Archive for the High School Horrors Category

Me and Lil’ Stevie Are Moved by CARRIE (2002)

Posted in 2012, High School Horrors, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Remakes, Telekinesis, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie

Are Moved By



By Peter N. Dudar

(INTERIOR/NIGHT:  Establishing shot of a gymnasium filled streamers and balloons and painted banners and signs. High school students in tuxedos and formal gowns are floating and twirling on a wooden floor with gridded basketball lines and circles. In the background, a slow dance number flows through the mid-spring evening. One couple waltzes past the camera, and as the man’s tuxedoed back turns to face us, we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King. We also see that Lil’ Stevie is wearing a prom dress!)

Lil’ Stevie:  What the…What did you do to me?

Peter:  You’re my prom date for the night. You look gorgeous!

(Lil’ Stevie pulls the pin out of his corsage and sticks it right in Peter’s eye.)

Peter:  OUCH!  Why you little…

Lil’ Stevie:  Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our little column. In this edition, we’ll be reviewing Brian De Palma’s masterpiece adaptation of my very first novel, CARRIE. Now, in case you didn’t know…

(Peter plucks the pin out of his eye and plants it right into Lil’ Stevie’s wooden nose.)

Peter:  Hold that thought!  Today, we’ll be discussing David Carson’s 2002 made-for-TV adaptation of the REAL Stephen King’s novel CARRIE (USA Network). I was going to have us review the original De Palma film, but the truth is that I just don’t have it on DVD and Netflix only had the newer version. So I figured, what the hay and the two of us sat down and watched it.

Lil’ Stevie:  You must have slipped me some Roofies because I don’t remember it. You didn’t molest me or anything, did you?

Peter:  Of course not. I’m waiting till after the dance. Now, can we get on with this?

Lil’ Stevie:  Just a sec…(pulls pin out if his nose and tosses it aside). Alright, get on with it!

Peter:  For the two people out there who have never read the book or watched the movie,  CARRIE (played originally by Sissy Spacek and, in this version, by horror-fan fave Angela Bettis, who also starred in Lucky McKee’s MAY, 2002), is the ultimate high school loser. She is the epitome of tragic figure:  her mother is a fanatical religious nut who has raised her in ritual obedience and punishment, her fellow schoolmates absolutely loathe her because she is incapable of fitting in, and we get the impression that she has absolutely no hope within herself to ever find happiness in any part of her life.

Lil’ Stevie:  Hell, when I was writing the book, even I wanted to slap her!

Peter:  That’s terrible!  But you didn’t write the book, so quit interrupting. This version of the movie begins with Carrie’s mom Margaret White (Patricia Clarkson, SHUTTER ISLAND, 2010) delivering her baby at home, in her own bed, all by herself. Apparently, Carrie’s deadbeat dad was long gone by this point.

Lil’ Stevie:  Would YOU want to stick around with that psycho-head?

Peter:  I suppose not. But this little glimpse of Carrie’s life is missing from the original movie, as was the rain of burning stones directly afterward.

Lil’ Stevie:  At least that follows what I wrote in my book…

Peter:  Jump ahead the seventeen-plus years of her life to her senior year of high school, where the mousy, beaten-down Carrie practically tiptoes through the halls of the school with her head down and her books clutched in a death grip in front of her. We see her in her daily classes, where the other kids carelessly pick on her and laugh at their own delight. We see her in the library, where she sketches in her notebook a picture of a heart, with her and her crush, Tommy Ross (Tobias Mehler, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, 1998) holding hands and living happily ever after. And we see her in gym class, where she strikes out to end the softball game.

Lil’ Stevie:  She’s on the Loserville Express!

Peter:  It’s no wonder the other kids pick on her. She sucks at life!

Lil’ Stevie:  I shoulda just euthanized her back in chapter 3, so she didn’t have to endure all the punishment I throw at her.

Peter:  Like when all of a sudden, at the end of adolescence, she suddenly has her first menstrual cycle in the girl’s shower?  Only to have all the other girls peering at her over the shower stalls and chanting terrible things at her?  And then they fill her locker with tampons and write “Plug it up!” in magic marker on the locker door for all the world to see?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Chuckling) Yeah, that may have been a little over the top.

Peter:  Actually, no it wasn’t. That’s the kind of cruelty you can only find in teenagers. They suck!  It’s a developmental thing…camouflage your own flaws by pointing out the shortcomings of others. It’s a defense mechanism. Three parts projecting, two parts pack mentality. And with a bunch of high school girls, all riddled with their own self-esteem issues, it becomes very convenient to find a weaker target and throw garbage at her.

Lil’ Stevie:  Only, MY pile of garbage has telekinesis!

Peter:  Teleki-what?

Lil’ Stevie:  Telekinesis!  The ability to move objects with your mind.

Peter:  Oh, like this…

(Peter closes his eyes and concentrates, and suddenly Lil’ Stevie begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)

Lil’ Stevie:  OUCH!  Hey, knoc…OUCH!  Quit it!

Peter:  (Laughing) Sorry. I got CARRIE’d away. Get it?

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re an imbecile!

Peter:  Anyway, for their stunt in the locker room, gym teacher Rita Desjarden (Rena Sofer, TRAFFIC, 2000) tells the rotten little bitches that if they want to go to the senior prom, they will be spending a week in detention with HER. Which means they will be running laps on the track until they puke.

Lil’ Stevie: …And since most of them want to lose those last few pounds before prom anyway

Peter:  Of course, the actual perpetrator, Kris Hargenson (Emilie De Ravin, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 2006) refuses and declines her prom privileges, and she begins hatching a scheme to get even with Carrie. Even though none of it was Carrie’s fault, Kris blames her and simply wants to punish her.

Lil’ Stevie:  God, she is such a bitch!

Peter:  De Ravin plays the role perfectly. You can feel the hate just oozing out of this girl, when the reality is that she’s a spoiled brat who is used to getting everything she wants. Seeing just how well she performed here made me wonder if actresses enjoy playing this kind of role, especially when it is nothing like themselves in real life, and if it somehow impacts their reputation, as some people can’t seem to distinguish characters from their portrayers.

Lil’ Stevie:  You think too much.

Peter:  The other girls commit to doing Ms. Desjarden’s detention so they can go to the prom. But Sue Snell (Kandyse McClure, MOTHER’S DAY, 2010) actually feels guilty about the whole shower incident. Wanting to clear her conscience and actually show poor Carrie some compassion, she decides to also opt out of the prom, and encourages her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom as her date. She sets the wheels in motion with no knowledge of what Kris is up to, and the catastrophic results that will later ensue.

Lil’ Stevie:  And while all of this is going on, Carrie is discovering her supernatural powers. Developing them, so to speak. We see her as she begins to spasm and convulse, and then she’s moving hairbrushes off tables and throwing the rude little kid on his bicycle into a tree after he taunts her.

Peter:  You know, I’m glad you mention this. This aspect of the movie reminded me of Harry Potter, and how he reacted to the mean people in his life. I kept waiting for Hagrid to pop out and go, “You’re a wizard, Carrie!”

(Harry Potter suddenly appears on the dance floor.)

Harry:  Did somebody just say my name?  Brilliant!

Lil’ Stevie:  Avada Cadavra!

(A light fixture suddenly falls from the ceiling and crushes the boy wizard to death.)

Peter:  Why did you do that?  I loved Harry Potter. Even the Real Stephen King loves Harry Potter!

Lil’ Stevie:  He was a tool!

Peter:  The rest of the movie is the unavoidable catastrophe that has been set in motion:  The prom, the terrible prank that Kris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Jesse Cadotte) play on Carrie, and the vengeful wrath of a girl that has been pushed too far by her mom, by her classmates, and by life in general.

Lil’ Stevie:  Which begs the question, was remaking Brian De Palma’s original masterpiece worth it?

Peter:  Well, there are several things to consider. First is that Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie absolutely nailed the roles of Carrie and her mother in the original version. The photo of Spacek dripping with blood is iconic to us horror fans. Second, De Palma’s version has the “jump out of your seat” popcorn horror moment at the end, when Sue Snell visits her grave. Third, the gymnasium sequence, when the camera goes to split and multiple screens of the chaos that happens after Carrie gets pig blood dumped all over her is some of the best horror ever committed to celluloid. It’s amazing to behold.

Lil’ Stevie:  But in this version, we have a whole different ending…

Peter:  Which we won’t give away to those who still want to see it. Look, this version is not terrible at all. In fact, it’s quite good all the way up to the bogus ending. Bettis is a fantastic actress, and she really does give a great performance here. As do most of her castmates. Where this film succeeds is stripping away all the bad fashion sense of the late 70’s and adding the up-to-date touch of cellphones and technology. Carrie goes to the library and Googles her special powers rather than have to hunt through books to learn about it. It makes the story more accessible to today’s teens.

Angela Bettis has the title role in the 2002 TV-movie version of Stephen King’s CARRIE.

Lil’ Stevie:  But it’s not the original. And it never captures the power of De Palma’s vision.

Peter:  Close, but no cigar!

Lil’ Stevie:  Well, then…Let’s have some fun. I wanna spike the punch and have a few drinks before Carrie gets up on stage.

(Lil’ Stevie suddenly swings his arm up and begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)

Lil’ Stevie:  OUCH!  I told you to…OUCH!  STOP IT!

Peter:  I’m not doing it!

(Carrie walks over and confronts the two.)

Carrie:  That’s for making my life such a bummer. You didn’t have to be such a creep and write my life to be this way!

Lil’ Stevie:  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!

Carrie:  (To Peter) How would you feel about ditching this little jerk so you and I can go have some fun?

Peter:  (To Lil’ Stevie) Later, Stevie. See you next time, folks!

(Peter drops the puppet on the floor and takes Carrie by the arm, and the two exit the gym. From out of nowhere, a stream of blood comes gushing out, spilling all over Lil’ Stevie in his prom dress. The doors slam shut just as the flames begin to engulf the school…)

Lil’ Stevie:  You just wait till I write the sequel!  Don’t leave me…NOOOOOOO!

-The End-

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar



Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Faux Documentaries, High School Horrors, Mutants!, Telekinesis with tags , , , , , , , on February 6, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are driving along a rural road, LS behind the wheel and MA in the passenger seat. A four-wheel-drive 4X4 is close on their tail, honking at them.)

MA:  What is that guy’s problem?

LS:  Maybe he’s reacting to our bumper sticker.

MA:  What?  “Honk three times for Cinema Knife Fight?”

LS:  No. The other one.

MA:  “If you’re close enough to read this you’re a horse’s ass”?

LS:  That’s the one.

MA:  Yeah, that might be it.

LS:  I’ll fix him.

MA:  You’re not going to do that waving-the-arms telekinesis bit you used during our Coming Attractions column last week, are you?

LS:  That’s so passé. Keep up with the times. (Rolls down window, sticks his head out, and makes a face at the driver. The driver shrieks and loses control of his vehicle, which crashes off the side of the road.)

MA:  Sometimes I forget just how scary you can be.

LS:  Well, one of us has to be scary around here, and it’s certainly not you!

MA:  Shouldn’t we go back and see if that guy needs help?

LS:  Nah!  We’ve got a movie to review. Speaking of which, why don’t you start since I’m driving?

MA: Wait a minute. Do you even have a license?

(LS grunts)

MA: Er…okay. Well, welcome, folks, to another edition of Cinema Knife Fight. This week we’re reviewing CHRONICLE (2012) the new movie that examines what happens when three high schoolers suddenly find themselves with telekinetic super powers.

That’s right. One night at a party, three high school friends, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan, who some people might recognize from the show FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) discover a mysterious tunnel out in the woods, which they decide to check out just for kicks. Inside this tunnel they come across a strange object— is it alien?  a secret government project? —who knows? The movie doesn’t make this clear, and that’s okay. All we need to know is the day after coming into contact with this weird phenomenon, the three teens discover they have telekinetic abilities, which means they can move objects just by using their minds. Later, they attempt to return to the tunnel in search of answers, but find it has conveniently been filled up.

LS: Actually they’re not really friends when the movie begins. Steve and Matt are friends. Andrew is one of those shy loners that everyone else picks on. Matt is his only friend, that’s mostly because they’re cousins. Steve wouldn’t even normally notice Andrew is even alive—he’s an athlete and a popular kid running for class president – but he needs Andrew and his camera to film the weird tunnel as evidence. Of course, after the three of them discover their powers and bond through this, they become real friends, and Andrew starts to come out of his shell.

As for what’s inside the tunnel—yeah, we never really know. The smoothness of the walls makes it appear that the tunnel was “carved out” through the use of some kind of technology. And the strange object – it involves a lot of weird, bright lights. But you’re right – it’s good this is never explained. It adds to the mystery of it all.

MA: At first, they use their new powers for fun, which is what most high schoolers would do. They make girl’s skirts go up; they go into a store and make Teddy bears float scaring a little girl; and they move a parked car in a parking lot. But when Andrew angrily uses his power to force a tailgating vehicle off the road, nearly killing its driver, they come up with some rules, including not using their powers on people, not using them in public, and most importantly, not using them when they’re angry.

But Andrew is a very troubled youth, and rightly so. His mom is bedridden, sick and dying, and his drunken dad, a former firefighter who’s now out of work collecting meager disability checks, is constantly hounding Andrew and worse yet beating him. Andrew is also regularly bullied at school. Eventually, he snaps, and when he does, look out world.

CHRONICLE was one of those movies I feared would cross over into “mediocre land” becoming another variation of last year’s I AM NUMBER FOUR (2010), but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case. CHRONICLE played above my expectations, and as a result, I liked it a lot. I found it watchable throughout, a very entertaining and well-written movie, well-paced, and after a fun ride, it becomes insane for its final 10 minutes. I have to say, I really liked the ending.

Why was this one so good?  Well, like most good movies, it starts with the script. Max Landis wrote the screenplay. Landis is the son of John Landis, and I think he’s inherited some of his father’s humor. A lot of the humor in this movie reminded me of the work of John Landis, in such films as ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).

The scenes where Andrew, Matt, and Steve “play” with their powers are laugh-out-loud funny. I had seen most of these scenes in the film’s trailer, yet they were still comical. Part of the reason the humor works is it all seemed so real. If I had their powers at their age, I’d probably be doing the same things and laughing at it the same way.

LS: Hell, I’d be doing the same things now, if I suddenly got super powers. It looked like they were having fun. I almost wish this part had lasted longer.

MA: It also looks real. The special effects are great.

In CHRONICLE, Landis creates likeable characters who deal with their new abilities in realistic ways. The majority of the movie is light and amusing, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

But the undercurrent of darkness is always there because the central character of the story is Andrew, and his life is rough. His dad never leaves him alone, his mom’s dying, and he’s bullied regularly at school. The fact that he develops a close relationship with his camera (it’s the one thing he connects to) makes perfect sense and sets the stage for the documentary style of this movie, since Andrew films everything. More on that style in a moment.

One of the things I liked about CHRONICLE was I wasn’t sure which direction the story would take. While it was all fun and games for a while, I knew things wouldn’t stay this way. Would this become more of a “superhero” story where these teens would use their powers for good, like Superman’s story in SMALLVILLE?  Would they be hunted down by aliens jealous that they had stolen this power, similar to I AM NUMBER FOUR?  Or would the story take a more sinister turn?

(SUPERMAN flies overhead).
SUPERMAN:  Will it be a movie about folks like me?

(A teen with a “Number 4” Jersey sprints along next to them.)

NUMBER 4:  Or about teens like me?

LS:  Neither!  Now beat it, you jerks!

(They flee.)

MA:  You didn’t even have to show your face this time.

LS:  Sometimes reputation alone is good enough.

MA:  Still, that’s pretty impressive scaring away Superman!

LS: Well— the Kryptonite I keep in the trunk might have helped.

MA:  Why would you keep—?  Never mind. Getting back to CHRONICLE, as we learn more about Andrew, we realize that this kid isn’t escaping from his demons, and so, the direction the story ultimately takes is natural and satisfying.

Getting back to the film’s documentary style:  yes, CHRONICLE is another of those documentary style movies where everything we see is the result of “found footage” from cameras in the movie. We’ve seen this in movies like CLOVERFIELD (2008), THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) and APOLLO 18 (2011).

LS: And don’t forget THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies (2007 – 2011), and this year’s THE DEVIL INSIDE.

MA:  Here, director Josh Trank throws in the additional gimmick of not using just one camera. Sure, most of the movie is filmed with Andrew’s camera, since he’s obsessed with filming everything that happens in his life, but in this movie, any time there’s a camera around, we see the action through the eyes of that camera. This includes the camera owned by Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), who eventually becomes Matt’s girlfriend, and who’s constantly filming for her blog, as well as security cameras in stores, at traffic lights, bystanders – pretty much anywhere there’s a camera, and in this day and age, it’s hard to be somewhere there’s NOT a camera. For the most part, this gimmick works.

LS: Yeah, I was riveted throughout.

MA: The cast is fine. Nobody’s going to win an Oscar here, but they made me like their characters. Dane DeHaan is very good as Andrew. I didn’t want to see him go down the road he eventually takes, but the cards are so stacked against him it’s almost inevitable. DeHaan succeeded in making me feel bad for his character while still liking him, and later, when his life goes down the toilet, he made me believe his darker side was genuine.

Alex Russell was also likeable as Matt, the friend who becomes more responsible as the movie goes on. At first, it seemed as if Matt might be a jerk, but he isn’t and grows more likeable as the story plays out.

Michael B. Jordan is also very good as Steve, the most popular of the trio, and his character is the most fun of the three to watch. Ashley Hinshaw as Matt’s love interest Casey, is cute and adorable in her brief screen time.

LS: Yeah, the three lead characters were great. Andrew is easily the most dramatic role, but Matt and Steve were solid characters, too. I actually wish the movie had given us more of Matt and Steve’s personal lives, but I guess that wouldn’t make sense, since Andrew has the camera.

MA: And, as Andrew’s dad Richard, Michael Kelly does a nice job playing a jerk, and he doesn’t evoke any sympathy, even though he’s a former firefighter now out of a job due to injury. He plays the role as a complete monster, and you’re not sorry when he gets what’s coming to him.

LS: I also really liked the big battle toward the end, where super-powered guys duked it out, destroying buildings and cars in the process. It looked like the way a super-powered battle would look. MESSY! And very destructive. Without all the glamorous costumes and fancy banter you usually see in superhero movies.

Too bad WE can’t have a big telekinetic battle in the middle of the city.

MA: Don’t get any ideas.

I found CHRONICLE to be a most pleasant surprise. Light and funny throughout, this one builds to a dark second half and a thrilling conclusion that is as satisfying as they get. Go out and see this one!  I give CHRONICLE three and a half knives.


LS: I liked it a lot, too. I thought the movies that came out early in the year were supposed to be stinkers, but both this one and last week’s THE GREY were pretty solid. I give this one three and a half knives, too.

My only gripe with the movie is its title. CHRONICLE is a horrible name for a movie about three kids with telekinetic super powers. It’s bland and tell us nothing about the movie. I really didn’t like it. But the movie itself was really good.

MA:  I agree.  I thought the title was lame.  It sounds like a news magazine. So, now that we’re done with the review, how about we take the next exit and pick up a pizza?

LS:  Why not bring the pizza to us?

MA:  Huh?

(LS lets go of the steering wheel and waves his arms about.  Several pizza boxes fly through the air towards them.  MA rolls down the window, and the boxes land gently in his arms.)

LS:  Now that’s the way to use telekinesis.  Hand me a slice.

(MA opens box, and suddenly pizza flies up into his face, slapping him.)

LS (laughing):  And that’s another way!

(MA fires a slice that hits LS in the face.  Blinded, LS loses control of the car and they veer off the road towards a tree.  Screaming, both LS & MA frantically wave their arms, and at the last second, the car flies above the tree.)

LS:  Way to go, blinding the driver, you goober!

MA:  Hey, we’re alive aren’t we, so be quiet!  Let’s land this flying car and eat some pizza.  Okay, folks, while we’re looking for a place to land, we’ll say so long, and we’ll see you next week with a review of another new movie.


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives CHRONICLE ~ THREE AND A HALF knives!

LL Soares gives CHRONICLE ~ THREE AND A HALF knives.


Posted in 2011, Aliens, Cinema Knife Fights, High School Horrors, Michael Arruda Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by knifefighter


(The Scene: A high school hallway.  Students are bustling through the hall, some rushing to get to class, others lingering by their lockers, talking, horsing around.  A handsome young man approaches his locker, looking forlorn. He is approached by a beautiful teenage girl.  She speaks to him, but he continues to look inside his locker, as if he’s too upset to look at her.)

GIRL:  When are you going to tell me the truth?

YOUNG MAN:  I can’t.  I wish I could.

GIRL:  Can’t or won’t?

YOUNG MAN:  Fine!  I’ll tell you!  I’m an alien from another planet!  I have special powers that I’m still learning how to use, and my life is one big mess!

GIRL:  I knew it!  I knew you weren’t from this planet, Clarke!

YOUNG MAN (confused):  Clarke?  (He turns to face girl for first time.  They’re both surprised to see each other.)  Who are you?

GIRL:  I’m Lana.  I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else:   Clarke Kent.  His locker is right next to yours.

YOUNG MAN:  No, I’m Number Four— er, I mean, John Smith.

(Camera pans away and finds MICHAEL ARRUDA walking through the hall.  MA addresses the camera.)

MA:  Yes, there are similarities between today’s movie, I AM NUMBER FOUR (2011) and the TV series, SMALLVILLE, which is no surprise, since screenwriter Alfred Gough, who wrote the screenplay for this movie, also penned a bunch of SMALLVILLE episodes.

Welcome to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  L.L. is off tonight, so I’m doing this one solo, which means I won’t be fighting with him during this review, but not to worry, for those of you who tune in for that sort of thing, and you know who you are, you’re like the hockey fans who watch hockey for the fights and could care less about the final score— there’ll be plenty of fights in this one to go around.

(MA suddenly fights his way through a hostile crowd of high school teenagers making their way to class.  MA is pushed backwards.  He manages to escape through a door, and finds himself in the waiting area of the principal’s office.)

MA:  Well, that’s not how we drew it up, but hey, here we are, as good a place as any to conduct this review of the new science fiction action thriller, I AM NUMBER FOUR, a film that is certainly science fiction, but there’s not a lot of action, and it’s not much of a thriller.

I AM NUMBER FOUR opens with a murder, as a teenager and his protector are killed by some evil aliens known as the Mogadorians.  It’s not a particularly exciting sequence, and so the movie doesn’t get off to a rousing start.

The action switches to our young hero Number Four (Alex Pettyfer), living in sunny California, who, while swimming with a hot babe at the beach, has a bizarre experience where a scar on his leg glows as if it were touched by ET.  This somehow tells him that Number 3 has been killed, and so it’s time for him, Number 4, to be on the move again.

He changes his name to John Smith, and he moves with his protector Henri (Tim Olyphant) to Ohio where they hope to lay low for a while, to keep hidden from the menacing Mogadorians.  John explains in some silly voice-over narration that he’s an alien, that the Mogadorians are bad guys from his home planet, and that they’re hell bent on killing John and his alien buddies, who are all hiding on Earth.

What’s not explained to any degree of satisfaction is WHY the Mogadorians want to kill these teens.  Something is said about the teens’ possessing the ability to destroy the Mogadorians, and since the Mogadorians don’t care too much for dying, I guess they figure they should kill off these teens.  But are they immortal otherwise?  In other words, if the Mogadorians succeed in killing all the alien teens, can’t they still die?  This plot point doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and as a result, the story lacks a convincing reason for the Mogadorians’ actions.

Also not really explained is why the teens have to be killed in order.  Why does Number 4 need to be eliminated after Number 3?  Why can’t they go after Number 5 first? Does this mean that if the Mogadorians found Number 5 first, they wouldn’t kill him, because it was out of order?  This doesn’t make much sense.

(A Mogadorian pokes his head through door, literally, breaking the glass window.)

MOGADORIAN:  We like order!

MA:  Me, too, but aren’t you carrying it to the point of ridiculousness?  Are you telling me that if Number 7 walked through that door right now, you’d let him go, because you haven’t killed Number 4 yet?

MOGADORIAN:  I don’t know.  Let me think about that and get back to you.

MA:  Here’s some advice.  Tell your screenwriters to think about these things in advance!

(Door to principal’s office opens, and principal enters waiting area.)

PRINCIPAL:  What’s going on here?

MA (points to MOGADORIAN):  He broke your door.  Kids today.

PRINCIPAL:  Alright, Mogadorian, I’ve had enough out of you. In my office now!  I’m calling your mom!

MOGADORIAN:  Ah, man! Not my mom!  (He stomps into principal’s office, and the door slams.)

MA:  Alone at last.  Back to I AM NUMBER FOUR.

In Ohio, Henri advises John to keep out of sight completely, but John just can’t stand being stuck in the house, so he goes ahead and enrolls at his local high school.  John wants to go to school.  If that doesn’t prove he’s an alien, I don’t know what does!

In school, John meets the lovely Sarah (Dianna Agron) and they soon have a thing going.  She’s an amateur photographer – probably not the best friend to hang around with when you’re trying to lay low, but strangely this doesn’t become a problem.  John also befriends the geeky Sam (Callan McAuliffe) who’s obsessed with aliens, since his father believed in aliens and later mysteriously disappeared.  How convenient that these two characters should meet, especially when it’s discovered that the aliens Sam’s dad were researching were John and his buddies.  What are the odds?  I’d say they’re not very good.  This plot point is anything but believable.

Sarah’s former boyfriend is the school quarterback turned bully Mark (Jake Abel).  Mark is insanely jealous and sets his sights on tormenting John, which means before the Mogadorians show up, John gets to show off his newfound powers against Mark and his gang of bullies.  John’s powers include the ability to jump through the air in oh-so-cool ways, and he can shoot bursts of energy through his hands like mini bolts of lightning.  He’s also incredibly strong.

(Behind MA in the school hallway, strange flashing lights are seen through the broken glass in the door.  There’s the sound of a commotion, with people screaming and fighting.  MA peers into hallway.  He catches a student by the arm.)

MA:  What’s going on?

STUDENT:  It’s the last day of school before winter vacation!

MA:  It’s awfully early to be going home, isn’t it?

STUDENT:  It’s a half day!  We’re friggin out of this hell hole!

(MA looks down hallway to see a myriad of students jumping through the air in oh-so-cool ways.)

MA:  It looks like an episode of GLEE.  Okay, back to the movie.

Eventually, the Mogadorians show up to kill John, which comes as no surprise, since this is what the movie is about.  It would have been better had they shown up earlier, so the movie could have moved on to stuff that was a surprise.

John’s protector Henri proves to be as helpful as an old lady.

(An old lady opens door.)

OLD LADY:  I resent that remark! (She throws a book at MA which hits him in the head.)

MA:  Ow!  What did you do that for?  There’s a whole hallway of students out there causing a ruckus.  Don’t you have something better to do?  How could you even hear me with all that noise out there?

OLD LADY:  Now, you’re calling me deaf?  (She throws another book at MA, then leaves.)

MA:  This is a tough school.

Anyway, Henri proves useless as he is promptly disposed of by the Mogadorians, but not to worry, for help arrives in the form of Number 6 (Teresa Palmer) a hot motorcycle-riding babe who shows up just in time to team up with John, Sarah, and Sam to kick some Mogadorian butt.

I AM NUMBER FOUR is an entertaining but VERY light movie that would have been more effective had it been more hard hitting.  The story of an alien teen pursued by evil aliens intent on killing him is compelling enough for a start, but as you would expect from a big budget Hollywood production, this story is not developed.

It takes forever for the baddies, the Mogadorians, to find John. In the meantime, we have to sit through a rather bland love story between John and Sarah, and while this story doesn’t come close to the excruciating boredom generated by the TWILIGHT movies, at times, it does come close.  I mean, there are similarities:  the high school setting, the teen angst, the lack of conflict for long periods of time.

Why not bring in the Mogadorians half way into this story?  This way, we wouldn’t be so sure of what was going to happen.  The way the story plays now, the battle happens at the end of the movie, and so it’s rather obvious to the audience what’s going to happen, obvious and not that exciting.  Does anybody in the theater REALLY think that John and his pals are going to lose?

John’s guardian, Henri, is supposed to be a warrior, which is laughable, since he’s anything but.  He gets caught and surprised so easily, John’s better off without him.

The Mogadorians, the main baddies in this movie, are genuinely creepy, and I liked them, but they’re not in this movie anywhere near enough.  Plus, even though they are creepy, they’re not dark enough.  They should be nightmare-inducing, but they’re not.

There are also some CGI created monsters which make their appearance late in the movie to take part in the final battle, and yeah, they’re pretty fake-looking.  They’re not quite as bad as the awful CGI werewolves from the TWILIGHT movies, but they’re not much better, either.

I AM NUMBER FOUR is also dreadfully slow for most of its first half.  Again, it doesn’t approach the boredom levels found in TWILIGHT, but it’s certainly missing some pacing early on.  With all the talky scenes, this story may have worked better as a TV show than a theatrical movie.

The performances in this one are all pretty good.  Alex Pettyfer as the lead, Number 4/alias John Smith, is likeable enough, although considering the kind of life he’s been leading, he doesn’t show a lot of angst at spending his life on the run.  He says he’s sick of moving around, but he doesn’t seem all that upset.  Imagine what a young Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio would have done with this role.

Tim Olyphant is good as Henri, though he’s nowhere near as memorable as he was in last year’s THE CRAZIES.  The biggest problem is that the character he’s playing, Henri, is a disappointment.  He’s supposed to be this warrior protector, but he’s all talk and no action.  As soon as it comes time for him to do something, he fails miserably.

Dianna Agron from TV’s GLEE is very good as John’s love interest, Sarah, and hers was probably my favorite performance in the movie.  Callan McAuliffe was also very good as Sam, the likeable geek.  Jake Abel as Mark made for a believable bully.

Kevin Durand, who we saw as the angel Gabriel in last year’s LEGION, plays the Mogadorian Commander.  Like the other Mogadorians in the movie, he’s creepy, but he doesn’t go far enough, nor is he in the movie enough.  These villains could easily have been developed further.

Teresa Palmer rocks as Number 6, and she’s one of the more exciting characters in the movie.  What’ s not to like about a hot alien biker babe?  However, she too isn’t in this one enough.

Also on hand is Brian Howe in a brief comic scene, comic before it turns deadly as Howe’s character meets a grisly end, which, of course, happens off camera.  Howe has a very long resume of appearances in both TV and movies, but I always remember him for his hilarious performance as Dr. Roger Fleming in the campy classic THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA (2001).  Hard to believe that one is 10 years old already!

I AM NUMBER FOUR was directed by D. J. Caruso, who also directed DISTURBIA (2007).  Here, Caruso helms a slick flick, but unfortunately he does nothing to put his stamp on this movie.  There’s nothing in this one to distinguish it from other movies of this type.  There aren’t any scares, and though there are action scenes, mostly at the end, they’re certainly not memorable.  They’re not anything you wouldn’t see on a TV show.  I’m sorry, but a theatrical action movie should have action scenes that are more exciting and more visually thrilling than what you would see in a TV series.

Alfred Gough wrote the screenplay, and as I already noted he wrote the scripts for several SMALLVILLE episodes.  There are similarities between I AM NUMBER FOUR and SMALLVILLE, including the main characters (both aliens with super powers) and the high school setting.  Gough also wrote the screenplays for SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) and THE MUMMY:  TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR (2008).  I liked SPIDER-MAN 2 but not THE MUMMY movie.  This one falls somewhere in between those two films.

When the teens are talking to each other about real life teen stuff, like relationships and the like, the dialogue is good, but when the talk switches to aliens and John’s mission, the dialogue is forced and almost laughable at times.

The highly charged music score by Trevor Rabin is a good one and certainly helps this movie along.

I AM NUMBER FOUR has its share of weaknesses, yet it’s somehow likeable, I guess because it’s got likeable characters and a decent premise, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  So, in spite of its flaws, it still manages to entertain.   Watching I AM NUMBER FOUR is kinda like eating light ice cream.  Not the real deal, but somehow still satisfying.

I give it two and a half knives.

All right, that about wraps things up here.  Thanks for joining us. L.L. will be back next week as we review another new movie.  I think I’ll just stop off at the restroom before I leave.

(MA enters restroom and finds that the stall is occupied.  He waits, waits, and waits.)

MA:  Hey, buddy, what are you doing in there?  Reading WAR AND PEACE?

PERSON IN STALL:  I live here.  This is my home.

MA:  What?  What are you talking about?

PERSON IN STALL:  I—-  am Number 2.


© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda