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directed by Frank S Petrilli
USA 2014

 

Five kids are about to discover what happens when you decide to PLAY HOOKY in a long-abandoned insane asylum rumored to have employed Josef Mengele after the war, been the site of Satanic rituals, and haunted by the ghosts of a children's ward fire. Brad (J. Wright Chester) - with a camcorder hidden in his hat - and his cousin Lance (co-writer Vincent Kulish) pick up butch Rosie (Kim Kleemichen), naughty Catholic schoolgirl Meg (Becky Byers) and her hopelessly awkward perennial fifth wheel classmate Claire (Theresa Davis) for a day of hanging out and smoking pot. When their usual venues are unavailable, they happen upon the idea to break into an abandoned mental hospital. Despite threats from a security guard (Bob Waters), they find their way in and immediately find themselves trapped inside. Having spotted what they believe to be an alternate way out, they settle back and chill despite unexplained sounds and bad vibes. When one of their number disappears with only a trail of blood left behind, they soon realize that someone or something else lurks inside the abandoned hospital that will make them sorry for cutting class.

 


Most "found footage" horror movies disappoint with their ending reveal (if they even bother with one), so - like road movies - the the fun is more often in the journey than the destination. PLAY HOOKY gets off to a rough start with characters that seem so exaggerated in their little cruelties and lack of sensitivity, making them seem like deserving victims of whatever fate will befall them (excepting equally caricatured Claire) before the camera is smashed or its battery runs out. Somehow the dynamics coalesce and they become a credible portrait of bored teenagers who are really no more but certainly less deserving of death than characters in other films who outright mock certain horror movie taboos (ignoring warnings from elders, entering forbidden locations, taking drugs, having sex). The "hatcam" POV takes a bit of getting used to, but it ultimately makes the wandering and later shaky-cam chases through the derelict hospital more unnerving (with the camera aligned literally with the operator's field of view rather than a camcorder only catching creepy sights the operator is not looking through it). The resolution to the story proper is not too different from what we've come to expect, but it's then capped off by what ends up being the most substantive thing about the film (and even then, it might actually have been a videotaped audition piece rather than a scripted monologue). PLAY HOOKY by no means reinvents or even innovates the "found footage" genre, but it is a modest achievement that should that holds interest past the reveal.

Eric Cotenas

Theatrical Release: 21 October 2014 (USA)

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DVD Review: Wild Eye Releasing (Pollygrind Presents) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Wild Eye Releasing

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:15:54
Video

1.73:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 3.91 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Wild Eye Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.73:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by director Frank S Petrilli, cinematographer Jason Chester, co-writer/actor Vincent Kulish, editor Peter Jay Gould, and Pollygrind Film Festival's Chad Freeman
• Pollygrind Introduction (16:9; 1:20)
• Promo (16:9; 1:01)
• Alternate Ending (2:54)
• 'Dickerson's Interview' (4:59)
• 'Heather's Interview' (3:22)
• 'The Sister's Interview' (2:00)
• Pollygrind Presents Short Films 'The Bet' (18:30) and 'Kuriosity Killz' (18:43)
• Trailer (0:57)
• Trailers for 'Final Entries', 'The Perfect House', 'Scream Park' 'Jonah Lives', 'Swamp Heads',
• 'Paranormal Captivity', 'Murder University', and 'Mold!'

DVD Release Date: October 21st, 2014
Amaray

Chapters 10

 

 

 

Comments

Shot on a $180 Flip Cam digital video camcorder, PLAY HOOKY uses the deficits of auto-exposure, auto-focus, artifacting, and lagging adjustment to changing lighting situations to strategic effect. The anamorphic DVD probably looks pretty much how the film is supposed to look (a dual-layer encoding might have resulted in a marginally better presentation, especially with the presence of a little more than an hours worth of other extras on the 3.95 GB disc). The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio is all talk and offscreen sounds (apart from some source music and the end credits), but the basic sound design works in context.

Extras start off with an introduction by the Pollygrind series programme Chad Freeman. It is available as a separate option in the extras menu but is also appended to the start of the film (and can only be skipped by advancing to chapter two). Freeman joins the filmmakers for an audio commentary with the director, cameraman (who is a different person from the character briefly glimpsed operating the camera in the film), co-writer/actor, editor, and actress Kim Kleemichen. They discuss the film's shoot and the difficulty of choreographing the POV camerawork and action, its post production, as well as the film's Pollygrind premiere. Extras also a promo and trailer, a workable alternate ending (likely discarded in ligh tof the sequel), and three "interviews" with characters who crossed the paths of the ill-fated protagonists, and these might actually be improvised auditions with the offscreen interviewer asking about how they would have reacted in hindsight of the tragedy. Also included are two Pollygrind short films and trailers for other Wild Eye releases.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Wild Eye Releasing

Region 1 - NTSC



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