Amusement (2008)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #219

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 20, 2009 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $6,000,000
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: John Simpson
Producers: Neal Edelstein, Mike Macari
Screenplay: Jake Wade Wall
Special Effects: David Waine
Visual Effects: Jerry Pooler, Michael Joyce, Marco Recuay
Cinematography: Mark Garrett
Score: Marco Beltrami
Editing: David Handman, Chris G. Willingham
Studio: Picturehouse Entertainment
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Stars: Keir O’Donnell, Katheryn Winnick, Laura Breckenridge, Jessica Lucas, Tad Hilgenbrink, Reid Scott, Rena Owen, Kevin Gage, Brennan Bailey, Preston Bailey, Shauna Duggins, Fernanda Dorogi, Eyad Kurd-Misto, Karley Scott Collins, Jadin Gould, Alisha Boe

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Suggested Audio Candy

Kerri Powles “Haunted Fairground”

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It doesn’t take much to amuse Keeper, indeed a whoopee cushion and a rolled-up copy of Woman’s Weekly is ordinarily enough to raise a hearty chortle. I have always found laughter to be such a convivial endeavor and must admit that it is often at its most potent when at another’s disposal. I’m not talking of mean-spirited sarcasm more that guy who bounds up the stairs in your local shopping center acting cool enough to freeze coal, on his cell and wearing shades in the shade. You know, the one who unwittingly wears his flip-flops that day and is betrayed by them halfway up to the summit, then commences to slide past you still gripping his phone and nervously attempting to remain the epitome of cool while his chin hits every step on the way past. Those moments give me the heartiest chuckles, the real gut-busters.

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I once had a couple of friends who despised any public displays of ridiculousness and this just stoked my fire further. In the middle of a bustling city center I would huddle in a ball, using my flailing arms as antennae and mimic a snail while my associate in crime rested a shoe-box on my back to replicate my shell, just to mortify them. Being the eternal clown seemed far more beneficial than lurching about with a face like a bag of gravel and, whilst now older and wiser, I still have my clown shoes on me at all times in case the opportunity for hilarity rears its head. It does with regularity and when that occurs I am ready for it.

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John Simpson’s Amusement contains a smiling assassin who finds similarly inopportune moments in which to let out some hee-haws and he is cunningly named The Laugh. Keir O’Donnell looks uncannily similar to Giovanni Ribisi and hardly has a face to incite quickening pulses but, instead, appears to have done his thesis on Dr. Giggles. He had some fairly sick tendencies during elementary school and took exception to three girls who he became fixated with. Walking around with a box which housed an eviscerated rodent admittedly wasn’t the savviest way of making friends and influencing people but kids will be kids after all.

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Despite the misleading sleeve art suggesting this will be a modern-day retread of Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse or make up for the indifference of Craig Singer’s Dark Ride, this is essentially an anthology of sorts. Each of the three girls, now adults, have their own segment, each placing them in different quandaries as The Laugh commences closing in his net like an excitable fisherman. Their misery equates to his rhapsody and O’Donnell’s facial repertoire does just enough to convince us not to allow him to play with our Barbie.

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The opening vignette plays out like an extended deleted scene from Urban Legend. A cautionary fable about the dangers of freeway convoys, it is admittedly wholly preposterous but features a brief turn by the ever-glorious Kevin Gage and builds up well before blowing its load. This introduces us to the first of The Laugh’s trio of playthings Shelby (Laura Breckenridge from Hit & Run) and, twenty minutes in, we’re intrigued at the very least.

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Simpson then cranks things up a notch and the second segment wisely chooses the age-old stalked babysitter premise as well as gifting us a hostile household harlequin which is never ever a bad thing. By far the strongest segment, Simpson keeps us on a razor’s edge awaiting the inevitable knee-jerk moment and Tabitha (Satan’s Little Helper’s Katheryn Winnick) copes admirably with all the hullabaloo.

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It proves a rare spike as the third part of the puzzle is cookie-cutter at best and attempts to pull the People Under The Stairs card by giving the last of our ladies Lisa (Jessica Lucas of Cloverfield and The Evil Dead) the grand tour of a typically ominous hotel. It largely squanders any opportunity for tension and Jake Wade Wall’s rickety screenplay is stretched thinnest here resulting in plenty of misguided dialogue.

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The final act pulls the three threads together and unfortunately falls a little flat. Presumably, while Simpson was predisposed pulling the strings somebody went and tied his laces together and the whole thing hits the skids as a result. That is not to say that it isn’t diverting, indeed the 85 minutes passes by relatively swiftly, but it is devoid of the dread which elevated the second story and it peters out somewhat. Considering the rather luxurious $6m budget and the fact that this was slated for a theatrical release before the closure of distributor Picturehouse Entertainment, it just feels so formulaic and there’s not much amusing about that.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: What could have been a crimson downpour is actually more of a light drizzle. Amusement does have a couple of moments and one effect in particular will have you clutching your mid-riff but, like everything else here, it just feels a touch wasteful.

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Read Scary or Die Appraisal
Read The Theatre Bizarre Appraisal
Read No Tell Motel Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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