Studio: Screen Media Darkside
Director: Tom DeNucci
Writer: Tom DeNucci
Producer: Chad A. Verdi, Gino Pereira
Stars: Eric Roberts, Michael Berryman, Jonathan Silverman, Tom DeNucci, Gillian Williams, Vanessa Leigh, Lauren Bell
A group of partying friends uncovers a black market organ-harvesting ring operating inside a storage facility.
As a “Chad A. Verdi film” neither written nor directed by Chad A. Verdi, “Self Storage” is a mild improvement over “Infected” (review here), another “Chad A. Verdi film” released in 2013 that was neither written nor directed by Mr. Verdi. Although “Infected” was so deep beneath the cellar floor on all levels that simply keeping a movie in focus the entire time is already a step up.
Mainstream Hollywood has forgotten that Eric Roberts can be a talented performer, which is a blessing for independent productions, but a curse for the actor’s career. Roberts is often only as good as the people around him. If his agent and/or manager could pair him with a challenging director or with roles that required more effort than phoning it in, Roberts could be on the fast track out of the B-movie circuit. Or maybe the man is just comfortable with easy money for easy work. Either way, his presence usually makes his movies infinitely more watchable.
The same goes for Jonathan Silverman as a sleazy black market organ donor. Casting names is generally a stunt to secure a distributor or to push someone over the rental fence when they waffle on a Redbox decision. In “Self Storage,” these cinema veterans slam-dunk in the faces of the newcomers filling out the rest of the cast. They also serve as a reminder that performers familiar with the rodeo can take mediocre dialogue and lackluster characterizations and still find a way to create an onscreen persona with some entertainment value. Which is more than can be said for the other elements of the film.
Jake is a self-storage facility security guard best described as a slacker, as evidenced by multiple scenes of bong hits, whiskey shots, and on-the-job naps. Jonah is a shady underworld businessman, as depicted by the cocaine-dusted nostrils and pistols packed in each hand. And Walter is a PTSD afflicted ex-soldier, as illustrated by a conspicuous music score of snare drum marches and sad military trumpets whenever he wanders into “Full Metal Jacket” territory.
Stereotyped characters populate a stereotypical movie when Jake and his twentysomething stoner pals gather the girls for a late night party on the premises during Jake’s final night shift. What he does not know is that his boss Walter harvests organs from unwilling donors in a secret operating room inside one of the storage units. After Jake accidentally trips an acid shower failsafe that melts the remaining captive victims, Walter needs new recruits to fill Jonah’s black market order of body parts. Maybe it is lucky for Walter after all that Jake invited his six dimwit friends to a storage facility weed and keg party.
With the premise underway, “Self Storage” then takes a step back in time to the halcyon days of teen slashers for a boilerplate template of routine horror without the full effect of 1980’s charm. A lot of time is excessively padded with more shots of drinking games, pot smoking, and canoodling than every raunchy Reagan era sex comedy combined. Two out of the three pairs of breasts onscreen take a moment to remover their bras too, amply covering the nudity requirement for this level of filmmaking. As the writer, director, and one of the lead actors, Tom DeNucci also finds plenty of time for enough self-serving karate montages to fill a season of “Kung Fu.”
The movie’s primary trouble stems from an inability to settle on a consistent tone. Roberts and Silverman in particular are both allowed to put a little too much cartoony zing into their characters. Other scenes flirt with mistimed comedy when both Roberts and Berryman go overboard with their abduction techniques and accidentally kill several victims. Things completely jump off the deep end with a desperate finale that seems birthed from indecision on how best to conclude the story.
“Self Storage” is not so much bad as it is just bland and unremarkable. There is no doubt that without Eric Roberts, Jonathan Silverman, and Michael Berryman, “Self Storage” would be more painfully mediocre than it already is. As a first time feature director, DeNucci may have just given too much rope for everyone to play things however they felt when he would have been better served by dialing in his cast to a specific vision.
Review Score: 45