coyne
Producer: Josh Russell, Sierra Russell, Jason Miller, Brian Coyne
Stars: Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim, Heather Vaughn, Richard Riehle, Diane Goldner, Miles Dougal
Twin sisters terrorize residents of a suburban neighborhood on Halloween night, including the new teacher at their school.
Title credits in Albertus font. A simple electronic score created with a keyboard. A first-person shot from behind a mask’s eyeholes. Faceless murderers with no agenda other than slaughtering suburbia on Halloween night. “Bad Apples” badly wants to be in John Carpenter’s orbit, but it isn’t even competent enough to be considered Ed Wood adjacent.
The straightforward premise concerns two teenage sisters from the wrong side of a small town’s tracks. Uttering only a few words throughout the quick film, the unidentified girls don frozen-faced masks and embark on a Halloween night killing spree across a quiet suburban setting. At the end of the sisters’ path lies the home of a husband and wife who’ve just moved in, and who may not survive long enough to unpack. That’s all there is to it.
I’d like to optimistically assume that the edit I watched was unfinished. Sound effects were noticeably absent, audio levels fluctuated all over the place, and poor color timing changed the tint of one victim’s blood midway through a scene. Even if that’s the case, I assure you that any “fixed” final cut you see, should you willingly choose to punish yourself, will still feature scenes with no more than two camera setups, unimportant close-ups of inconsequential inserts like a ceramic coffee mug, and a subtly swaying camera inducing seasickness from not taking the time to attach to a tripod.
Awful audio offends the ears as much as unappealing visuals upset the eyes. Dialogue routinely echoes due to poorly placed microphones or being bounced off tight walls. One actor’s breath blows out distortion with every exhale. The music fits the mood, but there is only one line of it repeated continuously. It’s a 60-second score for an 84-minute film.
Looped noise comically plays in a prologue when one woman opens her door. We don’t see the trick-or-treaters, and the woman only passes out one or two pieces of candy. Yet we hear what sounds like a dog toy being faintly squeezed rapidly to create a cacophonous orchestra of children that couldn’t possibly fit on this tiny apartment doorstep.
“Bad Apples” wears its origins as a homegrown microbudget movie on its sleeve. Two of the producers also did makeup effects. The composer pulled double duty as the colorist. This is a skeletal cheapie made with favors, family, and friends that I normally know to stay away from.
I took the plunge anyway because likable indie horror staples Brea Grant and Graham Skipper headline the top two roles. Either one of them is susceptible to appearing in an occasional bad movie. That’s par for the course in genre entertainment. But could they make the same ill-advised decision to be in the same bad movie together?
Maybe Grant and Skipper are personal friends of writer/director Brian Coyne or someone else involved with the production, I don’t know. I do know that neither one of them has any hope of salvaging “Bad Apples.”
Brea Grant plays a consistently annoyed, moping, or otherwise detached woman. She couldn’t care less about moving into her new home or meeting any neighbors. She appears unenthusiastic about anything involving her husband, even using “I hate you” as a term of endearment. A later revelation offers some justification for her despondency, although realistically, this is still the wrong way to mute Grant’s usually buoyant presence. Grant doesn’t read as a woman imprisoned by internalized misery. She reads as an actress trapped by boredom, further dejected from the realization that she has no escape route.
Grant’s sleepy grimness struggles mightily to create chemistry with Graham Skipper. Skipper then tries over-hard to infuse some sort of charming characterization into drab dialogue. His efforts at inflection appear even more desperate when stacked against Grant’s dourness, making their forced interchanges painful instead of playful.
It isn’t enjoyable to witness Grant and Skipper fighting to be interesting or interested. Hopefully they’ve satisfied whatever obligations were due or reaped reasonable wages. “Bad Apples” won’t be a bullet point on the back of either actor’s headshot.
“Bad Apples” is such a slim effort, there isn’t much else to say without continuing to kick the film while it’s down. From the high school ‘kid’ who, I’m not exaggerating, is almost entirely bald, to an overlong coda thinking it offers a clever twist, nothing works the way it should. Whether the film was rushed, underfunded, or its creators simply didn’t care doesn’t matter. Spartan structure and sloppy style make “Bad Apples” an abysmally unsatisfying movie.
Review Score: 20