Little Box of Horrors: Equals.
Seeing Red Again
A new day, a new redbox, and a new movie to suffer through. We pile through the worst movies we can find, in order to tease out a movie so bad it’s (maybe) good.
After recharging my batteries after the slog that was Antboy 3 , my masochistic curiosity led me to the CVS of South Portland, Maine. My quarry this time: the best/worst movie featuring a drug theme. Let’s round up the offenders, shall we?
The Program. This dramatized biopic (dramopic?) chronicles the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong. And from the trailer, it takes itself pretty fucking seriously. C’mon guys, this was never about the purity of Cycling. Americans consider eating hot dogs really fast more of a real sport than the Tour De France. It was always about the delicious schadenfreude of world class smug dudebro Lance Armstrong getting nailed.
- The Adderall Diaries. James Franco plays a tortured (and sedated) author whose shitty dad (Ed Harris) comes back into his life to revive past horrors just as the author decides to write a book that also unravels a dangerous murder mystery. And you thought you were having a bad day.
- Equals. Don’t you believe it! Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart play star crossed lovers in a world that has done away with emotions. Furtive staring contests ensue, as well as rampant dystopian thematic thievery. Alliteration!
While examining these films I found another thread tying these films together: they were all trotted out to independent film festivals before landing up in the box. Well I guess that explains all the pretense these film were oozing with. And the award for earning my $1.50 (did you really expect me to pony up Blu Ray money for this?) goes to….
Of all these artsy fartsy movies for deep thinkers™, this one on it’s face seemed like the best bet for crossing through the valley of the shadow of garbage. It’s got a charismatic actor who has to stifle his personality in Hoult, whose previous works, including the X-men reboot have left a positive impression on me. This will be countered by watching Kristen Stewart go through the hell of finally having to emote. I mean, she couldn’t even be bothered to look impressed at sparkly vampires. Or six-pack having Werewolves. Are we sure Robert Pattinson was the character without a pulse in those films? The unintentional comedy could be a goldmine!
Directed by Drake Doremus, this film takes place in a world where war has left only two inhabited lands: Elon Musk’s SpaceX and H.G. Wells Morlock infested wasteland. Seriously, this film starts stealing sci-fi right off the bat. The ultra-futuristic utopia (ok, not ultra-futuristic so much as a bland grey place with nice Nouvelle Cuisine) that we find our protagonists in has purged all emotions (Equilibrium style…which was itself borrowing a bit from Brave New World…) from the populace, called Equals, in the hopes of snuffing out the root cause of humanity’s calamities.
The fly in the souffle is that a new disease called “Switch on Syndrome” is giving the equals their emotions back in slow, fluid leaking fashion. Silas (Hoult) exemplifies this by showing that his awakening involves losing liquids from every pore that isn’t X-rated… and incidentally developing the hots for Nia (Stewart).
Nia on the other hand, has been switched on all along, and has been hiding her emotions (chortle, tell me another one, Hollywood!) all this time to avoid being taken away by 1984’s Thought Police. Hey, if you are going to blatantly rip off famous dystopian works, Drake, I’m just gonna keep calling a spade a spade. Silas’ affections risk exposing her and dooming them both to being turned into soylent green or some goddamn thing. Also, Guy Pearce is in the film and we don’t even get a single sword fight.
This film is such a bog standard rip off of Romeo and Juliet with “deep thoughts” sci-fi and philosophy tropes sewn on for no good reason. By the time they introduced the Allegory of the Cave canard (in the way of a cure that will switch them back off) I was already falling asleep. It is also shameless in it’s lifting of famous (and infamous) dystopian media themes. It has the brass monkeys to steal the premise from Equilibrium, yet not have a single scene in which Hoult or Stewart stylishly shoot a dozen men. It’s such a waste.
Hoult looks genuinely pained with having to stifle his British Charm™ for the first 15 minutes, and Stewart looks downright annoyed that the next 15 minutes require her to stop being a goddamn robot. This leads to a solid 10 minute window where Silas is on the upswing and Nia is on the downswing and some actual chemistry can take place.
The cinematography is solid enough art-house stuff, with lens effects and well timed music to show the disorientation newly found emotions cause. The writing just doesn’t do a damn thing of interest, and if Drake and Nathan Parker (the screenwriter) brought this screenplay to a 101 level writing class they would have been laughed out the door…and possibly expelled for plagiarism.
Switch Me Off before you Go Go
While nodding off, I daydreamed a better version of this film, where SpaceX was run by a total Silicon Valley douchebag (read: Peter Thiel) that was employing the world’s smartest autistic people to staff his machination. Then the conceit of very smart people who have trouble recognizing and communicating emotions could have had a message: people who aren’t neurotypical are still our EQUALS (see what I did there?). Hollywood, call me. I’ll be the one by the phone, not ripping off every stale sci-fi concept for a boring kissy kissy movie.