STUDIO: New Line Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
• Bonus Digital Copy
• Bonus “Spanish” Language Audio Track
Let’s make a movie with a really misleading title!
One of several single-frame secret messages left by crew members.
Cast: Katheryn Winnick, Laura Breckenridge, Jessica Lucas, Kier O’Donnel
Director: John Simpson
A murderous trucker terrorizes a young couple on a rural detour. Or does he?
A strange hotel offers a feast of welcome surprises for unsuspecting guests. Or does it?
A life-sized clown doll sits peacefully in a room and doesn’t menace anybody. Or does it menace lots of people?
These three seemingly unrelated tales form a terrible braid in John Simpson’s Amusement, written by Jake Wade Wall (The Hitcher).
The Tale of Disembowleaux
Here’s the world’s most dreadful reviewer cliche:
Once in a long while, a film comes along and reminds us why we go to the movies.
Using that sentence in a review is almost as bad as calling a story ‘riveting’ or referring to a performance as ‘electrifying’. While it’s terribly lazy writing, there’s really nothing wrong with the sentiment – it captures, if tritely, the common sense euphoria that comes along with watching a great movie. If that’s true, then it stands to reason that there are films bad enough to make us forget why we go to the movies.
A generally handsome but horribly plotted pseudo-anthology, John Simpson’s Amusement features characters so dumb, plot holes so cavernous, and a story so void of meaning or suspense that its existence might be some sort of a perverted miracle. It tells the separate stories of three women who share a childhood trauma centered around a psychotic schoolmate; the individual stories fill up three twenty-minute slots, followed by a tacit wrapper segment that binds everything together.
Shoehorning in a highway-related horror segment after the Thanks for the Ride, Lady! act of 1989 made it mandatory, Amusement kicks off with its weakest and least hilarious story, featuring an unsuspecting couple’s deadly road trip home. While riding along with a truck convoy, Shelby and Rob spot what looks like a kidnapping victim crying for help in the cab of the lead rig. Instead of calling the police (which I will abbreviate as IOCTP, because this comes up a lot), they follow the truck deep into the woods. It’s cool, though, because they just met a guy with a creepy moustache at the last rest stop, and he’s tagging along with the convoy as backup. As they pursue the truck, the kidnapping victim jumps from the cab, leaving Shelby and Mr. Moustache at roadside with the wounded woman and Rob to chase after the truck. Here’s a spoilery breakdown of the truck driver character:
1) The “crazy” truck driver tricks Shelby and Rob into taking a shortcut down a rural road. This is unambiguous, because it becomes clear that the truck driver isn’t planning on traveling very far.
2) The truck driver has a crying woman trapped in the cab.
3) The truck driver tries to murder Rob by running him down in the middle of the road.
In the end, we learn that the truck driver was just taking the ‘kidnapped’ woman to rehab. He’s a good guy, even though he inexplicably heads home to his cabin in the woods with the convoy still following him. The real villain, who ultimately kills the truck driver and kidnaps the couple, is Mr. Moustache. They might as well have given him a black cape and shifty eyes, because this twist should surprise no one. The truck driver character might go down as the worst red herring in history, and is just one more reason why Amusement is so bad.
The next segment features the same killer clown shown on Amusement‘s jewel case, and isn’t nearly as awful as the first or third stories, but that’s mostly because it’s short, simple, and derivative of better work. We meet Tabitha, who’s visiting her Aunt’s family in a wealthy suburban home. Arriving at the house in the late afternoon, Tabitha finds her little cousins playing safely in their bedroom sans babysitter. When she asks the kids about the missing babysitter, they answer with cryptic shrugs and laughter. As if that weren’t unsettling enough, there’s a psychopath-sized clown doll sitting in a rocking chair in the guest bedroom. It eventually chases her around the house, and IOCTP, she barricades herself behind a hollow-core bedroom door and jumps out the window, eventually hiding out in a garden shed.
There’s a plot device in this story that’s copied directly from the script of When a Stranger Calls. And I mean literally copied, like Ctrl+C, since the writer responsible for the remake of Stranger also wrote this piece of crap.
Finally, we follow good girl Lisa as she and her boyfriend try to find a missing roommate in a hotel. It’s supposed to be a spooky hotel, because there’s a killer Victrola in the lobby, and the hotel manager wears the exact same outfit as the torturers in the Hostel movies. After posing as a health inspector (in a clever nod to The Three Stooges, I suspect!), Lisa’s boyfriend searches the hotel, only to be murdered by the evil Victrola. After waiting for a few hours (IOCTP), Lisa sneaks into the hotel, only to run into more trouble when she finds a corpse farm in the attic.
The Ft. Pierce rest stop Men’s room was renowned for its Gory Hole
Amusement wraps up by bringing all three girls together in the murderer’s remote and strangely well-lit dungeon, revealing that each girl had been terrorized by (surprise!) the same psychopath who traumatized them as kids. Unfortunately, the vignettes don’t even make sense in that context. The killer trucker debacle notwithstanding, the third girl seeks the killer out on her own. It’s a total mess.
There are no decent kills, either. A mutilated Rat provides the film’s only real shock.
are no extras. There’s a bonus digital copy, seemingly added to thwart pirates with really shitty taste.
The film looks and sounds great, but it’s by no means a reference disc.