Sometimes when a film takes too much of a beating online I get a little sympathetic and try to find some quality that is a bit redeeming in it. I think to enjoy most horror films, whether modern or not, you have to be a tad forgiving. If I could not stomach plot holes and over acting (or no acting) then I probably would not watch horror films all all for the most part. Now that being said I have to admit that 2009’s Amusement –directed John Simpson, who has only one other film to his credit, Freeze Frame, and that was released five years earlier in 2004, meaning this guy does not do too much- was not a great film story wise. As are many horror films to be frank. The story is full of illogic and gaps that require massive leaps of suspension of disbelief. I am serious about this. Just the opening sequence involving a “convoy” of cars and a truck, driven by a wasted Kevin Gage who has only a few minutes on screen at best, is simply absurd in the way it plays out. It almost is totally reliant on the bad guy, known in the credits as The Laugh, being clairvoyant or able to see into the future in order for things to play out then way they do. And his character is not psychic, and there is no way he could have predicted certain events that happen on the road trip in order to 1) realize his devious plot of revenge and 2) at the same time shift suspicion from the real killer to another character so that we are surprised a few minutes later. Rather than feeling shocked we are left feeling a bit confused and wondering if we missed something. In fact you are left feeling that way through the entire film, which went straight to DVD upon its release.
The story is about acts of elaborate revenge that The Laugh –named so because of his annoying rather than frightening laugh- wrecks upon three women, Shelby, Tabitha and Lisa. The reason for this, as far as we can tell from flashbacks, is because they all made little boxes with a hole in them that you peer into and see a setup little scene, like a diorama, and the girls did not like his because it had a tortured little mouse or squirrel in it. His asks them if it is funny and they let him know they do not think it is. He is later sent to a mental institution and upon release seeks out the girls for revenge for not liking his little scene. The revenge episodes are just too complicated and you again are left wondering how the guy can finance all of this. For example he has access to a massive factory space –like the killers in many of these torture- porn flicks do- and in that space he has designed complicated devices and moving walls of glass that simply defies reason. How could this guy get this space and design all of these gadgets and then finance getting them built? He just got out of a nut house for Pete’s sake. Another sequence involves him as a scary clown and yet another where he runs a creepy and decrepit hotel or guest house that nobody in their right mind would stay at. And yet there are enough regular guests to keep a room filled with beds of tortured and dead guests fully occupied. Luckily the police or FBI have never decided to investigate the disappearance of all these local women who were last known to spend a night at the strange inn. The character of The Laugh is forgettable and we are treated to a fairly decent final girl confrontation between him and the last girl standing character, Tabitha.
The stories do not really intertwine in any way that is easy to swallow and they try to converge later in the torture factory in a manner that is a let down. And so, to go back to my beginning paragraph, what is some redeeming quality I found in this film that I may be able to say it was not a total loss? Well, the photography and set designs are above average. They are gritty and moody in an effective Se7en fashion, and this may be due to the fact that most of the film was shot in and around Budapest Hungary. The set designs are dark and sinister and show some thought that the rest of film is lacking in. If you are easy going on plot holes and poor character development I can give this a half hearted recommendation. I am not a fan of the whole torture-porn genre and this film has those Hostel sort of elements though not really as extreme nor really as good either. Have no idea why Kevin Gage even showed up for this one. Got a little excited to see his face at the beginning but knew where the film was headed after he was offed within ten minutes of the film. A pretty bad film story wise that looks great in terms of set deign and photography. You can make up your own mind of course but as long as you go in with your expectations not too high you might find a moment or two worth sitting through.