By: Lois Kennedy
Director: Tony Krantz
Cast: Bostin Christopher, Ashley Johnson, Illeana Douglas, Daniel Stern, Jared Kusnitz, Kevin Pollak
The titular Otis is a serial killer who has kidnapped and killed five girls. His current victim is Riley, who has to “play along” with his twisted game of pretend: in his head he’s a quarterback taking his best girl to prom. Riley escapes, and her parents Kate and Will and her brother Reed take a gruesome revenge—with unexpected consequences.
It’s meant as a black comedy. Hotchkiss, the FBI agent on the case, is a dimwitted pervert, and the family’s reaction to Otis is played for laughs, like the scene when Kate eagerly rounds up torture tools made from household items. However, the movie has some interesting things to say about peoples’ proclivity for cruelty. “We’re all savages,” Reed concludes. With the exception of Riley and to a lesser extent Otis’s brother Elmo, none of the characters are meant to be empathized with. Otis is of course a dangerous psychopath, and Kate and Reed seem only to have been waiting for an excuse to torture someone to death. Kate is of course upset by her daughter’s disappearance, but she doesn’t show it much. While it’s refreshing to have a female character who doesn’t dissolve in hysterics, it’s off-putting how unaffected she seems knowing her daughter is in the clutches of a serial killer.Reed, who seems to have a love for his sister that verges on incest, is more upset that Otis supposedly raped her than that he tortured her. Will is aghast at his wife and son’s desire to hurt Otis, but he goes along with it. Ironically, Otis is easier to empathize with than Riley’s family; he’s loathsome, but he at least is explained a little by having a painful past. The objectification of women is a consistent theme. They’re playthings to Otis; he chains them up and forces them to show him affection. Riley is a possession to Kate and Will; Kate goads Will to attack Otis by emphasizing that Otis may have defiled Riley’s womb. Agent Hotchkiss, jaded by his experiences with mutilated women, reduces them to body parts; as he muses about the corpse of a girl he failed to save, “Beautiful legs. Track star.”
It’s not the most original premise, but it’s unpredictable. Give it a look if you’re in the mood to think.