Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Every once in a while a movie comes along that generates such an impressive buzz and good will from a large number of internet film critics and audiences alike, and one wonders why one hasn’t seen this movie yet. Rarer still is when this film happens to be a Straight to Video flick, which is a genre I of course cherish so very much. Thus it is a sad day when one sees this film and comes to the tragic conclusion, despite all of the plaudits levied towards said film, that he didn’t like it very much at all. ‘Otis’ is such a film for me it would turn out. Now I’m going to tell you right now this very moment why ‘Otis’ turned me off almost immediately. ‘Otis’ is a black comedy so a lot of the stuff that happens in this movie is done with its tongue firmly in its cheek, however, and I do realize that this is more my issue than the movies problem, but I have NEVER been found children who disrespect their parents funny or amusing. Ever. As a matter of fact it pisses me the hell off. Actor Jared Kusnitz character of Reed Lawson, aside from taking pictures and video taping his unwitting scantily clad sister, which probably isn’t all that funny either, was so incredibly disrespectful to his parents that this movie probably could have only been redeemed for me if director Tony Krantz had gone ahead and let Otis have his way merry with him. If my son had spoken to me in such a manner, I would be typing this from prison. No doubt. It’s too bad too because ‘Otis’ did have some stuff working in its favor.

When we first meet Otis (Bostin Christopher) he has some beat up girl named ‘Kim’ wearing what looks like a Cliff Stoudt Pittsburgh Steelers jersey chained up in his dungeon, harassing her about something or another until Kim has apparently had just about enough of this bull and decides to fight back. Things kind of spiral out of control from there and it’s looking like Otis needs a new replacement for whatever the hell he’s doing with these  various ‘Kim’s’ of his.

This introduces us to the Lawson’s which consist of wimpy dad Will (Daniel Stern), doting mother Kate played Illeana Douglas with whom I share a birthday with, just in case you want to get either of us a gift when July 25th rolls around.  There’s also high school hottie Riley and her afore mentioned sick ass little brother Reed.  So on her way to school Riley sees the dude that delivers her Pizza standing outside her house and the next thing you know she’s chained to a bed in a cheerleader outfit and forced to answer to the name of ‘Kim’.

Also as it happens there’s a serial killer on the loose and the Lawson’s have discovered that their daughter has been snatched by this lunatic since he calls every once in a while to ask if he can take his captive to the prom and nonsense like that.  This brings in the FBI, led by the completely incompetent Agent Hotchkiss who has an 80% retrieval rate, the description of which happens to be one of the films funnier moments.  Otis himself is saddled with an abusive older brother in Elmo (Kevin Pollak), but we might want to add that he may have good reason to be abusive towards Otis.  Elmo is also unaware of his baby brother’s extracurricular activities, though it probably would be well within his best interest to stay abreast of Otis’ activities.  At least in retrospect.  And we’ll just stop it there because this is about the point where things get a little out of control and to tell you the how and why would be just plain criminal in my book.

Another issue I had with this movie, though it’s admittedly a minor one, is that there was a Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs sighting in this thing but they didn’t do anything with him.  There was this scene in a hospital where they passed by this Black dude in a white lab coat and I say ‘Oh, there goes Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs’, figuring that somehow he’s going to have something to do in this movie and be the ‘Black Guy that Has to Die’ or something.  Nope, nothing coming for Mr. Hilton-Jacobs, unless he’s going be featured in the sequel or something.  I guess I should have watched the DVD deleted scenes.

Other than that, there were some good things to like about this movie such as Bostin Christopher who was excellent as Otis.  He managed to makes character emphatic and hateful all at the same time which isn’t an easy thing to do I would guess.  Unlike Justin Kuznit’s character who just plain hateful.  The dark humor in this flick was just that; Dark and humorous with Jere Burns incompetent FBI agent providing a lot of the humor, plus there was the rare Traci Scroggins sighting who I believe is the last surviving working actor who has also appeared in the TV show ‘Manimal’.  I think.

The sound track was pretty sweet too as I’m still trying to bang that damn ‘Venus’ song out of my head, but the ending of this flick probably pushed this thing over the edge of Darkly Humorous into the property of Ridiculous Parody however.

I can see why some people like this movie as it has some cleverness to it, turning the tables a bit on the whole ‘torture horror’ thing which I am quickly coming to despise, but alas there were some things that I personally couldn’t get past to allow me enjoy this film at all.  But I’m in the minority on this one so there you go.

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