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First of all, I was pleased to find out that Julia WAS the star. The plot is far from original, and works basically on an entertainment level. However, it has an oddly engaging sense of style that keeps you interested. There are ways to take a formulaic plot, and transform it into something unique and fun--"Wicked" is a fine example. The camera angles, the lighting, the creepy undertones (i.e.: incest) of a seemingly pleasant suburban community, the pacing and subtle comic relief beneath all the tension make this worth watching. This is like the work of a first-time independent filmmaker--and I don't mean that in a bad way.
It's also worthy of seeing the beautiful Julia in a good, early performance. This may not be a masterpiece or even a guilty pleasure worthy of several viewings, but it's a good movie and a good rental.
My score: 7 (out of 10)
My only explanation for the extremely low ratings is the subject matter. The shadow of incest is off-putting to a lot of people, and I suspect many viewers just cannot enjoy a film where the subject matter makes them very uncomfortable. This is not a wimpy film with the predictable moral messages, but a very gutsy, finely-crafted piece of work that keeps you on the edge straight through.
This is a refreshingly different and exciting film that is miles beyond the usual Hollywood rot, and it manages to convey a steamy, dangerous eroticism without nudity or simulated-sex scenes. It takes a real director and some real actors to pull this off. And they didn't have to resort to car chases or gunfights, either.
This is a great little horror movie set as a family drama. However, when it started I was almost groaning - oh no, not another movie aimed at _that_ demographic! When Ellie drives her Toyota (are 14-year olds allowed to drive?) into her gated community and threatens to run away "to Los Angeles" with her pink suitcase again and again, I was seriously questioning what direction the movie was going to take. However, after mom gets offed and Ellie starts taking over her role and even her clothes, things started to get interesting (although I can't believe Julia Stiles and Chelsea Field having the same size, but that's just a quibble).
When ex-nanny (and now lover/wife) Lena tells Ellie that it's just natural to have a crush on daddy and that she'll soon have sex with a real boyfriend and forget all about it, she is exhibiting what in Puritan influenced Anglosaxon cultures would be attempted to be beaten down as "sluttiness" but what in the rest of Northwestern Europe is simply straightforwardness/sobriety/matter-of-fact-ness, etc. I cannot emphasise enough that I liked the Louise Myrback's Lena character _a lot_. No bs, just the facts. I like that.
Anyway. There are lots of "moments" in this movie that defy that normal horror movie chills. When they're all sleeping in the same bed and father Ben calls his dead wife's name and Ellie responds with "daddy...". Michael Parks as the Mark Fuhrman-like character. Just the sort of guy you would like sniffing around your everyday business. Right.
Wicked is a pretty good little entry into the horror movie genre.
There were many "huh?!" moments. For instance: When the heck did Lawson fall in love with the Julia Stiles character? I must have blinked and missed the entire development of that.
The characters competed with the plot for the "boring and predictable" prize. Julia Stiles did a pretty good job with the empty material she was given, but the other actors were not able to do much with their lame roles.
And the incest stuff . . . yuck!
The case to this DVD had some "If you enjoy this movie, you might want to check out" suggestions: The Babysitter, The Crush, etc.; ie, better-developed versions of this type of film. This movie had potential to be a crazy-girl-wreaks-havoc tour de force for Julia Stiles, as the other films were for Alicia Silverstone. It would have been really fun to see Julia Stiles chew the scenery and go on some major rampages.