Death of Alice Blue, TheReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 04/01/10 10:19:46
SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: A couple days after watching it and turning it over in my mind, I can't decide whether "The Death of Alice Blue" is a sloppy example of vampire soap opera melodrama or a dead-on parody of such things. I'm going to go with the latter, although I'm not sure - the satire is mostly aimed at targets other than the White Wolves and Sookie Stackhouses of the world.It's Monday, and Alice Blue's second day working as a creative intern at Raven, a large Toronto advertising agency, is also her twenty-first birthday. It could be going better; though head of Creative Stephen is nice to her, she embarrasses herself at a presentation, but of the rest, the only folks who don't treat her like dirt are a pack of misfits who seem obsessed with blood tests and reflex testing. And she herself is starting to feel kind of strange...
Though it opens with a "chapter one" graphic ("The Bloodsucking Vampires of Advertising"), watching The Death of Alice Blue often feels like jumping into a serial midway through, with subplots already in progress that are not accompanied by explanation. Other times, it feels as though writer/director Park Bench is making stuff up as he goes along. This may very well be deliberate, a gag on how a lot of urban horror/fantasy franchises start out as "a girl in the city...with vampires!" satire and bloat into continuity-choked epics with warring factions, foretold destinies, characters killed off to show the writers mean business, and absolutely every tiny detail connected past the point of absurdity. If that's what he's up to, then well done.
That would make Alice (Alex Appel, also a producer) the regular girl in the strange situation. She's a bit of a cipher at times - it was never really clear why she opted to throw herself in with the guys looking to take down/expose Raven - but Appel gives her a sort of lackadaisical charm that she refines as the movie goes on. Early scenes often focus on how her mother and the prettier, more stylish ladies at Raven make her feel small, and they're okay, but the bits where she's casual about how cool she actually is are a ton of fun.
The rest of the cast isn't bad, either, although Appel and Bench have chosen the best parts for themselves. Bench is Peter Green, the good-hearted but sort of dorky guy who doesn't realize that he's the sidekick; he's fun to watch. Kristen Holden-Ried is mysterious-but-likable as Alice's boss Stephen; Gordon Currie, on the other hand, is mysterious-and-sexy as the guy giving Peter's group their information. Laura Thorne plays the tech gal without a bunch of weird tics. Barbara Radecki is nicely domineering as the new and dangerous head of Raven.
Most, I gather, are part of a Toronto comedy troupe, Toothin Theatre, and they do play off each other with ease. Though the movie is made on a tight budget, they use the need to build sets from scrap to give Raven a funky, dystopian look that feeds into their satire: The place looks like a crypt, the employees move around like zombies, and the day's layoffs are announced every morning like club meeting times in high school. Still, they've managed to squirrel some money away to make the action scenes toward the end look pretty good. The fights are choreographed for both comedy and thrills, and while the visual effects work isn't the slickest, it's got a lot of "hey, that was neat" moments.In fact, that stuff is pushing me to give "The Death of Alice Blue" a less qualified recommendation; what it does well, it does very well. There's just too many other moments when the movie feels awkward. How many times can you say "that's clever, if that's what they're going for" before the benefit of the doubt starts to dry up?
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