Otis
R1 - America - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (10th June 2008).
The Film

When I get a movie to review sporting a quote reading “It’s Juno for the horror set”, I get worried. First off, I didn’t much care for "Juno" (2007), but this is neither here nor there, especially considering that "Otis" is nothing like the Diablo Cody film at all. Secondly, this tells me that the film in question isn’t strong enough to stand on its own, and needs to leech off the popularity of a current hit. This, among other things, caused me to lower my expectations going into "Otis". Sometimes this is an effective method to coming out the other side of the movie happier than I would have been, expecting great things. Sadly, I don’t think there’s anything that could have saved this film.

"Otis" tells the story of the titular character (Bostin Christopher), a complete loser pizza boy who has resorted to living through his brother’s past by kidnapping young girls, playing dress up in his basement/dungeon, forcing the girls to respond to the name “Kim”. After his fifth girl gets fried in the first scene of the movie, Otis kidnaps Riley (Ashley Johnson). The two go through the motions until Riley finally plans her escape. All the while Riley’s family has to deal with an incompetent FBI agent (Jere Burns).

There is little to like about this movie. Actually, on second though, I’m not sure if there was a single thing I did like about this film. For starters, the film carries along an attitude insinuating that it is twisted and demented. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything “light” about trapping young women in basements, but I never felt as though the film went that extra mile. Christopher as Otis is entirely unconvincing as the deranged killer, deliver lines with a hint of “can you believe how CRAZY I am?, but never fully backing it up. However, Christopher isn’t alone in his bad acting, especially when the insufferable performance from Burns burdens this film. The film is supposed to be a dark comedy, but the acting was way too over the top for me.

Speaking of this being a dark comedy, I don’t remember smiling, let alone laughing, once during my entire viewing. Not a single joke in the movie tickling my funny bone, nor did I ever laugh at how absurd the situations got. When I think dark comedy, I think of "Ichi The Killer" (2001), "Death to Smoochy" (2002), or "Fargo" (1996). All of these films are excessively violent at times, but are also excessively funny, sporting jokes that arise from wit, rather than in the case of "Otis", in which people saying “shocking” things or swear words, counts as comedy.

Halfway through the film, there is a turn, switching the narrative gears away from a horror film into a revenge film. I’ve seen this work in the likes of "I Spit on Your Grave" (1978), a personal favorite of mine, but witnessed this device to fall entirely flat in the film’s latter half. In a film this awkward already, completely pulling a 180 didn’t really work for me, all of which leads to one of the most arbitrary endings I have seen in recent memory.

So in the end, I feel as though "Otis" is a film that acts more clever than it is, acts more disturbing than it really is, and ultimately is a near-unwatchable mess of a film. Hmm, maybe it isn’t too far off from "Juno" after all…

Video

"Otis" is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The picture quality itself is decent, though at times I felt as though the images look inconsistent, as if some scenes were filmed on film, and others on HD MiniDV tape. Overall, I don’t think the film has any sort of visual flare so to speak, sparing some interesting use of color in Otis’ basement that seem to have been lifted strait out of "Haute Tension" (2003) or "The Devil’s Rejects" (2005) aka movies I actually liked.

Audio

"Otis" is offered in both an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix, as well as a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix. I was actually quite impressed with the audio mix offered here, making excellent use of ambient noise coming from the rear, rather than over complicating things by having sound effects fly all about the room. By utilizing ambient noise, this DVD does a decent job setting the tone for the film.
Optional subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

Warner Brothers offers up a few extras, including an audio commentary track, a few featurettes, the film's theatrical trailer and bonus trailers. They are examined below:

First up is the feature-length audio commentary track from director Tony Krantz and co-writer Erik Jendresen. For a good portion of the commentary, I felt like the two were being decently dry and witty, a degree of humor I felt Otis was sorely missing. The other parts of the commentary feel far too explanatory, entailing the two filmmaker congratulating themselves and the actors.

"The Twisted World of Otis" featurette, which runs for 12 minutes and 7 seconds, serves as the primary making-of on the disc, in which both cast and crew are interviewed, offering their interpretations as to what the film means exactly, and what it is that is being made fun of. I wasn’t too interested in the movie, so I didn’t really care about any of this stuff.

"The Birthday Party" is an alternate ending, running for 5 minutes and 51 seconds, offers a different take on the film’s ending, with an introduction from director Tony Krantz. Kantz claims that this ending was “too crazy” for the final cut, in which Otis takes the entire family captive, forcing them to engage in a “twisted” birthday party. This scene also has an optional commentary available, in which Kantz recounts further how hard it was not to laugh during the filming, and why the ending was changed.

"Otis’ Home Movie Suite 16" featurette, runs for 2 minutes and 53 seconds, is the uncut home movies Otis showed Riley in the film, in which he videotapes his past “Kims”.

Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer that runs for 1 minute 59 seconds.

The disc also offers a few bonus trailers including:

- "Rest Stop 2" running for 1 minute and 52 seconds.
- "Rest Stop" running for 1 minute and 43 seconds.
- "Sublime" running for 1 minute and 59 seconds.
- "Believers" running for 1 minute and 44 seconds.
- "I See You.com" running for 1 minute and 49 seconds.
- "Lost Boys: The Tribe" running for 1 minute and 11 seconds.
- "Appleseed Ex Machina" running for 1 minute and 54 seconds.

Overall

The Film: F Video: B Audio: A- Extras: B Overall: C-

 


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