Written by: wolfsoul4
Shelby, Tabitha and Lisa are three girls, formerly best friends and now on different walks of life. However, the three find themselves unexpectedly reuinited when they are all abducted and thrust into a veritable chamber of horrors. There they become the unwitting pawns of a sick game for a tormented man from their childhood, still baring a grudge against the girls who mocked him and determined to use their torment for his amusement.
I personally found Amusement to be an intriguing and interesting film but ultimately extremely dull and rather cliched.
One of the best aspects of the film is how it is laid out. This is, essentially, an anthology film although one wouldn't know that at first. The film is comprised of four stories, the first three showcasing the seperated abductions of the three girls. "Shelby" features out title heroine and her boyfriend being stalked down the interstate by a maniac in a black semi. However, not all is as it seems as there is at least one other traveller with a deadly agenda. "Tabitha" features the showcase segment of the film, a very "When a Stranger Calls-esque" sequence (apropos, as this is written by Jake Wade Wall, the same man who crafted the remake of When a Stranger Calls) of a babysitter being hunted by a lunatic in a clown suit. "Lisa" features the title girl searching for her missing friend in a large mansion while dodging attacks by its maniacal owner. Finally, all three girls come together and unite in an attempt to break free of the killer's house of horrors. The setup is quite creative and its neat to see how the stories interconnect and that each one has its own distinct feel.
The film is also handeled realtively well with the best intentions to scare the audience. However, this is both a pro and a con. Just When a Stranger Calls, this movie is best suited for scaring the crap out of young and/or inexperienced horror fans. Although it is a bit bloodier than his last teen-friendly outing so discretion is advised for younger kids. However, the film is packed with cliches that are meant to echo spookiness but instead call out hokiness. We've got a dilapidated farmhouse surrounded by cornstalks (not a field, just a few stalks), the prototypical dark n' stormy night and of course...lots and lots and lots of clowns. Clownaphobes need not apply but for anyone who can watch It or Poltergiest without freaking out, this one will be a cakewalk. Tabitha's segment features a large, life sized clown in a rocking chair which of course, turns its head to watch her when she walks away. In crafting such scenes, the film does establish an old-school the-calls-are-coming-from-inside-the-house sort of vibe. Such a moment is brought full fold when Tabitha calls her Aunt to tell her she hates the giant clown only for her Aunt to reply that she doesn't own a large clown doll. It's moments like these that try to be as scary as possible. We got the standard build-up suspense music and people sloowwwwly reaching out to touch the clowns face..we've got out of focus movement and the very notion that it's simply a clown. But for all the attempts at terror the film simply doesn't work. To hardened horror fans, it's simply not very scary and its a shame considering the creepy and somewhat disturbing DVD box art!
Elsewhere there are a few more downfalls. The acting is a mixed bag. I find it interesting that an actress I was previously unfamiliar with, Laura Breckinridge, releases two movies within one week! The very same actress that impressed in a recent and solid title Hit and Run returns as out first girl. Unfortunetly, in this film she doesn;t really get to shine. Her role (and everyone else's) is overshadowed by Kathryn Winnick playing Tabitha. Recieving both the longest and most commercially exposed segment, it's not hard to see that this film was built around this character alone. Ms. Breckinridge and Ms. Winnick do indeed hold their own and come across as talented performers adrift in a sea of mediocrity. No one else really fares as well. Jessica Lucas as Lisa does ok but her performance is overshadowed by the inheirent weirdness of her segment. Then we come to Keir O'Connell, playing one of the most irritating and un-scary horror villains to date. His character, rather stupidly dubbed "The Laugh" (sounds more like an Adam West era Batman villain) is our villain, a plain-jane psycho-slasher with a trademark laugh meant to be creepy but is in fact pretty dang annoying. However, for some odd reason we get one brief flashback scene that tells something of a connection between him and the girls, but then nothing else. No more backstory and certaintly no explanation as to how he can construct such an elaborate dungeon.
On the plus side, Laugh's labyrinth is pretty neat, a Saw-esque funhouse of mirrors and traps and moving walls. Nice design and a moment involving Tabitha coming across her friends held captive is a genuinely well played out scene. The film also ends with a very satisfying kill and a rarity: a climatic one-liner that actually works and holds a sense of finality.
Overall, Amusement tries really, really hard to be something special. Every cliche scare moment in the book is utilized (well, it IS missing the standard "hand on shoulder" or "jumping cat" scares) but none of it will really work against anybody who is moderately experienced with horror. The main villain is annoying and the whole film feels a little unfocused and directionless. There's definetly not enough backstory or explanation or any real reason to care for these characters. But it does have some decent acting, a few creepy moments, nice atmosphere and a great premise that plays out well.
But in the end, this comes across as a disappointment given what could have been. Despite some hype, Amusement emerges as only semi-amusing in and of itself and is really only worth for a nothing-left-to-rent scenario.