Believing to be able to communicate with his deceased father, a young boy develops psychic powers where he uses them to try to stop supernatural forces threatening his family and friends, es... Read allBelieving to be able to communicate with his deceased father, a young boy develops psychic powers where he uses them to try to stop supernatural forces threatening his family and friends, especially a possessed ventriloquist dummy.Believing to be able to communicate with his deceased father, a young boy develops psychic powers where he uses them to try to stop supernatural forces threatening his family and friends, especially a possessed ventriloquist dummy.
"Joey", known in the U.S. as "Making Contact", is the story of a 9 years old kid named Joey (Joshua Morrell), who after the tragic death of his father, begins to experience psychic powers allowing him to move inanimate objects with his mind, set things on fire and even to communicate him with his dead father. However, not everything is good for Joey as his newly gained powers accidentally awake an evil supernatural force that is contained inside the body of an old ventriloquist's dummy that Joey found in an abandoned house. The supernatural Dummy shows similar powers to Joey's, and soon he puts the lives of everyone near Joey in danger as the evil Dummy has dark plans for Joey's special powers.
Written by Emmerich himself, along with Hans J. Haller and Thomas Lechner, "Joey" is pretty much a supernatural horror movie on the lines of Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg's "Poltergeist", but done with the approach of a fantasy movie for children (like "E.T.", also by Spielberg). The premise is very original, but sadly the script's development is quite typical of its time, although to be fair with it, the German version of the film (that runs 20 minutes longer) is a slight but noticeable improvement over the dubbed U.S. version. Focused on Joey, the film works more as a creepy adventure film than a horror movie, mainly because the story is written in a way that highlights the main character's fight versus the evil force instead of the horror created by the Dummy.
While the movie focuses on the action and adventure, this is not to say the film doesn't have good creepy moments, as it is packed with some very good (for the budget) visual dark imagery that forecasts Emmerich's taste for big budget special effects. It's really interesting what he does with his minimal resources, and one can say that at this early point in his career he knew the kind of films he wanted to do in the future. As with the script, the German uncut version allows a better picture of Emmerich's direction, that while not really masterful, it's competent and effective for the kind of movie he was trying to make. The similitude with "E.T." and "Poltergeist" is not gratuitous, as nods to both Spielberg and Lucas are very common in the film; this just shows how much the young German director admired his heroes.
The cast is really average, and this is really one of the film's weakest points, as the lack of experience of the cast (specially of the kids) becomes increasingly notorious given the fact that the director was at this point unexperienced as well (and being honest, directing actors has never been Emmerich's strongest characteristic). Anyways, Eva Kryll is the only actress with real experience, and as such delivers the best performance of the film, although her character is really small and doesn't really have enough screen time. Also, I guess one can say that the casting of Joshua Morrell was truly inspired, as the young actor really looked natural in front of the camera.
As written above, the unexperienced young cast paired with the unexperienced young director is likely a deadly combination for any film, and "Joey" has this as its biggest flaw. However, Emmerich manages to pull off a nice entertaining adventure of this that while not perfect, is a lot better than what could had been. The script isn't really amazing, and at times shows up some serious plot holes, but nothing really to worry about. "Joey" was intended to be a children's horror movie, and in that aspect it succeeds, as this movie is the perfect introduction to the horror genre for young children.
I can not recommend this movie to everyone, as definitely it won't be attractive to the average horror fan, but I'm sure the kids will enjoy it a lot more, as the movie has a nice mix of horror, adventure and comedy. "Joey", like Emmerich's other early films ("The Noah's Ark Principle" and "Moon 44"), shows the young talent of a visionary master of visual effects, that while probably not a very accomplished director, manages to make entertaining and attractive films that deliver good doses of entertainment. "Joey", or "Making Contact", is definitely one of the best horrors to enjoy with the kids, although it doesn't really offer something for the grown-up crowd. 6/10
- Dec 15, 2006