(After Dark/Lionsgate) Rachel Miner, Chris Carmack, Melissa Jones, Kevin Yon, Lynch Travis, Sarah Habel, Mia Serafino, Chantel Giacalone, Ulysses Hernandez, Richard Wilkinson. Directed by Seth Grossman
One of the more heinous attributes of Hollywood is that they’ll take a movie that has some degree of success and manufacture ultra-low budget direct-to-DVD sequels that often have little to do with the first film and very rarely have any cast members reprising their roles. These films are often bottom of the barrel when it comes to quality and readers should beware when renting them, attracted by the title only.
The Ashton Kutcher sci-fi fantasy movie The Butterfly Effect came out in 2004 and while not a smash success made a moderate profit. Here, the two films have little in common except the lead character is able to travel through time at will, as long as he can see a picture of the place he wants to travel to. Here, the character is Sam Reide (Carmack) who poses as a psychic. He travels back in time, sees the crime happen, then returns to tell the police who did it. Detective Glenn (Lynch) has an impressive arrest record thanks to Sam.
Sam is aided in this by his sister Jenna (Miner). Time traveling is dangerous; it amps Sam’s body temperature up, so much so that he must time travel from a bathtub filled with ice cubes. Jenna monitors his vital signs to make sure Sam doesn’t cook himself alive while time travelling.
Sam and Jenna are very close and they have a reason to be; Sam time traveled to save Jenna in a house fire. As usually happens when the past is altered, there is a heavy cost. The act of saving Jenna caused their parents to perish in the fire. Since then, Sam is under strict orders – as nagged to by his mentor Goldburg (Yon) – to use his powers to observe, not affect.
However this all changes when Elizabeth (Habel), the sister of Sam’s murdered girlfriend Rebecca (Serafino), approaches Sam convinced that the man on Death Row accused of the murder, Lonnie Flemmonds (Wilkinson) is innocent. Sam is reluctant to go back, and Goldburg reinforces this but Sam is obviously shaken by the encounter, so much so that he has some wild sex with the bartender Vicki (Jones).
He ultimately changes his mind and goes back, determined to prevent the murder despite the protestations of his sister and Goldburg. While there, he sees a drunken Elizabeth in her car outside Rebecca’s apartment and orders her to stay in the car. He goes into the house and finds he is too late to save Rebecca; while he’s in the apartment Elizabeth is attacked and murdered in her car.
Thus it goes, with the smallest of events leading to catastrophic consequences. That’s nothing new; it was explored in more clever ways in the first movie (the second, a direct-to-video disaster from 2006, was even worse than this one is). The saving grace for the movie is its inclusion of the police procedural into the sci-fi fantasy mix.
The acting here is atrocious, with Rachel Miner the only “name” actress in the cast. She does okay but frankly isn’t given a lot to work with. I hope the check cleared at least. Most of the rest of the cast commits the cardinal sin: they act like they’re acting. They speak in cadences no real human being speaks in, and while the dialogue they’re given to say is pretty craptacular, I can’t say they even do it justice, and that’s pretty bad.
The action sequences, such as they are, are handled well enough but to be honest, there really isn’t much to recommend the movie. As it is, if you’re into sci-fi and fantasy and you liked the first movie, you might be moved to see this one. Be warned; chances are you won’t like it. That’s too bad; the series has an interesting conceit and with a little imagination can make for some fine entertainment.
Generally, most of the movies in the After Dark series range from okay to really good. Unfortunately, they appear to be running into a dry well. Perhaps it’s time for a year off in order to stockpile some movies that live up to the ones from the first two festivals.
WHY RENT THIS: An intriguing procedural that, if nothing else at least gives some variation to the series.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Poorly acted, poorly written and the end “revelation” isn’t much of a twist and it just makes you go “ewwwwwww!”
FAMILY VALUES: No….nudity, sex, graphic violence….just no.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This came out as part of the After Dark Film Festival III, the “Eight Films to Die For” for 2009. This remains the horror film festival in the world based on attendance and number of venues.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
FINAL RATING: 4/10
TOMORROW: Hot Tub Time Machine