Movie Reviews That'll Put Yer Eye Out, Kid!
Last eXit (2003)
The ever-approaching digital revolution is considered by many to be both a blessing and a bane. For the sake of brevity I'm going to simplify a complex topic and say basically there are those who applaud the fact that digital filmmaking, with its affordability and flexibility, will ultimately "level the playing field" allowing a greater number of aspiring filmmakers access to filmmaking tools, thus, creating a larger variety of films for an equally diverse moviegoing public. While this is certainly a positive outlook, on the opposite end of the scale there are also those who warn that the accessibility of digital filmmaking equipment will merely result in a flood of really shitty films. With all the pitiful dreck that is churned out by movie studios it is hard to imagine that things could be too much worse, but then again, until recently I hadn't yet watched a little, independent, low-budget, digital turd called Last eXit.
If you're still reading, Last eXit isn't really a horror movie (wait... hold on, come back) in the traditional sense, but at many times, and in many ways, it is truly a horrid movie. Okay, anyway, so there's a character named Nigel who lives in Copenhagen and likes him some Danish porn (go protagonist, it's your birthday!), while his lonely girlfriend has a thing for drugs of the intravenous variety. While a marriage counsellor might be in order, the most pressing matter is a lack of money. Much to his wife's bemusement, Nigel manages to find out about a possible job opportunity from an eye patch-clad lad getting blind drunk at a local groggery.
Following this dubious lead, Nigel makes a clumsy phone call and is soon ushered in for an equally clumsy interview with a bald and blase = badass type hombre everyone simply refers to as The President (okay, imagine you're in Denmark... now how tight is that!). Unlike myself, Nigel's idiocy is put on hold as The President and his cronies excuse themselves in order to torture some fink in an adjacent room. Meanwhile, a real life sexpot bumps and grinds in front of Nigel so that the filmmakers can cut between glee and violence, because that against the grain Reservoir Dogs type shiznit is just about as keen as spelling Exit "eXit," or using the word shiznit.
Apparently, The President is in need of a nincompoop to fill an important capacity within his badass hierarchy, and thus hires our beloved Nigel to handle a valuable shipment of mysterious boxes. As an incentive Nigel then gets to walk around Copenhagen with the aforementioned sexpot, whose name is Tanya, and buy her ice cream on a stick (lest we forget she's sexy) before ultimately heading over to Tanya's digs for the type of action Nigel is used to paying a rental fee for. Despite the fact that Nigel reminds both Tanya and himself that he is a married man (lest anyone else forgot), he can't help but fall ass over ankles for the pot-smoking, money-grubbing, pork & beans-eating little minx that is Tanya. This of course ushers in the ubiquitous downward spiral, wherein Nigel dives headfirst into a pile of contrived shit and attempts to climb back out of it in an equally contrived manner, without anyone realizing that like the movie, he's both stinky and stupid.
Last eXit was shot for a mere $1,800 over just a paltry 18 days; suffice it to say, it shows. I imagine the time spent writing the script, which is populated by a bunch of hackneyed characters, was also equally brief. If not, I offer an apology. I've worked on a handful of low-budget quickies, and a couple of short films of my own, and feel that I'm speaking from a position of empathy and understanding when it comes to no-budget filmmaking. However, Last eXit is reminiscent of a caliber of filmmaking I'm familiar with from my days in a video production class in Junior College. While it might deserve an A for effort, it is quite simply an amateurish and shoddily made film. The movie is poorly lit (appearing to rely solely on insufficient natural light), horrendously photographed, and as mentioned, poorly written. While budgetary constraints can prove problematic for a production, there is really no excuse for bad writing. Yes, your imagination and scope must be kept in check, but for starters - uninspired dialogue, weak plotting, and cliche characters and story cannot be blamed on budgetary limitations.
I am all for expanding the cinematic language, breaking rules etc... but I have a strong suspicion that the director and cinematographer on Last eXit are unfamiliar with some of the basics. Use some of that $1,800 on a light meter and a couple of cheap lights with a c-stand (if you don't believe in light meters when shooting digital, at the very least get someone to show you how to use the "zebra stripes" feature on your camera). You might have to downgrade to a slightly less-sexy stripper (FHM magazine names this multitalented saucebox one of the 100 sexiest women in the world) but at least I'll be able to see your movie. Gritty aesthetic you say? Well, I'll just go ahead and let someone else take that doubtful leap. Also, eyelines are important, as is framing. Generally cutting off half of an actor's face, or an entire head with the top of your frame is a bad call. If you're attempting to add something by doing this, or perhaps create a sense of unease in the viewer, okay, but when it happens during banal conversations and idle strolls through the park it might create the wrong kind of unease, and it certainly doesn't engender confidence in the filmmaker's abilities.
Fight scenes are also tricky, but are made even more so when shot outside during a sunset. Allow for a second day if necessary, because a fight that takes less than one minute's screen time looks peculiar when it appears to end a couple of hours later and it's suddenly dark outside. Sure you're on a tight shooting schedule, but usually people who have given 18 days of their life to a project are not opposed to putting in 19. These little touches I've listed are also equally appreciated by those who have given 1 and 1/2 hours of their life toward viewing your little low-budget endeavor. While I'm tempted to say that there is not anything remotely good about this movie, there is however a scene wherein a character is beaten with a can of pork & beans that made me smile. In addition, some of the acting is palatable, and it's always nice to see a no-budget film where all the characters are not being played by eager twenty-somethings.
Heretic films does an exceptional job bringing yet another no-budget film to DVD. Also, as usual the DVD is brimming with extras including deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, commentary, extended and alternate scenes, and a trailer.
Originally published at Horrorview.com