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I keep seeing the quotation comparing "Otis" to "Juno" and I don't know what to make of that. I really liked "Juno" and I really liked "Otis". But I don't know that they have all that much in common. The tone is completely different, the humor is different, Otis doesn't talk like he lives next door to Pacey Witter or Josephine Potter. I would love to know the reasoning behind this claim, as it seems a bit of a stretch. I see it as a darkly humorous take on other horror films -- but "Juno"? "Otis" has a rocking soundtrack (best of the 1970s), a dark humor that many will not appreciate, and takes on horror motifs of today. Want a girl imprisoned in a basement (like Jack Ketchum's "Girl Next Door")? Want torture ("Saw")? You'll get it, but without all the rape and gore. All of the torture takes place off-screen. Or, at least, almost all of it. Your imagination might leave you feeling grossed out, but the film doesn't cross the boundary. How do you balance rape, torture and humor? I don't know, but the makers of this film came as close as anyone probably ever will.
The actors were great. Bostin Christopher (Otis) couldn't have been cast better. Ashley Johnson (Riley) is both sexy and yet girl-next-doorish, alternating one scene to the next. Daniel Stern (Mr. Lawson) is a welcome addition, although one wonders where all the extra weight and gray hair came from. Are you getting older, Stern? Has Kevin McAllister worn you down? It's understandable.
The special features on the disc are decent. The obligatory audio commentary appears, which I'm always a big fan of. There's an alternate ending (which is even more grim than the standard finish, though not as satisfying). And there's an "Otis Broth Joint" (thanks, Spike Lee) called "Suite 16" that seems ready-made for placing on YouTube as a promotion, but is worth at least one watch (it's short).
Of the horror movies I've seen this year -- and it's quickly approaching 100 -- this ranks in the top three, alongside Ryan Harper's "Circulation" and Ryan Nicholson's "Gutterballs". If you see only one horror film this summer, I suggest "Otis". Warner Brothers and Raw Feed make a compelling case that horror can be fresh and new no matter how stale the genre seems to be getting with each passing day. How this skipped theaters and went straight-to-video is a modern mystery.
The film leaves a few ends untied: we never quite learn what exactly happened between Otis and his brother, but we're given enough back story to guess the rest. We also never see the original "Kim." Which would've helped people better understand the obsession.
Somehow, though, as everything is coming apart - it all comes together. Audiences in both festival showings loved this movie! I hope it gets distribution before Warner releases it to DVD this summer.
"Otis" is almost a masterpiece of sick dark humor, with magnificent performances of the unknown Bostin Christopher and Illeana Douglas, very well supported by the great cast. The plot makes jokes with dramatic situations and is a sort of parody of the countless movies of torture that have been recently released. Unfortunately the weak open conclusion is not satisfactory and is disappointing. For my surprise, in the Extras of the DVD, there is an excellent alternate ending called "The Birthday Party" and in accordance with the explanation of the director, this would be the original conclusion of this movie. I really did not understand why this brilliant ending was not used. My vote is six.
Note: With the original "The Birthday Party Alternate Ending", my vote would be eight.
Title (Brazil): "Otis, o Ninfomaníaco" ("Otis, the Nymphomaniac")