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Suspended Animation
2001 - R - 114 Mins.
Director: John D. Hancock
Producer: Robert H. Hiler
Written By: Dorothy Tristan
Starring: Alex McArthur, Laura Esterman, Sage Allen, Rebecca Harrell, Fred Meyers
Review by: John Ulmer
   
I received a copy of "Suspended Animation" in the mail earlier this week. It was postmarked from a company in New York, with attached sheets of paper naming the cast and crew, and an interview with the director, John D. Hancock, from Phantom magazine.

I'm still not quite sure why I was sent a copy, and I'm not really that sure how I was sent a copy. I don't have any mailing address on my Website, and I don't have it listed publicly on the Internet. I can only assume the DVD was given to me so that I could review the film. But it's a puzzling affair of how that company in New York got my address.

The movie was filmed in 2001 and given a limited theatrical release in October of 2003. I believe that the DVD I received is a preview DVD of what will hit stores some time in 2004. Perhaps the company in New York thought I'd review the DVD, too? I suppose I can, although there's nothing to review -- it has fine quality and sound, basic picture menus, and a single theatrical trailer. It probably doesn't need much more.

The film is about an animator named Tom Kempton (Alex McArthur), and his fascination with his own kidnapper. It all starts when Tom and his buddies are out on their snowmobiles during winter. Tom gets behind and flips his snowmobile when he's trying to catch up; he seeks shelter in a nearby log cabin, which is home to a pair of strange sisters -- one rather obese and the other frail and sickly. They slip Tom a drug and he wakes up tied to a chair. It's then that he realizes the sisters are cannibals, and that they plan to make him their next meal.

After making a daring escape with the help of his friends, Tom finds himself unable to move on with his life. He can't think of anything but the small sister, Vanessa, who kidnapped him and chopped off his pinky finger (which was successfully re-attached, or so I can only assume). Tom hunts down Vanessa's adopted child, draws her as a cartoon out of fascination, and eventually fights and helps murder her serial killer son, Sandor (Fred Meyers), who has a pimple-popping scene so stomach-turning it could rival the most gruesome horror films.

The only thing worse than the killer getting up one last time for another scare is the two-killer theory. Here, it's a three-killer theory. There's a surprise twist at the end that leaves open one of three options: the remaining killer is one of the sisters, back from their graves, their brother, or Vanessa's daughter. And, if you're enough of a horror freak, you may even think it's Sandor coming back from the grave.

I've got to say that though the surprise ending didn't surprise me, I was expecting something else to happen. I expected something much cleverer and much more startling than what did happen at the end. I had worked out a complex theory of who the real killer might be and it never happened. By the time the credits started to roll, I wasn't quite sure what the message of the film was. First it starts out as a sort of "Misery Redux," then it turns into "Deliverance" on snowmobiles, then it turns into "Single White Female," then it turns into "Psycho," then it turns into nothing. Is the point that the gene for wanting to kill people runs in families? Is it that you should not dig deeper into matters already resolved? Or is it just a wandering horror-thriller that isn't sure what it wants to be?

The movie was penned by Dorothy Tristan, John Hancock's wife. It's based on her novel, which I have never heard of -- and now I can understand why. I'd like to give "Suspended Animation" a good review because I enjoyed the beginning as a sort of remake of "Misery," and I feel bad picking on a movie sent to me in hopes I would do the opposite. But if I followed that, it would be nothing but a bribe.

I won't be totally unkind to the movie. John Hancock, the man behind Robert De Niro's "Bang the Drums Slowly" and the cult family classic "Prancer" (also very dark), directs well -- for what it's worth. And to be fair, "Suspended Animation" has a few interesting scenes, but the casting of Alex McArthur never helps much, and the flimsy script only harms what could have been a really tense and scary movie.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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