Studio: Phase 4 Films
Director: Bryan Enk
Writer: Jessi Gotta
Producer: Jessi Gotta, Bryan Enk
Stars: Jessi Gotta, Jessica Savage, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Patrick Shearer, Alan Rowe Kelly
Fueled by her desire for revenge, a desperate woman searches determinedly for the savage beast that destroyed her family.
“The Big Bad” made me cry. Not from any emotion or drama depicted onscreen, but from the blown out and blurry cinematography that may as well have lit a match and set fire to my eyes. The movie looks as though it was shot through gauze, which would be terrific if the story was told through the first-person perspective of a mummy. Except “The Big Bad” is a werewolf film.
Frankie is a woman desperately searching the city’s seedy underbelly for the man who killed her family. That man is a werewolf and, well, that sums up the entire plot.
“The Big Bad” is as desperate as the protagonist. The movie tries so hard to be artistic for art’s sake that it fails to form a unique identity and instead assembles itself like a Frankenstein’s Monster out of passé and out-of-place cinema techniques.
The visual look starts on the wrong foot by washing each frame in a cloud, attempting to create a dream state through soft focus rather than direction. Gate jumps and film flashes are ripped right out of a Nine Inch Nails music video from 1994. Slow motion heads turns as a woman saunters by and light shot through a spinning ceiling fan, which is utilized in more than one scene, round out the kitchen sink approach to creating a look for the film. This type of style without purpose is empty and meaningless. It is the equivalent of a shoulder shrug as “The Big Bad” hopes at least one thing it tries might stick to a wall.
For flashback scenes as Frankie recounts a childhood accident, grainy 8mm film plays over her dialogue to hammer home a vintage feel. But the home movies shown have nothing to do with what she describes. While recounting the details of a car crash, the film depicts a child in a pool and a family dog running through the backyard. Later, the object of her search enters a similar self-referential state of reverie. His soliloquy is accompanied by random shots of ocean waves crashing on a beach, which are even less interesting than the scenes of the dog and the pool.
If this movie was shot with a boom mic, I imagine that instead of the actors, it was pointed at the wall and recorded the dialogue as it bounced around the room. A band called Deacon Bishop Revival creates noise and yells incoherently for the songs that constitute the soundtrack. It is a judgment call regarding which is the bigger aural offender: the music or the dialogue.
Tinny sound aside, the dialogue is read by stage actors as if they are delivering monologues under a spotlight, without any other characters in their presence. The film tries generating mystery by crafting lines that run in circles. Virtually nothing spoken ever says anything of consequence. Example:
“Never heard of her.”
“You wouldn’t have.”
“What does she want with me?”
“I don’t know where he is.”
“We know. But you know enough.”
“What does that mean?”
“I think you know exactly what I mean.”
Okay indeed. For season two of Project Greenlight, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon gave prospective directors a script of nonsensical, out-of-context dialogue to see how they would create a film around it. This feels like that same exercise:
“You can’t take it so personally.”
“We just worked so hard. Did you find the-?”
“Yes, it’s right here.”
“He thought, maybe if he gave them both one, they would have more of a chance if-“
“Guess that didn’t work out.”
“I think that will be all dear.”
The total runtime is only 75 minutes and “The Big Bad” still does not know how to fill that space. The first six minutes of the film feature the main character brushing her teeth, beating a tire with a baseball bat, and checking her watch. No, sorry. That last one was me. If the entire 30-minute first act were excised completely, the story would not change at all. The story ramps up at the act change, only to immediately crash into another halt when the heroine spends the first four minutes of act two locked in a car trunk.
When creatures finally appear, and bring a small bit of gore with them, the production value confirms that it has nothing left up its sleeve. A chief villain taunts the heroine by wearing an eyeball in her socket that looks like a hard-boiled egg. And when that same villainess is subsequently destroyed, she melts into a fountain of goo that is gutbustingly hysterical to witness. As she disintegrates like a candle, the camera cuts back to the heroine being absolutely drenched in blood and slime. From how painfully obvious the liquid arcs are that are pointed right at her, the absurdity is that if the camera panned just two feet to the right, we would see a half dozen crewmembers squirting water bottles in her direction. Meanwhile, the actress being soaked ridiculously flails her arms as if she is drowning in 400 feet of raging riptides.
There may have been an interesting short film in here at some point. Yet someone made the decision to try padding that idea into a feature film without having any meat to fill out the bones. One thing that can be said about “The Big Bad” is that at least it lives up to half of its title. Too bad it is the latter half.
Review Score: 10