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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest IV

Hell Plaza Oktoberfest IV

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Someone's Knocking at the Door (DVD)

Someone's Knocking at the Door
2009 (2010) - Breaking Glass Pictures
Released on DVD on May 25th, 2010

As a rule, I do not review my friends' movies.

This is not a decision I make lightly. I have a lot of extremely talented friends and most of them are toiling in the dog eat dog world of ultra-low-budget independent cinema, where it's considered a major victory when you secure a festival screening, much less a distribution deal. These little under-the-radar movies need all the help they can get. I'm sure a plug on the Bits would be much appreciated. After all, this is a fairly popular website. Maybe my stuff isn't but if you go to the home page, you'd at least see the title. So when I tell my friends, "No, I'm not going to review your movie," I'm sure I seem like a bit of a dick.

To explain why I don't, and why I'm making an exception in this case, we need to briefly explore the changing role of the critic in movie publicity. Don't worry, we'll get to the scary part soon.

To my mind, a film critic should go into every movie with an open mind and no more or less information about the picture than the average moviegoer. The first part of the equation is easier said than done. We all carry expectations along with us every time we sit down to watch something. A good critic can articulate how those expectations shaped his or her experience and hopefully put them aside long enough to either embrace a movie they expected would be terrible or reject one they had hoped would be better. We all do this to a certain extent, whether we write about movies or not.

The awareness factor seems as if it should be easier to control. As far as I'm concerned, if you're reviewing a movie, you are representing the voice of the audience. As such, you should be as much like the audience as possible. This means you have no business reading the screenplay, visiting the set, or chatting with the cast and crew about the project. All of these things color your perception of the finished project. Set visits and interviews should be done by journalists, not critics. This line has been slowly disappearing over the past decade and it's a development that bothers me.

As an internet writer, I'm competing for your attention with more content than anyone could have dreamed possible. There are thousands of websites and blogs out there, not to mention virtual farms and videos of kittens. The only thing I have to offer is my voice and my opinion. I don't expect anybody to agree with my opinions 100% of the time but I hope the voice is compelling enough to keep you checking back. So if I feel like either of those things have been compromised, it's a problem. I dislike interviewing filmmakers and participating in press junkets because it makes me feel like I'm being used as a tool to help sell something. Sure, reviews will end up being used as publicity anyway, at least if they're even slightly positive. I can't control that. But I can control the extent of my willing participation in the machine.

So reviewing a friend's movie is a no-win situation. Most of the time, I know far too much about the production to even consider it. If I like the movie and write a positive review, why should you believe that I'm not just helping out a friend? Even worse, what if I don't like the movie? It's one thing to tell your buddy that you thought his movie sucked over a couple beers. It's quite another to tell the entire world. My usual solution to this dilemma is to avoid it entirely.

I've known Chad Ferrin, the co-writer and director of Someone's Knocking at the Door, for about a decade now. I consider him to be a very dear friend and a talented filmmaker (and, to his credit, Chad has never once asked me to write about one of his movies). I've been in on the ground floor of Chad's earlier projects but this time, I didn't even know he was working on something until the movie was in the can. While I still have a few misgivings about discussing a friend's work, I went into this movie as cold as possible. Whether or not my opinion is valid is, as always, up to you.

The story here concerns a group of medical students, every one of which has experimented with drugs to some extent. One member of the gang is killed, brutally raped to death by John and Wilma Hopper (Ezra Buzzington and Elina Madison), a sexually depraved pair of serial killers who have returned from the dead. As the mystery deepens, the bodies continue to pile up and the drugs continue to flow. If you can imagine Requiem for a Dream as directed by Wes Craven, you've got a pretty good grasp of what this movie's like.

Typically, this kind of extremely low-budget movie suffers from performances that range from mediocre to downright terrible. But SKATD has assembled a surprisingly strong cast, including Noah Segan, Andrea Rueda, Jon Budinoff and Ricardo Gray. The movie effectively nails a scuzzy 70s vibe with several creatively deranged sequences. The biggest problem is that it takes waaaaaay too long to get where it's going. Even at a mere 80 minutes, the movie feels padded with unnecessary scenes and credit sequences that go on too long. Pared down, SKATD could be a great short film. But at feature-length, it's only intermittently successful.

Breaking Glass has certainly prepared a fine DVD for it, however. The image is sharp and the sound, another weak spot in low-budget movies, is quite good. The disc includes a ton of extras: an audio commentary by Chad and Noah Segan, a second commentary with Chad and co-star Timothy Muskatell, a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, a poster gallery, a music video and even the complete Taldon Drug Test Subject No. 1 short film that's briefly glimpsed in the feature.

There's a pretty good chance that this is the first and last time I'll review any of my friends' movies. If nothing else, it's rare that one slips beneath my radar like this one did. But if that's the case, it won't be because Chad Ferrin's movies aren't worth discussing. He's improved a bit each time at bat while remaining true to his own singularly twisted vision. That isn't easy, whether you're a filmmaker, a musician, a writer or an artist, whether you're working inside the system or on its fringes. But to anyone who works creatively, it's more important than fame, fortune, awards, Facebook fans or Twitter followers. To thine ownself, be true.

Film Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B+

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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