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Suspended Animation
2001 - - 114 Mins.
Director: John D. Hancock
Producer: Robert J. Hiler
Written By: Dorothy Tristan
Starring: Alex McArthur, Laura Esterman, Sage Allen, Rebecca Harrell, Fred Meyers
Review by: James O'Ehley
“Suspended Animation” has nothing to do with, well, suspended animation – that science fiction plot device of putting astronauts into hibernation for long space journeys to, oh let’s say, Jupiter.

The title however makes sense within the context of the movie itself, but it isn’t sci-fi.

Instead “Suspended Animation” is an indie thriller/horror movie made in 2001 by director John Hancock with a cast of largely unknowns.

Hancock directed another horror movie back in 1971, the cult “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.” In the meantime, except for some TV work, he has directed “Weeds” (1987, starring Nick Nolte) and “Prancer” (in 1989).

“Suspended Animation” is one of those movies in which it is best that one knows as little as possible of the plot beforehand. So don’t view this movie’s trailer supplied on the Region 1 DVD. Don’t even read the synopsis supplied on back on the DVD cover for that matter . . .

Without giving too much away, the plot concerns Tom Kempton (Alex McArthur) a director of animated movies (see what I mean about the title?) who goes on a snowmobile vacation with two of his buddies.

Kempton definitely needs this holiday because it is hinted that he does all the drawings in his movies himself – couldn’t he have hired cheap Korean animators to do it for him instead?

Our auteur director however gets lost in the woods and asks for help at an isolated cabin.

Bad move.

In the best “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” tradition, Kempton has stumbled across two demented cannibal sisters who make a habit of sadistically killing and eating their victims.

Pretty soon he is firmly tied to a wheelchair, unable to escape – the sisters (played delciously over-the-top by Laura Eastman and Sage Allen) having obviously seen “Misery”. In fact, Sage Allen who plays one of the, um, twisted sisters bears quite an uncanny resemblance to actress Kathy Bates . . .

That is about all I’m willing to give away here without spoiling any surprises.

As you might have gathered, the plot makes several unexpected gear shifts along the way. Once you’ve got it sorted out (‘ah, this is going to be a snowbound “Deliverance”), the plot shifts into another unexpected direction. ‘Oh, this is going to be “Vertigo”. Um, no, make that “Blue Velvet” . . .’

The first half an hour plays as a high-octane camp horror movie with lots of black humoured one-liners. The soundtrack music by “Twin Peaks” composer Angelo Badalamenti is quite adequate and the snow settings effective.

However, despite the various unpredictable plot twists that follow, the rest of the movie comes as an anti-climax of sorts. What follows for the next hour still sustains viewer interest though, but things take a turn for the worst when the movie hits the hour-and-a-half mark.

By all rights movies of this sort shouldn’t really run longer than 90 minutes. “Suspended Animation” unfortunately drags on for another 30 minutes or so with two ‘surprises’ attentive audiences would have seen coming a mile off - not to mention a mundane hostage drama that veers between comedic camp and clichéd drudgery.

This disappointing last half an hour made me shear off half a star from what would otherwise have been a solid three-star movie.

As far as cheapo straight-to-video horror flicks go, “Suspended Animation” isn’t the worst of the bunch. It isn’t, let’s say, “Midnight Mass” (a vampire flick which would be the result if you and your student buddies decide to make a movie over a few beers).

It isn’t “May” (a recent underappreciated horror flick destined to become a cult item) either.

However, when it comes to high camp, there is probably nothing in this world to compare with actress Laura Easterman’s ballet cum self-flagellation set to Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ – a sight you’d no doubt want erased from your mind by the time you push the eject button on your DVD player . . .

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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