I’ve broken a cardinal rule. I watched The Ungodly based solely on the fact it had a cool sounding title. The name conjured up thoughts of pure, unadulterated evil and in the current shitty mood I’m in, it seemed like a perfect way to embrace my aggravation. But, I’ve been around long enough to know those two variables (among others) in combination generally equates to a huge letdown and with hating myself in the morning (this equation can be applied to the combination of alcohol and chubby chicks too). Anyways, while I don’t hate myself after watching this, I’m not particularly happy either.
What I was hoping for was a story similar to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – a movie that illuminates the mindset of a serial killer without really glamorizing it (even though I’m not necessarily against that). What I got was lazy thriller that failed to capture much of anything, let alone what it was supposed to. So in my infinite wisdom and alcohol fueled tyranny, I’m going to spell out exactly what those failures were.
First, expanding on what I said earlier, what could have been a dark, deeply disturbing film turned out to be campy and an example of how not to direct a film. First time director Thomas Dunn really didn’t know which way to go – should it be a bloody slasher movie or a psychological thriller that attempts to get inside the head of a serial killer? His ultimate answer was to do both in a haphazard fashion. It does start off interestingly enough by introducing us to Mickey Gravatski (Wes Bentley) a wannabe filmmaker with an obsession about a murderer who is active in his city. His main goal, which just so happens to come to fruition, is to catch the killer in the act and on film. His secondary goal, to blackmail the killer James Lemac (Mark Borkowski), into being the subject of a documentary comes to pass to too, with unintentional consequences (of course).
The first part of the movie is really the only semi-interesting part – a psychiatrists wet dream – the ability to speak to a demented mind while it is still free to do whatever it pleases. James, begrudgingly opens up to the camera and even though there aren’t any “Holy Shit!” insights, I thought it was a novel concept. The second half, spirals into typical B-grade slasher trash filled with ridiculously obvious twists and turns, and mind-numbingly dumb common sense lapses. Let me ask you, if you knew a friend or loved one may be targeted next, wouldn’t you do everything imaginable to ensure that they’re safe?
The second flaw is closely related to the first, in that the director failed his audience. The problem: overacting. I’ve seen some exaggerations in my day, but Wes Bentley and Mark Borkowski take it to a whole new level of absurdity. I suppose I can give a pass to Borkowski, since this appears to be only his second film. Just a note to him though, cloning the demeanor of Harvey Keitel is a bad idea. Bentley, has no excuse. He’s done some good work in American Beauty and the more recent P2, so I’m especially letdown with his performance. Even Joanne Baron, who plays James’ sister Megan, overdoes her hysteria. Maybe it was in the casting call – “If you can overact, come for an audition. Real actors need not apply”.
But, as I mentioned, I did like the initial concept of The Ungodly, so at least Dunn and Borkowski (both shared writing credit) nearly got something right. However, the only conceivable use for this movie is for it to be deconstructed in a film class at the New York Film Academy to show how not to act and direct.