Movie Review ~ Shattered (2022)

The Facts:

Synopsis: After a lonely tech millionaire encounters a charming and sexy woman, passion grows between them – and when he’s injured, she quickly steps in as his nurse. But her odd behavior makes him suspect she has more sinister intentions, especially when her roommate is found dead from mysterious causes.

Stars: Cameron Monaghan, Lilly Krug, John Malkovich, Sasha Luss, Frank Grillo

Director: Luis Prieto

Rated: NR

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review: All we heard in the latter half of 2021 and now into 2022 was how movies were returning to normal.  It took a while for theaters to get back up to speed and while there is still a long way to go to get people to venture out to films that aren’t proven franchises (RIP West Side Story…you shoulda been a blockbuster…), the tide is turning slowly.  The at-home market feels like it’s regaining its footing at a more rapid pace. It surely is welcoming its fair share of stink-bombs at around the same volume it was before the pandemic hit. 

The latest must-miss is Shattered, another Lionsgate effort and oh, how it pains me to say it.  This is the studio that had such a great run with the Saw franchise and launched a trove of worthy indie titles back in the day (Gods and Monsters! Eve’s Bayou!).  Yet recently I’ve seen a good amount of less than impressive titles coming out through their banner.  I know they can do better, and they can certainly do far better than the dreadful Shattered which I watched on a day off over the Christmas holiday and felt like I got a lump of coal for my efforts.  Directed with some attempt at style by Luis Prieto and working from David Loughery slimy script, I actually think Shattered had the potential to be something better than it was.  It’s just that the cast assembled is so unfathomably bad.

Describing the plot of Shattered is sort of like looking at a whole shelf of mystery thrillers in the video store, starting at the top left and then randomly assembling the synopsis using snippets from each film.  There’s little originality to the set-up featuring a wealthy divorcee (Cameron Monaghan, Vampire Academy) living in a secluded home who meets a random woman (Lilly Krug, Every Breath You Take) at the grocery store, detects she may be in trouble in her current living situation, offers to take her away for the evening to avoid a strung out roommate and skeevy landlord (John Malkovich, Jennifer 8), sleeps with her, falls for her, meets up with her again, then spends the rest of the movie suffering the consequences when she turns out to be a lunatic. Loughery (who also wrote the campy 2009 thriller Obsessed starring Beyoncé, Passenger 57 featuring Wesley Snipes, and the 2020 Hilary Swank vehicle Fatale) tries to differentiate his screenplay by giving the mystery woman a backstory which comes back to haunt her (and us), but if you don’t have actors that can sell it convincingly, then what’s the point?  That leaves us to spend the next hour or so with bad actors attempting to play dramatics far beyond their reach.         

It pained me to do it, but at the end of Shattered I went back and took a look at the IMDb page for John Malkovich.  It’s here if you want to look for yourself.  There was a time when that name called forth a certain image, at least to me, of elevated acting and a commitment to the craft which meant that when his name popped up in the credits you should take note of his involvement.  Now, when I see Malkovich listed, I have to decide if I even want to bother to read the plot description or watch the trailer.  Making movies that are so far removed from titles like 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons, 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire, 1999’s Being John Malkovich, or his Oscar-nominated roles in 1984’s Places in the Heart or 1993’s In the Line of Fire, it almost feels like the actor has been taken hostage and is being forced to make bottom of the barrel scuzz.

The barrel gets scraped down to the rivets with Shattered, truly the most embarrassing role of Malkovich’s celebrated career which finds the actor playing a minor role as a majorly disgusting motel owner that gets mixed up with a femme fatale and her latest target.  If you can believe it, Malkovich isn’t even the worst performance in the movie, or the second.  Those two key positions are held by stars Monaghan and Krug, as charmless a duo as you could ever want in a psycho-sexual thriller built around a seduction that turns dangerous and eventually deadly.  Monaghan is a whiny wimp that somehow has a beautiful ex-wife (Sasha Luss) and child and now has nabbed Krug’s crazeballs chick that turns the tables on him in short order. How or why Frank Grillo (Boss Level) shows up is almost beside the point, by the time the usually dependable supporting player appears when there’s a little more than thirty minutes left, viewers will either have turned the TV off or checked out to the point where they won’t even recognize another character has entered the action.

Even though Shattered is assuredly bad, I wound up giving it a pass for my Worst of 2021 list because it could have technically shown up there…and ranked high in the process.  Being a rule follower, I also couldn’t put it on my Worst of 2022 list because I didn’t actually see it this year.  So Shattered will slip through my grasp as a call-out after this review concludes…and should slip from your mind just as quickly.

The Silver Bullet ~ Amityville: The Awakening

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Synopsis: A single mother moves her three children into the haunted house not knowing of the house’s bloody history.

Release Date:  January 2, 2015

Thoughts:  Though rarely mentioned in the same breath as multi-sequel franchise films like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween, the Amityville series of films never reached the same level of success as its slice and dice cousins. The original 1979 tale of the New England house of horrors may be famous by name but is nearly unwatchable now…not even worth a chuckle at its earnest urge to scare. The first sequel (Amityville II: The Possession) remains the best of the bunch with terror that feels a little too real while the last six films (this reboot would be the 12th outing) have all gone directly to video…many deservedly so. It’s been 10 years since an Amityville film has lit up a theater marquee and while this effort looks like it will contain your typically standard bunch of scares, never underestimate the power of a fright flick that plays on your fears of what goes bump in the night.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Giver

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Synopsis: In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

Release Date: August 15, 2014

Thoughts: A bit surprising that it’s taken 20 years for Lois Lowry’s popular young adult novel to make it to the big screen…but not a total shock now that big budget films about seemingly utopian societies that reveal dystopian undercurrents are all the rage (see The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Host, and Divergent if you think I’m wrong).  Attracting an impressive cast including Oscar winners Jeff Bridges (Jagged Edge) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County, Hope Springs), this has potential…unless audiences find themselves maxed out on this genre which may be reaching its saturation level.

Movie Review ~ Vampire Academy

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Rose, a rebellious Guardian-in-training and her best friend, Lissa – a royal vampire Princess – have been on the run when they are captured and returned to St.Vladamirs Academy, the very place where they believe their lives may be in most jeopardy.

Stars: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Sarah Hyland, Joely Richardson, Cameron Monaghan, Sami Gayle, Claire Foy, Ashley Charles, Olga Kurylenko

Director: Mark Waters

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 104 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review: Vampire Academy sucks.  It bites.  It’s a stake through the heart of YA adaptations capitalizing on the success of franchise films like the Harry Potter series and, to a lesser extent than you might imagine, Twilight.  It’s toothless in its construction and bloodless in its execution.  Yes, my fangs are bared and my bad puns are all but used up for this cheap looking, badly acted mess that could have gone so right but finds itself oh so very wrong.

With the director of Mean Girls (Mark Waters) and the writer of Heathers (Daniel Waters, yep, they’re brothers) involved I was expecting a nice mash-up of those two films with a little bit of Jawbreaker thrown in for good measure.  Sadly, none of the sparks that made those movies a pleasure (guilty or otherwise) exist here so we’re left to wonder what in the hell went askew.

When a film isn’t screened for critics it’s usually never a positive sign but there was something that compelled me to see the film anyway, possibly hoping that this high school fantasy was just not designed for critical consumption.  Based on the first novel in Richelle Mead’s popular series, the film follows Rose (Zoey Deutch, daughter of 80’s royalty Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch) and Lissa (Lucy Fry), two girls bonded together by an age-old prophecy and their (mis)adventures in a prestigious boarding school for vampires.

An early prologue contains so much rote exposition to bring the audience up to speed that I half expected the actors to start saying things like “I’m opening a door. I’m sitting on a bed.  I’m looking dazed at the moment”.  Filmed in such non-descript locales suggesting the filmmakers secretly filmed in IKEA showrooms, it’s not long before Rose and Lissa are back on the ground of St. Vladimrs Academy and thrust back into a dangerous plot…the one thing Daniels Waters script doesn’t bother to flesh out.

Remember that scene in Showgirls where veteran dancer Cristal Connors asks newbie Nomi Malone to rehearse with her, only to have a cat fight stop rehearsal five seconds in?  There are at least three of passages like that here with Rose getting “trained” by the hunky Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky) in enough time for the two to engage in badly timed fight choreography that ends with them staring longingly  at each other.  While Deutch has an Ellen Page vibe about her that’s mildly engaging, Kozlovsky is pretty much just an Aqua di Gio ad come to life.

This lack of personality in its characters is really where the film trips and falls, we can excuse Deutch’s milquetoast line readings for a while but when she’s paired with Fry the tone becomes incredibly deadly.  About as appealing as a glass of room temperature milk, Fry is supposed to be a regal princess but her cracking voice and penchant for wearing ankle length skirts gives off more Amish Princess than Vampire Royal.  The costume and make-up design is across the board awful and I can’t imagine any of the women in the film were happy that they wound up with rouged cheeks that suggest a playful three year old applied it.

The film earns two whole stars for including two bits of biting dialogue that hints at the direction the film should have gone.  Both occur too late in the film to save us from abject misery but in the hands of Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Oblivion) and Sarah Hyland they were the most memorable moments of an entirely forgettable film.  Never deciding if it wants to be a satiric black comedy or a dewey young adult fantasy, it winds up turning to dust the moment the lights come up.

Laughably (but laudably) ending with the promise of a sequel, this movie should never have happened.  Even if the airwaves are chock full of vampire series right now, this would have been much better suited as a weekly television series because the episodic nature would have made more sense.  To the big screen the money hungry producers went, though, leaving the film to go the way of other franchise non-starters like Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.  Terrible.

The Silver Bullet ~ Vampire Academy

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Synopsis: Based on author Richelle Mead’s worldwide bestselling series, Vampire Academy tells the legend of two 17-year-old girls who attend a hidden boarding school for Moroi (mortal, peaceful vampires) and Dhampirs (half-vampire/half-human guardians).

Release Date: February 14, 2014

Thoughts: If this adaptation of Richelle Mead’s popular YA novel looks a little bit like Mean Girls meets Heathers with vampire twist, you won’t be too shocked to hear that it’s directed by Mark Waters from a script by Daniel Waters and though the two aren’t related Mark directed Mean Girls and Daniel wrote Heathers.  It’s tough to say if audiences will line up for another vampire series so soon after the Twilight saga ended and the cinematic tide has changed to zombie love…but with a sassy bite to it the movie could turn out to be a harmless guilty pleasure.