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Ten (2014)
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by Jay Seaver

"Doesn't even have ten vague ideas to it."
1 stars

SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 16: By the time "Ten" is over, it has maybe managed to beat its story into making some kind of sense, or at least into the kind of nonsense that the audience can sort of work with. That's probably not the sort of reaction filmmakers Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstein had in mind - it's unusual enough to be the result of some ambition - but the rookie filmmakers seem to have set themselves a task that's more they can handle just yet.

After an opening scene that establishes that there's something not right about the place, ten women arrive at a mansion on an island off he coast of New England in the 1970s. They all seem to be strangers with nothing in common, which means that after the last ferry leaves, a storm will naturally kick up, trapping them together in the house while some butcher-themed slasher goes after these "ten little piggies".

Why are these ten women here? An answer is presented in the last act, and while it technically explains some things, it is the very definition of an explanation that exists entirely to brace the structure after the fact as opposed to being things that reasonably intelligent people would actually do when starting from zero. Even taking all the behind-the-scenes machinations into effect, the first two-thirds of the movie are tremendously frustrating; even when people die, it doesn't feel like anything is happening. Plus, not only does the viewer feel like he or she is missing some very basic information, but none of the characters ever seem to react to various nasty murders the way actual human beings would. Heck, they don't even react like thin stereotypes would.

The characters are, almost down the line, stereotypes, and that is what they are designed to be rather than just the result of laziness, unwillingness to flesh characters out, or just overcrowding. The filmmakers certainly seem to have some interest in how women in this sort of genre/exploitation movie are often hollow shells, or how people told how to behave and what sort of role to play for long enough will eventually internalize it, but they do precious little with it: Few become much more interesting when what secrets they may have are revealed, and by not developing the roster in any specific way, it's tough to get worked up as they're picked off or shift into a more engaged frame of mind when the plot goes from very thin to fairly tangled.

The acting is not particularly engaging either, but it's sometimes hard to tell whether that's the results of bad performances or leaning into the stereotypes being asked for. Porcelain Dalya probably makes more from her dim-bulb coed's one note than Molly Devon does with a money-loving investor's, but it's still not that much. Susannah Plaster and co-writer Jade Sylvan probably wind up in the best position because playing "the doctor" and "the rebel" at least puts them in position to give their characters something akin to multi-trait personalities.

There are some good pieces here - a very nice location, neat animated titles, and a viably creepy concept for a slasher villain - but there just isn't enough meat on the bones or storytelling skill to make something out of it. Ideally, "Ten" would be smart satire and a tense thriller, but its first-time filmmakers just aren't up to that task yet.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=26527&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/19/14 12:23:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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