$2 ticket on a scale of $0 to $13.50.
“Kalamity,” which goes into limited release in New York and L.A. on 22 October, is aptly titled. This thriller cum weeper is only a cut above the genuinely awful “Bad Ronald,” a 1974 made-for-TV movie that could only have been greenlighted by a studio executive high on magic mushrooms.
James M. Hausler combines director, writer, and editor credits. Perhaps he should have brought in a writer. Pic is woefully short on compelling backstory, and there is little reason to warm up to any of the principal players. Plot is fairly simple. Billy Klepack (Nick Stahl) has returned to his family home in suburban Virginia after breaking up with longtime girlfriend Alice (Beau Garrett) mostly to get his head together and to figure out why he blew what we learn in flashback was a very promising romance. He spends a fair amount of screen time alternating between depression and self-pity. His longtime best buddy Stanley Keller (Jonathan Jackson) has also gone through a breakup — in this case the end of a five-year relationship with Ashley (Alona Tal) who appears only in flashback. Stanley, as we learn in the opening reel, has suddenly become a misogynist with a mean streak. He also packs a gun. It is not fired in the opening reel, but it’s a case of the camera lingering on the antique fouling piece over the mantle. Sooner or later the thing has to go “boom.” In short order it is revealed, if not telegraphed, that Stanley has become a serial killer. Unfortunately, his character is never developed to the point where auds can learn what inside him was triggered by being dumped. This is one of pic’s three weakest points. The other two have to do with clues. Pic offers little mystery. Plot twists are obvious to the point of boredom. Finally, an extraordinarily difficult to believe sequence of events (the “thriller” part) leads to an all-too predictable ending.
Pic was clearly shot on a budget. Wide shots linger too long on the screen in what appears to be an attempt to save money by omitting tight reaction shots. Lensing by Jim Hunter would have benefited by some multiple camera setups. Otherwise, Hunter does a workmanlike job. Sound recording, for a pic on a shoestring, is not bad. But the lugubrious musical score by Christopher Mangum is not only heavy-handed; it is also punctuated in the most jarring way by the slow movement from Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. There is much to be said for stealing only from the best, but context has to be considered. Given the material’s limitations, cast does a creditable job — especially teenage actress Sammi Hanratty as Billy’s sister, Barbie.
“Kalamity” also suffers from genre-identity problems. As a weeper it is not compelling. As a thriller it fails to thrill. As detective fiction it is ham-fisted. And as a shoot-em-up horror flick it will never please the “Saw” fans. There is just not enough blood and gore. The last may be an effort to keep the special effects budget under control rather than an act of good taste. A beating is shown full screen. So is at least one murder. Others are set up in a way that they don’t have to be shown, and a suicide takes place in classic Nazi film fashion — behind closed doors.
“Kalamity” is rated R, largely for language and violence. It’s a good call. Its 100 minutes can cause nightmares. Those who go should hope that the concession stand offers Pepto-Bismol.
–30–Kalamity on Netflix