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Monday, September 29, 2014

DON'T BLINK -- DVD review by porfle

We're pretty much at the point now where a lot of movies in this particular genre don't even really require a set-up--it's just understood that there's a group of young stereotypes traveling to a remote location for the weekend (usually in order to "par-tay!"), and when they get there something bad will happen to them which will get progressively more terrifying, and they won't be able to escape. Or use their cell phones.

In writer-director Travis Oates' feature debut, DON'T BLINK (2014)--a title which conveniently serves as its own tagline--the bad thing is that everyone at the exquisitely rustic lodge this group of people have just arrived at, including all staff, guests, etc., seems to have mysteriously vanished. And then one by one, over the course of a long, arduous, and very eerie night, they themselves start to come up missing.

The only thing that keeps these movies from being clones of each other is how they're handled after the cookie-cutter setup, be they of a supernatural bent or more in the stalker-slasher vein. (See our recent reviews, for example, of DEATH DO US PART, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO'S POND, and the genre spoof HYSTERICAL PSYCHO.)

The usual personality types are on hand here, with variations of the usual interpersonal relationships. One of them, Noah (David de Lautour), who is the new boyfriend of Ella (Fiona Gubelmann), who is the old girlfriend of Jack (Brian Austin Green, CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"), is the possible red-herring bad guy (a staple in these flicks) because he acts weird and nobody else knows him.

There's also Claire, the studious one with "final girl" potential (Joanne Kelly, "Warehouse 13"); Charlotte, the babe whose loose morals mask hidden insecurities (Samantha Jacobs); a nerd or two (I kind of lost track, to be honest); Jack's current love Tracy, played by Mena Suvari (AMERICAN BEAUTY, AMERICAN PIE); and, perhaps most interestingly, Zack Ward, the guy most of us remember as "Scut Farkus" in A CHRISTMAS STORY. He's well-cast as Alex, the loose cannon who becomes a danger to himself and others when panic starts to set in. (Robert Picardo of THE HOWLING and "Star Trek: Voyager" makes a very brief appearance.)

The cast members acquit themselves well enough at first although increasing demands on their dramatic abilities become a bit of a strain on some. Director Oates manages this atmospheric "Twilight Zone" type of material capably and the inexplicable disappearances are handled with a fair amount of suspense and spookiness.

What's ultimately bothersome about the script is that, as things veer closer toward the supernatural, it becomes more and more likely that we're going to be left hanging at the end, without a hint of what the hell's going on. I'm not asking for blueprints or diagrams or anything, but, heck, it's easy to gradually make a story as baffling and irrational as the writer wants it to be as long as he isn't planning on ever explaining anything anyway.

The DVD from Vertical Entertainment is in widescreen with Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 sound and subtitles in English. Extras consist of a trailer and instructions on how to obtain a digital copy of the film.

What does distinguish DON'T BLINK for me comes down to two things--one, the characters, dialogue, and situations aren't nearly as childishly dumb as in many movies of this type, and two, there's a strong, deliberate sense of mystery and suspense that kept me right with it for pretty much the whole running time. It's too bad that at its disappointingly inconclusive ending, the movie itself almost blinks out of existence.

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