"Are You Scared?" DVD
Are you scared by a movie
that takes the worst parts of our modern culture and piles them
fast and deep in a fashion that makes you lament for the whole of
civilization? If you can answer yes, then "Are You Scared?"
is your movie of choice.
Destroying modern culture
this week is six kids in the midst of a reality show that turns
out to be entirely too real for anyone's good--with lethal consequences.
The first minute is going to prove almost jaw-droppingly familiar.
A disembodied voice watching from nowhere explains the terms of
a game to a frightened participant with a reward on the line, and
a price to be paid for failure. The game is called "Are You
Scared?" and somehow, someone forgot to tell the folks involved
that--son of a bitch, somehow we're in a SAW KNOCKOFF!!
I can't believe it. It's
finally, finally crapped out to this. We've finally reached the
point where direct to video is just another word for "who can
rip off what the fastest?"
Frankly, I confess to
The cynic in me has been wondering for the last two years, give
or take, how long it was going to take for some enterprising DTV
soul to rip off "Saw". And to their credit, they had restraint
enough to wait until "Saw III" was approaching its theatrical
release (we ARE within striking distance, folks...) before they
launched off on the low-budget, poorly plotted and scaled-down movie
of one of the most raw, brutish and ultimately effective splatter
flicks of the twenty-first century.
And let's face it, that's
what we've got here. There are no funky gadgets here. No triumphs
of cobbled-together murder engineering. No incredible, vicious Rube
Goldberg-esque killing machines (I still remember that revolver
hooked to the peephole from "Saw II" with something like
respect). However, there are some interesting traps--check out the
twins on the drill press game about the half-hour mark. Most of
the traps here will be much more industrial in nature. Where "Saw"
seemed to be mostly to be fever-dreams cobbled together by a highly
intelligent amateur using whatever bits and pieces he could find
and holding his festivities in former crack houses, "Are You
Scared?" speaks to a much more deep-pockets killer who can
order industrial equipment and use an abandoned factory for his
Some of us out there
will say, well, welcome to the modern reality show era. Welcome
to the era when hot, desperate women will throw themselves at a
construction worker where they think a million dollar price tag
is involved, or even less understandably, Flavor Flav. Welcome to
an era where even my big fat fiance can get a twenty-share and even
cartoons can get their own "Big Brother" style chicanery.
Though in all honesty, the concept of vicious reality show has long
since been done. "$la$her$" is an apt comparison, and
surely we all remember the great Schwartzeneggerian opus that was
"The Running Man". What? There was OPERA involved, for
crying out loud. Basically, all "Are You Scared?" has
managed to accomplish is taking a concept that isn't exactly new
and merge it with one of the newest splatter franchises on the block.
The result is surprisingly palatable, even if it's familiar.
Welcome to the cinematic
equivalent of the Reese's peanut butter cup.
And yet...this is interesting.
Is this supposed to be an actual reality show? Are these people
applying for a show they've been watching Thursdays at nine? And
has no one noticed that the participants don't seem to be coming
back near as often as they go in? The cops are chasing rapidly after
the guy behind it--just like in "Saw"--and yet all the
participants seem convinced beyond all reason that they're there
to be in a reality show, until they start witnessing people dying.
I'm willing to express some begrudging respect for the first "Saw"
knockoff, mostly because it is in fact the first of its kind, and
was willing to intermingle the basic "Saw" concept with
a reality show to give it that extra touch of originality. But,
also, because it at least manages to do the job without being quite
so sanctimonious as the "If you're not willing to risk death
to live, you're not worthy of living" message that "Saw"
bludgeons you with hundreds of times. And yet, we're still looking
at a movie that's packed to the walls and ceilings with what amounts
to pointless brutality, that's not so much scary as it is sickening.
The ending is a pretty
big surprise. Seriously. It elevates my respect for this movie by
at least a couple inches.
The special features
include English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "Hard
Candy", "See No Evil", "An American Haunting",
"Stephen King's Desperation", "Dark Fields",
and "The Feeding".
All in all, "Are
You Scared?" proves to be a mixed bag of entertainment options,
wavering from the interesting premise to the pointless killing spree
to the big surprise. To answer the movie's self-styled question,
yes, I'm scared...and at the same time, I'm surprised. Too much
mindless brutality for my liking...but oh, what they did with it.
by Andy Hurst
Written by Ellis Walker
Starring Alethea Kutschner, Carlee Avers, Erin Consalvi, Brent Fidler
Produced by Michael Feifer
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