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Otis (2008)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 6/10/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/12/2008

I've written before (most recently in my reviews for One Missed Call and There Will Be Blood) about the feeling of being on the outside-looking-in when it comes to movies. These are the times when my opinion feels as it's the exact polar opposite of everyone else's. When I speak of this, I'm usually referring to critics, filmgoers, and the average internet forum poster. However, in some cases, the range can be more narrow. The DVD box for the film Otis is covered with blurbs from critics, all of which are hailing the film. And I have to ask, "What movie did they see?"

As Otis opens, we see a burly, unkempt man named Otis (Bostin Christopher) torturing a young woman whom he calls Kim. He keeps this up until something goes awry.

We are then introduced to the Lawson family -- Kate (Illeana Douglas), Will (Daniel Stern), Reed (Jared Kusnitz), and Riley (Ashley Johnson). The family orders pizza and who should arrive to deliver their dinner, but Otis. When he sees Riley, he is instantly captivated by her. Soon, Otis abducts Riley and spirits her away to his basement dungeon, where he chains her to a bed and begins calling her Kim. (Apparently, Otis is attempting to recreate some high school memory with his abductees.) As one can imagine, the Lawson's are devastated by Riley's disappearance, and they turn to the authorities, represented by Agent Hotchkiss (Jere Burns), for help. When they realize that Agent Hotchkiss is inept, the Lawsons decide to take the law into their own hands.

Otis wants to be a satire of horror films and presents itself as a black comedy. It presents a fairly straight-forward torture/kidnapping plot complete with all of the trappings. In fact, the movie so resembles the kind of movies that it's attempting to satirize that somewhere along the way, it forgets to be funny, scary, or entertaining in any way.

My first problem with Otis is that in "satirizing" other movies, it must be similar to those films. However, this movie goes a bit too far. I didn't feel that it was making fun of other movies as much as it was merely mirroring them. The movies shares ideas with the direct-to-video stinker Delivery, as well as every socially-awkward big dumb guy kidnaps and tortures girls movie. The big "plot twist" is lifted directly from Ransom. If anything, Otis could have had the element of surprise on its side, but the familiarity breeds predictability.

The first half of Otis is seemingly built to look just like a thriller, but the second half turns into more of a black comedy. This would be great if it were actually funny. The "jokes" fall flat and unless you find scenes of people yelling at each other funny, then this portion of the film won't do anything for you. Actually, this part of the movie is especially numbing, as it's essentially a one-joke piece. The family makes a mistake and the movie drags things out as we wait for them to realize what they've done wrong. In the mean time, you'll be thinking about household chores that you need to do.

I felt sorry for myself for having to sit through Otis, but I really felt bad for the familiar actors in the movie. Is this the best gig that Illeana Douglas, Daniel Stern, and Kevin Pollak can get? Douglas used to be in every Scorsese movie. What happened? Pollak is a funny person and he's playing a serious role in this "comedy"? This movie is beneath all of them.

I'm a long-time fan of horror films, but I've never been crazy about the kidnapping/torture genre. (I'm hard-pressed to lump them into the horror genre.) So, I'd be first in line for a movie which skewers or lampoons these movies. I also wouldn't mind seeing a film where the victim really turns the tables on the assailant. We get none of that with Otis. This is a violent movie whose attempts at humor go nowhere (honestly, if the filmmakers didn't want me to think this was a comedy, it would have never occurred to me). The movie contains no character development and the ending will only bring groans from the audience. Avoid this one altogether and re-watch the scenes from Scary Movie 4 which spoof Saw.

Otis torments 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 looks pretty good, as it's fairly sharp and clear throughout. However, there is a fine sheen of grain on the image in some shots. The transfer shows no defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably the reds and blues. Despite the fact that the film is often dark, the action is always visible. The intense bright lights in certain scenes (you'll know which ones) do create some video noise. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects here are good, as are the surround sound effects in the scenes in Otis' basement. Bass effects come into play during the more violent scenes.

The Otis DVD contains a handful of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tony Krantz and Writer Erik Jendresen. This is an OK talk, as the two keep the discussion going throughout the film. However, they seem to stay busy telling us what is supposed to be happening in certain scenes. Telling me that something is funny doesn't make it funny. "The Twisted World of Otis" (12 minutes) is a making-of featurette which offers interviews with the filmmakers and cast. They discuss the origin of the story, the characters, the actors, and the production. The pieced includes some behind the scenes footage. The DVD contains "The Birthday Party Alternate Ending" (6 minutes) can be viewed with or without commentary an introduction by Director Tony Krantz. Unfortunately, he doesn't tell us how this ending would have happened. "Otis' Home Movie Suite 16" (3 minutes) shows us the complete reel of a movie which plays in the background during a scene in the film.


On October 7, 2008, Warner Home Video brought Otis to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc offers a 1080p HD VC-1 transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. Hazy is the only way in which to describe the look here. It looks as if the fog machine was working overtime in every scene. This, mixed with subtle grain, makes a sort of swirling pattern on the image. Image is also somewhat flat and skintones are waxy. The colors are rich, but slightly muted. On the more positive side, the image is sharp and shows no defects from the source material. However, if you were to simply show this transfer to someone, they would never guess that it was from Blu-ray. The Disc contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The sound here is OK, as there are some nice stereo effects and the LFE tones are quite effective. However, while there is surround sound present, it simply seems to be mimicking the audio from the front channels and it stops abruptly at places. The sound is adequate, but never overly impressive.

There are no extras whatsoever on this Blu-ray Disc.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long