DEADBOX Review. [Paintball Horror in One Long Take?]

Posted by Brian Salisbury - September 2nd 2009 @ 2:50 pm

Directed by Robert Archer Lynn, 2007
Written by David Alford, Robert Archer Lynn

To say that Peter and I have differing tastes in film is to say that Norman Rockwell painted slightly differently from Salvador Dali.  But since moving to Austin I have become fascinated with movie geek idiosyncrasies and relish the opportunity to explore new territory.  Sure, the majority of us turn up our noses at Syfy original films, but something about them tickle the fancy of Mr. Hall and I want to know what that is.  Similarly Peter enjoys direct-to-video horror films that no other human being on the planet will likely see (be it for for personal taste reasons or because the film is only stocked on the bargain racks of three Suncoast Videos in the greater Tunica, MS area).  But when Peter S. Hall, my editor and therefore kind of boss, asked me to review such a film, I did not let my reservations stand in the way of my enthusiasm.

The film I got was DEADBOX.  It is the story of a group of semi-pro paintball players traveling across the country to compete in the big tournament.  The leader of the group decides to make a pitstop when he sees an abandoned building off the highway.  What better place to practice their slightly sloppy short game than a rusted-out shell of prison?  Plus, there is the added bonus of breaking in their newest team member, Cutesy Von No-Business-Here.  Low and behold, things go awry when the only remaining tenant of the prison pops up and decides to kill them.  A shell-shocked veteran, he has a phobia about hidden transmitters that he’s convinced are lurking beneath the skin of anyone who comes near him.

The hook of this film, what the DVD’s box really tries to sell you on, is that it is “one continuous 105 minute take.”  That’s right, DEADBOX is being sold as the modern-day horror equivalent of Hitchcock’s ROPE.  Actually, this is boasting the “longest take in film history.”  I was impressed by the testicular fortitude of this DTV horror film as it apparently poised itself to take on any one-long-shot movie ever made!  I want you to remember this marketing device; keep it in your back pocket as I review this film.

DEADBOX is easily one of the worst films I have ever seen.  I would by no means assign absolute worst of all time status as that would just be hyperbole, but this thing stinks to high heaven.  The “characters” are incredibly obnoxious.  The cutie-pie girl looks like she wouldn’t know how to spell paintball if you gave her the first five letters much less convince me that she was a major component of their team.  The leader of the team spends the entire film doing a bad Matthew McConaughey impression and the heel of the group is such an unabashed dickbag that it flies in the face of reason that anyone would be friends with such an asswipe.  DEADBOX employs a K-Mart version of mubblecore ad-lib that wouldn’t fly in a high school improv class.  It actually made me wonder if the first half hour of the film had a script at all because the actors were repeating themselves over and over and stepping on each other’s lines.  But maybe it was because doing a second take would have ruined the integrity of their continuous shot claim.

The “horror” moments in the film are obviously shooting for shock value, but their budget precludes them from accomplishing this feat.  Every victim is strung up and has pieces removed in a very withholding, we-can’t-afford-to-show-it kind of way.  They use ample folley and fake blood but also use goofy slight of hand nonsense to substitute for anything resembling graphic violence.  It’s not as if they were trying to be subtle, there is a scene where the killer carries around something that kind of looks like a human organ and the camera loves the hell out of it, but if your movie is going to be hindered by budget than why would you attempt to undertake a torture film that inherently requires expensive (or at least more creative) splatter effects?

The killer is ridiculous and is about as far from threatening as it gets.   His mumbling was practically inaudible the entire time and when he did speak, he gave a flat, uninspired delivery of one line over and over to the point where I wanted to chuck something at my TV.  “There’s a transmitter inside, gotta find it” “There’s a transmitter inside, gotta find it”  I’m sorry, are you trying to convince us you are crazy or just make sure we understand the plot?

I really cannot fathom the market they were hoping to capture with this film.  The horror is preposterous, none of the acting is anything near competent, and it is poorly shot.  Perhaps you are wondering if at least paintball enthusiasts will appreciate the grandiose treatment of their beloved sport.  Not even close.  The two scenes of paintball shenanigans are so badly shot that you want the game to end immediately (say by way of someone falling out a window or having a massive coronary).  It is captured in tight close ups that show us the world of paintball through the eyes of a tee-shirt sleeve.  Not once does it pull back to show the scope of the game or even attempt to frame an interesting or dramatic shot.  Phenomenally piss poor throughout.

Okay, so at least DEADBOX has the 105 minute, continuous shot gimmick right? I popped this damn thing in and checked the run time…..83 minutes!!  I am interested to know how their record-breaking 105 minute shot was magically achieved in 83 minutes!  That’s not even close!  Well at least they have an 83 minute continuous shot right?  I sat and counted each and every time the film dissolved from one shot to a completely different one at a different location: 11 fucking shots!!  Newsflash hack filmmakers:  Just because you use your fancy dissolve-to-wipe from one shot to another instead of jump-cutting or smash-cutting doesn’t mean you have a continuous shot!

This movie is dreck on top of lies.  It isn’t fun, it isn’t scary, it isn’t interesting.   Do not waste your time scouring the truck stops in the southwest for this title (its inevitable sole retailer).  Your efforts will not be rewarded.

Brian’s Rating: F

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  1. September 2nd, 2009 | 3:38 pm | #1

    I’m so glad I didn’t have to watch this.

  2. September 2nd, 2009 | 3:41 pm | #2

    Dude, you’re crazy, it has a 9.2 on IMDB!

  3. adam charles
    September 2nd, 2009 | 5:02 pm | #3

    Haha, 9.2 average out of 14 total ratings. Oddly enough it has about 14 crew members….that’s weird.

  4. September 2nd, 2009 | 9:31 pm | #4

    You’re plot summary suggested to me that I had already seen this. Did you know there is an eerily similar film with the same exact plot (No continuous shot though)? They even have some incomprehensible theme about army vets that refused to leave their “base”!

    By no means should you watch it either, but here’s proof that it exists:

  5. Ed
    June 13th, 2010 | 12:28 pm | #5

    Interesting review. I knew some people who worked on this film, so I actually got to hear about the process all the way through.

    It was actually shot something like 10 times, and from what I understand, the director ended up choosing the longest take (which actually is 100+ minutes), though some crew felt like there were better performances in some of the shorter 80-90 minute takes.

    I later heard someone in the distribution chain required a shorter version, so what you saw had time cuts, but was actually just shortened from the full finished movie at 100+ minutes. Last i heard, the DVD was supposed to have both versions, but I only saw pre-release copies and didn’t realize it had actually ever made it to release.

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