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Amusement comes to DVD January 20. Make your own Amusement box and send it to a friend! Upload your photo and turn yourself into a creepy clown by selecting your own backgrounds, make-up, text and more. Send it to a friend, crank the box, and see what happens…Visit www.funnyright.com to check it out.
Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 1/20/2009
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/18/2009
In the past, I've written about how it's nearly impossible to know nothing about a movie these days. With more entertainment "news" shows than ever and internet access, one can learn most any thing about any film, past, present, or future. It's even worse for someone like me, as I get detailed information from studios about their upcoming releases. But, there's an exception to every rule, and I found that I knew next to nothing about Amusement. I remembered seeing a trailer for it quite some time ago, and I knew that there was a scary clown on the cover, but that was it. (I never read the back of the box before-hand, because of spoilers and the fact that they're generally wrong anyway.) Based on the clown and the title, I thought that the movie might take place in an amusement park. So, I went into Amusement knowing little and I left the exact same way.
Amusement is difficult to describe. In many ways, it plays as an anthology, but it isn't. The first quarter of the film deals with Shelby (Laura Breckenridge). She and her boyfriend (?), Rob (Tad Hilgenbrink), are on a long road-trip. Despite Shelby's scolding for doing so, Rob likes to fall in line with a group of other vehicles and travel together (he calls it a convoy). When the group stops for gas, Shelby notices something odd about the semi-truck which is leading the "convoy" and the rural road on which they are traveling suddenly seems very foreboding. In the next part, Tabitha (Katheryn Winnick) arrives at the home of her aunt and uncle to baby-sit her nephews. She surprised to learn that the earlier baby-sitter has gone and left the boys alone. She plays with the boys and then puts them to bed. She moves to the guest room, which is decorated with clowns of all shapes and sizes. However, the life-size clown in the rocking chair is more spooky than decorative. We then meet Lisa (Jessica Lucas), who is out on the town with her roommate Cat (Fernanda Dorogi), who is busy meeting men around the bar. Lisa then returns to their apartment, where’d they planned to have “roommate night”, but Cat isn’t home. Lisa assumes that she’s with one of the men that she met. When Cat doesn’t come home the next day, Lisa enlists the help of her boyfriend, Dan (Reid Scott), for help in finding her. They venture to a creepy, old hotel where one of Cat’s potential suitors had been staying. What they find there is a house of horror. The film’s last act explains what these three women have in common.
So, Amusement isn’t about clowns or amusement parks. (Somebody needs to make a good amusement park horror movie.) What Amusement is, essentially, is an anthology film, like Creepshow or Dead of Night, but the framing device, which is usually introduced at the beginning of the film, doesn’t arrive until the end. This is certainly a unique approach to the movie, and unique is the last thing that I would expect from screenwriter Jake Wade Wall, who was previously responsible for the scripts for the remakes of When a Stranger Calls and The Hitcher. The problem with this approach is that the viewer has no idea what the hell is going on throughout most of the movie. I did read the back of the box after watching Amusement and it describes the last ten minutes of the movie, so not only do we get a spoiler, but one which will have the viewer saying, “When is the movie that I read about going to show up?” On the other hand, Amusement can also be applauded for not spoon feeding the audience, and making us wait for an explanation.
However, when that explanation arrives, it’s not very surprising or satisfying. Actually, the last act is the weakest of the entire film. We may not have known any of the characters or what they were doing in the first three segments, but it was interesting. However, the finale suffers from two problems; 1. When the link to the three women is revealed, you’ll realize that you’ve seen it all before. (And this movie has one of the weakest versions of this story ever); 2. The end wanders into Saw territory, while the rest of the movie had gone for a more old-school feel.
And it’s that old-school feel which makes Amusement at least watchable. The first three chapters of Amusement play like something which would have been on an episodes of Tales from the Crypt or perhaps an anthology from the 80s. They are lean and mean stories which don’t beat around the bush...well, Lisa’s story drags a bit. There are no supernatural elements here, and while the film isn’t gory, it doesn’t pull its punches either. Director John Simpson has made a slick-looking movie and provides us with some nice shots and camera angles. (Amusement looks like anything but a direct-to-video production.) I would be hard-pressed to say that the movie is scary, but there are certainly some creepy moments and some nice “jump” scares.
In a time when many horror movies look alike, it’s nice to see someone try something a little different, if not completely retro. The experiment which is Amusement’s narrative style may fail, and the ending will leave you disappointed (as will the credits. Seriously, the villain is called “The Laugh”? That sounds like a third-rate Spider-man bad-guy.), but the first 65 minutes or so of Amusement are entertaining and will make Generation X viewers long for the days of old.
Amusement puts the beginning at the end on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and despite the fact that most of the film takes place at night, the image is never overly dark. The picture is a bit soft at times and the detail level is low. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides very good stereo effects, which show good separation. The surround effects, especially during the first chapter, are quite nice, as the cars zoom past us. The subwoofer effects are good as well, most notably during the last segment.
The Amusement DVD contains no extras.
Warner Home Video has also brought Amusement toBlu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image here is extremely sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The picture has that Blu-ray crispness and the depth and level of detail is superb. The colors look great and are never over-saturated. The image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a great track, as the stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects are outstanding. Simply listen to the first segment, where the cars on the highway move through all of the speakers and provide a low hum through the subwoofer. The sound effects heighten the “shock” scenes and this mix really adds to the experience.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long