John D. Hancock, best known for the cheapie 1971 cult classic Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, returns to his horror roots with Suspended Animation, the story of a Hollywood director who channels his kidnap trauma into his latest work. Tom Kempton (Alex McArthur) is separated from his friends during a snowmobile trip and is held hostage in a sleepy cottage by the creepy Boulette sisters, Vanessa and Ann (Laura Esterman and Sage Allen, respectively). At best, the film’s first 40 minutes bring to mind the kooky splendor of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” series, not least of which because the film is scored by Angelo Badalamenti. Esterman and Allen are obvious students of Kathy Bates’s psychotic Misery performance, and they’re a hoot to watch as they torture a hog-tied Tom with the pickled remains of their previous victims. Killer one-liners abound, but the film takes a noticeable turn for the worse once Tom’s friends come to the rescue. It’s then that the film’s campy allure is lost and a wearisome self-reflexivity takes over. Obsessed with the missing Vanessa (supposedly killed during a cheesy CGI snowstorm) and her long-lost actress-daughter, Tom incorporates the dead woman’s memory into his latest animation extravaganza. Hancock directed several memorable episodes of the ‘80s edition of “The Twilight Zone” and here he seems to confuse cliffhangers for plot twists. The film is entirely too rote during its last half to merit the 114-minute running time. While Tom tediously searches for the aesthetic truth in his art, Hancock litters the script with inconsequential plot details and dopey one-liners (“You must be relieved to have this all over with?”) that say less about his characters’ pathologies than they evoke “scenes from the next episode” of Suspended Animation. In short: Bad movie, great television.
- First Run Features
- 114 min
- John D. Hancock
- Dorothy Tristan
- Alex McArthur, Laura Esterman, Sage Allen, Rebecca Harrell, Maria Cina, Fred Meyers, Daniel Riordan, Jeff Puckett, J.E. Freeman, Sean Patrick Murphy
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