Trespassing (aka Evil Remains, 2004) Movie Review

Forty minutes into the horror movie “Trespassing” (aka “Evil Remains”), and this thought popped into my head: “Jesus. I can’t believe it. They’re still talking. It’s been 40 minutes since the movie started. Why are they still just sitting or standing around talking? What is this, ‘Scream’ for the arthouse crowd?” Later, this thought surfaced: “This is what happens when you get pretentious with a horror movie. For God’s sake, it’s a horror movie. Where’s my blood and guts, and why do I have to sit through 90 minutes of endless, inane chatter to get it?”

Like all Slasher films in the last 20 years, “Trespassing” concerns a group of pretty college students who unwisely travels to a house in the boondocks so that one of them can finish up his thesis on the nature of infamous myths — or something uninteresting and high-falutin’ like that. They wantonly break into the property and set up shop as if they own the place, and bad things happen, and you grin as they die one by one because they’re all such unlikable asses. The film itself opens in the past, where a family’s mentally unstable son stabs dad in the head with a hedge clipper, then burns mom with a can of gasoline. Should have brought sonny that bike he wanted, dad.

In a nutshell, “Chattering — ” er, I mean, “Trespassing”, has got to be one of the talkiest Slasher Films I’ve seen in — well, ever. The film seems determined to spend all of its time with actors sitting around, standing around, or driving around chatting aimlessly about random subjects. When the graduate students finally find the house, they spend 5 minutes talking about how old and creepy it is. Later, inside the house, they spend another 5 minutes talking about why a vase fell off a dresser. Then, when one of them thinks he heard voices through his recording device, he spends another 5 minutes talking about it with another character.

Later, when two more characters stumble across a room with a bleeding ceiling, they spend yet 5 more minutes talking about why the ceiling is bleeding, and what does it mean in relation to the universe and the rising price of rice in China. When they stumble across the body of one of their own — Yep, you guessed it. Five more minutes of talking about the body. You may think I’m grossly exaggerating, but you would be wrong. And all of this takes place in the first 50 minutes.

While the boys are at the house chatting up a storm, Estella Warren (“Planet of the Apes”), our Fair Hair Lead, is out for a walk in the woods with an unconvincingly dreadlocked Ashley Scott (“Walking Tall”), who despite the dreadlocks, turns out to be a whiny little wimp. It’s not until 60 minutes into the film (with just 20 minutes of screentime left, but actually only 15 minutes spent on the action at the cursed house), that Warren finally figures into the movie. After she and Scott fall into a trap, they spend — Yep, you guessed it. Five minutes crawling in the dark talking about how they fell into the trap and what does this mean in relation to the Nasdaq being down at the end of closing bell.

When Merendino’s actors aren’t regurgitating his dialogue as if they were still in drama school trying to “act like a tree”, you can hardly see anything onscreen. Merendino, who once shot a dogma movie, apparently has decided to keep the idea of natural lighting. As a result, much of “Trespassing” is dark, especially the scenes inside the house, with shadows obscuring most of the action. When you see a character hanging upside down from a wall, having been murdered (apparently while we were watching and listening to yet another 5-minute chatty interlude, I suppose), you are hardpressed to figure out how he died, since you can barely see anything. Moments later, a character is killed by a booby trap, but the whole thing is so dark that the character could have stumbled into a wall and nailed himself in the head and you couldn’t tell the difference.

Of course it doesn’t help matters that Merendino insists on shooting the film in staccato style. Who does this guy think he is, anyway? Definitely someone who isn’t trying to please his horror audience, that much is readily apparent. Does he even realize that there are certain things you can and can’t do when it comes to the small audience that watches something called “Trespassing” aka “Evil Remains”? And one of them isn’t boring the audience to death, only to make the whole thing so visually murky that they can’t even enjoy any of the good parts, i.e. the death and mayhem. Even the most incompetent horror filmmaker knows that the blood and guts is the selling point, especially since Merendino can’t be troubled to give us anything in regards to T&A except for some faux sex talk between Warren and Scott’s character that goes absolutely nowhere.

The only real bright spot in the entire film is Kurtwood Smith (“Fortress”), who was a fine character actor in feature films before becoming a fixture on TV with the popular “That 70’s Show”. Smith has a cameo as a college professor that one of the graduate students go to for information in the beginning of the film; Smith returns later to warn off another nosy (re: soon to be dead) graduate student looking for similar information. In a movie with endless “hip” dialogue and a plot that gets murkier as the aesthetics get murkier, one has to look for something as minor as a cameo by Smith to find good things to say about “Trespassing”. It’s that kind of movie.

Finally, there’s nothing like a bag of .99-cent Funyuns to drown out the sound of uninteresting characters trying to talk you to death. With the Funyuns crunching away, I hardly noticed that the characters were spending yet another 5-minute segment standing, sitting, or crouching around delivering pointless dialogue when a good writer could have gotten it done in 10 seconds. Alas, .99-cent bags of Funyuns don’t last forever, and by the 50-minute mark my bag was empty. And guess what? They were still talking onscreen.

James Merendino (director) / James Merendino (screenplay)
CAST: Daniel Gillies …. Mark
Estella Warren …. Kristy
Clayne Crawford …. Tyler
Jeff Davis …. Eric
Ashley Scott …. Sharon
Kurtwood Smith

Buy Evil Remains on DVD