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Three strangers are trapped inside an elevator in an empty apartment building during a blackout. The asthmatic Claudia is traumatized with the accident with her beloved grandmother due to a moment of distraction. Karl is a widow doctor that loves his daughter. Tommy is a young man that has just accidentally killed the violent father of his girlfriend Francesca while protecting her and is planning to runaway to Paris with her. The tension of group escalates to a nightmare when one of the strangers shows that is a psychopath and sadistic serial-killer. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of the great things about having access to Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature is that (of course) you can watch movies without having to wait on a disc to arrive via snail mail.
Sometimes you'll stumble across unexpected gems that come in the form of obscure indie films. My experience, however, has been that I usually end up being suckered into movies that are a complete waste of time. Enter Blackout, a low-budget psychological horror/thriller from director Rigoberto Castaneda (yeah, I'd never heard of him either).
The story is this: a trio of strangers becomes trapped in an elevator when a citywide power outage cripples Los Angeles. What's especially dire about this group's situation is that their apartment building is undergoing heavy renovations, which means that there are only a handful of tenants who could possibly hear their cries for help.
If you're like me, this sounds like a brilliantly simple setup that could only result in a great horror movie. My first thought was that days of existing in a dark elevator would expose the occupants' inner demons, which would accompany a chilling set of primal instincts that were triggered because of being forced into an extreme survival scenario (this drummed up thoughts of films like The Descent and Cube).
Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded of the other elements that comprise "good" movies. You know, things like an engaging narrative and characters that I actually care about.
As you've no doubt guessed by the categorization of this critique, none of these things are found in Blackout. Instead, we're given a series of flashbacks that shed very little light on the main characters' motivations. In fact, the indication that one of the elevator's inhabitants is a serial killer does little to generate tension, as each are shockingly wooden in their respective roles. There's even a red herring thrown our way in the form of an absurdly "emo" teen, but the ensuing flashback connected to said angst-laden youth informs us that he is, in fact, a good kid. Not only is this strangely irrelevant to what's happening in the idle elevator, it also completely destroys any sense of mystique that might have otherwise existed around our tattooed/pierced anti-hero.
And then there's the setting of the film. Given the title, one would be safe in assuming that a large portion of the film was shot in the dark, right? I mean, this is the kind of thing a director would want to do becauseif done correctlyit would create a sense of claustrophobia, which would be entirely appropriate given the nature of a movie about a group of people stuck in an elevator.
Oddly enough, this is a very well-lighted movie. It's not until the very end that shadows seem to envelop the doomed elevator, and even then the proceedings are entirely too bright.
What starts off as film built on a great premise quickly descends into the worst sort of horror fare: the boring sort. In order to save you an 85 minutes that you'll desperately wish you could have back, go for another "Watch Instantly" option that's actually entertaining and creative. I'd recommend 2008′s Splinter. It's about a murderous "splinter parasite" that traps an escaped convict (along with his girlfriend and a couple they've taken hostage) in a gas station. Yes it's every bit as awesome as it sounds.
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