Tuesday, July 05, 2011

[DVD] Rule of Three (2008)

So What Exactly Happened?

Some of us can't help it if we wonder at times how the hotel, motel or inn room we're staying in contain stories and harbour secrets, having a myriad of people come stay in them, sometimes involving incidents that range from the usual, the sweet, to even the macabre, depending on how one's imagination goes. Motels of course are very ripe and fertile ground for horror stories and films to spring up from, but Rule of Three, by the creative husband-wife team of Eric Shapiro on the director's chair and Rhoda Jordan taking on screenplay duties from Shapiro's story, churns up a psychologically dark mystery thriller that hooks you in right from the opening shot.

Primarily set in the same spatial boundaries of a motel room, Rule of Three spans three distinct stories over different timelines that you'll expect to converge by the time the final act rolls by, but here done in a manner that's shocking and horrific, dealing with karmic retributions in a certain way, and how people, seemingly civil on the outside, possesses a degree of evilness that rears its ugly head in the most nonchalant manner and reveal, that makes this truly terrifying since it really brings forth the notion of not judging a book by its cover.

There's Jon (Ben Siegler) who's obsessively looking for his daughter Lo (Rhoda Jordan herself) who has been missing for two weeks, with the father berating everyone and making his way back to the motel room, her last known location, to look for clues. The second tale sheds some insights to a trip by Lo and her boyfriend Jake (Cary Woodworth), making their pit stop in the motel but as we soon find out, they're there to try and engage in a threesome with whichever friend they can mutually agree to shortlist and get to say yes. And the last arc deals with a middle aged man Brian (Lee Schall) making a deal with the devil in Rodney Eastman's drug dealer Russ, the former wanting to buy "roofies" so that he can lay with the woman of his dreams who often goes to him as an Agony Uncle. Talk about taking advantage when someone is down.

Rule of Three shines in many ways that makes this indie film well worth a watch, and a multiple times at that. There's immense strength in its stories that peppers with details and red herrings to keep you constantly engaged and guessing, with deep characterization to flesh out all its characters to avoid stereotypes, well acted that they come off as truly believable, which makes this a little bit unnerving since it can cut close to reality, since real life at times can be stranger than fiction.

Dialogue is extremely sharp, important since the characters don't come off as lifeless, and drives the narrative forward in clockwork fashion, with the cast members delivering wonderful performances - Lee Schall portraying his character with misguided morals and ulterior motives so well hidden, with Rodney Eastman pairing up to exploit that excellent chemistry they share as unlikely bedfellows, Cary Woodworth providing a slight tinge of comedy and vulnerability, and Rhoda Jordan as well, central to the story to allow us to feel for her, as well as wonder just what could have happened that made Ben Siegler's obsession easier to comprehend especially when the film ends and you start to look back.

After all, Shapiro and Jordan surprises with the final act that sews everything up and sledgehammers plenty of emotions through, filling it with enough suspense right up to the final frame of the film, and comes full circle with its themes that have floated around, coming to closure toward the end. Cinematography is kept uncomplicated and clean to accentuate the frustration, fear and horror of what the characters go through, with a hauntingly good soundtrack to boot. It's not everyday that you get an indie film that's so well written and acted, that this one stands out firmly amongst the crowd. Highly recommended, and if Netflix is available from wherever you're reading this, you might want to have a go at the film here.

The Region 1 DVD by Big Screen Entertainment presents the film in a letterbox format. There aren't too many extras, and are the usual Trailer (2:38) for the movie, and Trailers (8:15) for films like Babysitter Wanted, Sodium Babies, Nina & the Mystery of the Secret Room, and Target Practice.

The Director's Commentary is chock full of information shared by Eric Shapiro who provides plenty of insights into the narrative as well as the filmmaking process and behind the scenes process, but you will have to steer clear of it until you've seen the film because he starts it all off, in the very first sentence, dropping a major spoiler and many others along the way. You have been warned, but otherwise you'll have to give this a listen to for all the details that Eric Shapiro generously shares with the viewer/listener.

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