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Red Velvet (2009)

3 Mac Studios
DVD Released: 8/28/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/26/2009

(This DVD is currently only available at Amazon.com.)

Just last week when I reviewed Surveillance, I was saying that David Lynch is one of our most unique modern-day filmmakers. Thus, it would take a lot of guts to make a sequel to what is arguably his best-known film without his involvement. Hold on, my wife is telling me something. Oh, apparently I've been misled. OK, while there are plenty of cooking shows on cable TV these days, it's rare that we get a movie which focuses on pastries. Hold on, my wife is saying something else. Well, I'm 0-for-2. Then what the heck is Red Velvet about?

As Red Velvet opens, we see Aaron (Henry Thomas) follow his neighbor Linda (Kelli Garner) to the laundromat. There, the two strike up an awkward conversation, in which he mostly insults her. They talk about her problems with her live-in boyfriend and Aaron admits that he can hear them fighting through the walls. Despite the tension between them, Aaron convinces Linda to accompany him to lunch. Once there, Aaron tells Linda that he's a writer. Linda admits that she had wanted to go with her friends to a cab in the wood for a birthday party, but her boyfriend wouldn't let her use his car. To cheer her up and impress her, Aaron begins to weave a tale of what happened at the party which Linda missed. In his story, the party-goers are stalked by a killer in a white jumpsuit and a sort of bunny mask. As Aaron's narrative grows more grotesque, Linda begins to get into it and soon she's contributing to the fantasy.

Do you remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the three-headed knight was arguing with himself? ("Let's kill him!" "Let's have tean and biscuits!") That must have been what the making of Red Velvet was like. The movie opens like a slice-of-life drama, then becomes an anthology for a few minutes, and then it turns into a horror movie. Not unlike a 5-speed car going up a steep hill, Red Velvet keeps shifting gears. Just when you think that you have it figured out, it turns into something else.

So what, a lot of movies straddle different genres. That's true, but there's two big problems with Red Velvet. First, it doesn't cross genres, such as a romantic-comedy. The movie literally stops being one sort of film and becomes something else. If you were watching the movie in a theater, you would wonder if reels from different movies somewhat got spliced together.

Is this bad? Yes, because none of the elements of the movie work. Allow me to break down the film into its disparate elements. The credit sequence involves Aaron feverishly writing in a notebook while we see flashes of Linda and her boyfriend (Jordan Hagan) fighting. This gives off a whole "crazy" vibe, and Aaron comes across as obsessive. Next, Aaron and Linda then meet in the laundromat and they get involved in one of the strangest conversations every seen in a film. Aaron insults and dismisses Linda, and yet she continues to talk to him. He talks about how he can hear the fights between her and her boyfriend through his walls, but he never comes off as concerned, simply angry. And he says insane things such as "PlayStation doesn't cry, Linda." What? In the real world, Linda would have walked away -- instead, she goes to lunch with Aaron. There, Aaron does some sort of magic trick with a cockroach, and then begins to tell his stories. He tells two brief stories, one involving an odd family and another involving the restaurant hostess. At this point, the movie looks as if it's going to become an anthology of sorts, but with really short stories. Then, Aaron launches into the story about the group at the cabin, and the movie shifts to Aaron's story. We see the characters playing in the water and woods, and we see them being stalked by the killer. There is some mild gore here, but it's nothing that we haven't seen before. Again, it feels as if two different movies have been edited together. The "horror movie" section wants to be a spoof of slasher films, but haven't we moved beyond that? After the Scary Movie series, can anything fresh be done with this sub-genre. Apparently, other than really fake alligators, the answer is no, nothing new can be done.

The makers of Red Velvet have stated that they wanted the movie to have a Dario Argento feel. This can be taken to mean two things. They could be alluding to the fact that the movie makes heavy use of primary colors and garish lights. It could also be related to the idea that, like some of Argento's movies, none of this makes any sense. I can only recommend Red Velvet to fans of movies which are so bad that they are good. The dialogue here is simply amazing and the laundromat scene will have you gasping in disbelief and wondering what in the world happened to Henry Thomas.

Red Velvet actually does contain a cake on DVD courtesy of 3 Mac Studios. The review copy which I received was on a DVD-R, so I can't confirm that the following comments will reflect the quality of final product. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The daytime scenes look very good, as the image has a nice crispness and depth to it. The colors in these scenes look very good, again going for that Argento feel. However, the nighttime scenes are a tad dark and the action is difficult to discern at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The level of the dialogue is good and I didn't find myself having to adjust the volume. The stereo effects are nicely done, most notably during the scenes in the woods.

The Red Velvet DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Joe Moe, Justin McConville, and Sean Fernald. This is an interesting commentary, as the group point out all of the things happening in the background. Apparently, a great deal of work went into the look of the movie. If only they'd put some work into the story. The trio make scene-specific comments throughout the film and they balance discussing technical issues with info about actors and locations. "Behind the Scenes - Actors" features comments from Henry Thomas, Cristen Coppen, Natalia Baron, and Joe Moe, all of whom were interviewed at Fear Fest 2. Their comments about the film's production are intercut with clips from the movie. "Behind the Scenes - FX/Make-Up" (5 minutes) offers on-set footage of how several of the main gore moments and special effects from the film were done. There is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Maniac" by Johnny Mac and the Cadillacs. The extras are rounded out by a Photo Slideshow and a TRAILER for the movie. (The extras are a bit odd, because if you play "Behind the Scenes - Actors", you've activated a reel which will play all of the extras in order.)

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long