Tag Archives: D

LAST THREE DAYS

Producers: Julianne Ulrich and Brian Ulrich   Director: Brian Ulrich   Screenplay: Brian Ulrich   Cast: Robert Palmer Watkins, Thomas Wilson Brown, Deborah Lee Smith, Roy Huang, Gina Hiraizumi, Holly Hawkins, Clint Jong, John Rozelle, Stacey Hinnen and Jay Pennick   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Grade: D+

It seems to be a year for time-twisting movies, first ”Tenet” and now “Last Three Days.”  Of course Brian Ulrich’s threadbare effort is on a much smaller scale than Christopher Nolan’s big-budget extravaganza; the total cost probably was about a tenth of the catering expenses on the Warner Brothers behemoth.

What the two movies share is a considerable degree of narrative confusion.  “Last Three Days” begins conventionally enough—indeed, too much so, with a brief bloody teaser that’s repeated later on in the action leading into a long prologue recounting the cute college meeting of Jack (Robert Palmer Watkins) and Beth (Deborah Lee Smith).  (Both look rather too old to be college students, but no big deal.)  They both like to study under the shade of the same tree, and bicker which should have the pleasure.  They both also appreciate C.S. Lewis’ disquisition on the various kinds of love, which of course points to their falling in one of them.  And he proposes.

Skip ahead seven years and their marriage has hit a rough patch.  Beth works in a hospital alongside her mother (Holly Hawkins).  Jack is a cop just made detective who’s trying to prove himself on the narcotics squad, which keeps him away from home a lot, to his wife’s distress.  He even misses their anniversary dinner. 

Instead he spends most of his time with the guys on the squad, a rowdy bunch, and particularly his veteran partner Dave (Thomas Wilson Brown).  Dave, one of those rebel lawmen who break all the rules, wants to worm his way into a Japanese drug gang that’s laying down roots in the city with a new product, and drags Jack into meetings with its slinky boss (Gina Hiraizumi) and her chief enforcer (Roy Huang), telling him it’s the route to bringing the gang down.  But In the process Jack is slipped a bit of the drug himself. 

That’s when the time-shifts kick in.  Jack crawls home and goes to bed, and when he awakens he finds that Dave has been killed and Beth kidnapped.  Not only that, but he’s lost a full three days out of his life and has to scramble to save Beth and find out what happened to Dave, before he’s taken in.   (Cue that opening teaser again.)  

What follows is that Jack relives bits and pieces of the time he’s forgotten, trying to fix what was broken during that lost weekend.  His watch and phone—which is broken at one point but appears in pristine shape at other moments—provide a means of situating things, at least approximately, but the way the pieces fit together is only gradually revealed as the fights, gun battles, double-crosses and close shaves accumulate.  There are flashbacks to the college years, too, which we really don’t need to remind us of the undying love Jack and Beth are supposed to have.

At one point Jack visits his mother-in-law in the hospital in “present” time to ask whether drugs can alter time.  She replies that they can change the perception of time, but not its real passage—a scientific answer of doubtful accuracy in this case.

It will come as little surprise that Jack eventually works through the morass of accumulated data and in some cases uses his knowledge of the “future” to save the day—or one of them.  One could say that love conquers all,

If this were a Nolan movie, a viewer might be inclined to rerun it and attempt to fit the pieces together, but Ulrich’s script isn’t clever enough to be worth the effort to figure out the fractured narrative, and it’s unlikely the picture’s plot would emerge clearly anyway.  Jack and Beth, the characters we’re supposed to care about, are a bland, uninteresting pair, and woodenly played by Watkins and Smith.  Brown is a bit more convincing as scruffy Dave, but still just a caricature from a typically mediocre cop show on the tube.  The supporting cast offer pretty stilted performances.

On the other hand, the craft contributions aren’t bad for a movie made on a tight budget.  Megan Mead’s production design is just serviceable, but Chris James Haggerty’s lensing is fairly sharp, while Hannah Parrott’s score tries hard to generate tension.  That the editing by Blake Kliewer, Natalie Comstock and Ulrich is jerky was probably inevitable given the plot, but it might have been sharper in the long first act, which really drags. 

It’s just best to forget “Last Three Days” the way the protagonist does.  And you don’t need a drug to do it.                

NOBODY SLEEPS IN THE WOODS TONIGHT

Producer:  Jan Kwiecinski   Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski   Screenplay: Bartosz M. Kowalski, Jan Kwiecinski and Mirella Zaradkiewicz   Cast: Julia Wieniawa, Michal Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska, Stanislaw Cywka, Sebastian Dela, Gabriela Muskala, Michal Zbroja, Miroslav Zbrojewicz, Piotr Cyrwus, Olaf Labaszenko, Wojciech Mecwaldiwski and Malgorzata Szczerbowska   Distributor: Netflix

Grade: D

If you’re a horror movie buff looking for a trip down memory lane, you might try this dubbed Polish flick on Netflix.  “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (W Lesie Dzis Nie Zasnie Nikt)” is a 2020 release, but as directed (and co-written) by Bartosz M. Kowalski it resembles a bad dupe of a typical slasher movie from the 1980s. 

The setting is a remote camp for kids; the “modern” twist is that the place specializes in providing a tech-free environment for youngsters addicted to devices like smart phones and computers, all of which are strictly forbidden during their stay. 

Among the newcomers the script focuses on a typically diverse bunch.  These are Julek (Michal Lupa), the plump, bespectacled nerd; Daniel (Sebastian Dela), the hot hunk; Aniela (Wiktoria Gasiewska), the “easy” blonde bombshell; Bartek (Stanislaw Cywka), the nice guy who turns out to be a closeted gay; and Zosia (Julia Wieniawa), the pleasant, cautious girl.

It doesn’t take long for Daniel and Aniela to hook up and go down by the lake for a bit of fun.  She leaves and he settles down in a sleeping bag on the shore, but his bedtime check on his forbidden phone is cruelly interrupted.  When his absence is discovered the next day, his friends are commissioned to go into the woods and find him, accompanied by camp counselor Iza (Gabriela Muskala).

It’s not long before the screenplay reveals the culprits, via an explanation provided by Tarman (Miroslav Zbrojewicz), an erstwhile postman who, as we’ve seen in a prologue, was attacked by them and now lives as a recluse in the forest, looking to get his revenge.  They’re a pair of horribly disfigured twin brothers (both played by Michal Zbroja), who were beautiful boys but made the mistake of investigating a meteor that left a crater near their home.  The thing infected them, turning them into creatures that developed a craving for human flesh.  So long as their loving mother (Malgorzata Szczerbowska) lived she kept them under control, but since her death they have gone their own murderous way.

The plot progresses as you would expect: the remaining youngsters are targeted by the gruesome twins and picked off in grisly ways, though one meets his fate not at their hands but as a result of unfortunate encounters with adults, including the camp’s slimy resident priest (Piotr Cyrwus), who winds up a victim himself.  The extended finale also involves an ineffectual cop (Olaf Labaszenko), whom the proverbial last girl standing—you can guess who that is—asks for help.

The acting is about on a par with what you’d find in one of the “Friday the 13th” movies—in other words, pretty bad. 

Though in basic technical terms the picture is okay (cinematographer Cezary Stolecki manages some decent drone shots, and Lukasz Trzcinski’s production design is suitably shabby), the visual effects are mediocre. When the killings are shown up close, they’re mostly risible (one involves a tongue being pulled out, and another a woodchopper, “Fargo”-style), and the makeup on the mutated twins is poor. The editing by Jakub Kopec and director Bartosz M. Kowalski isn’t as trim as it should be—fifteen or twenty minutes (or more) could have been jettisoned without any loss.  The background score by Jimek blasts away in a effort to gin up excitement, but doesn’t help.

Watching “Nobody Sleeps” is like stepping through a time warp—there’s not much here that horror movie buffs won’t have seen many times before, in films made as long as forty years ago.  But some will want to take the trip, just for nostalgia’s sake.  Caveat emptor.