Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

See that box cover? Yeah, as you can tell by the color scheme somebody is going hard after the ‘Saw’ dollar with this one. No, ‘Serum’ from writer / director Steve Franke isn’t that good of a movie, but it did have its charms and judging from this effort, what I believe is the man’s first feature, he may have the markings of a budding career as a filmmaker.

Apparently Dr. Edward Kanopolus is running some experiments in his lab that are slightly suspect as we can tell from the guy who I believe was dead about fifteen minutes ago running around the hospital with his faced all bubbly and stuff after receiving one of Dr. K’s ‘treatments’. When the security guards find the guy huddled in the corner of room eating what looks to be a live cat, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that the good doctor has a few kinks to work out of his attempts to cure all diseases. What was funny about the recently dead guy with the pulsating bubbles in his face, in the corner of the room eating a live cat, was the security guard who was standing over him, about six inches from his face curious about the situation. Of course I wouldn’t be spoiling it for you when I tell you that the dead guy jumps at the stupid ass security guard and start eating him before the other security guards, safe in the distance, as I would be, with their guns already drawn, re-kill the dude.

The next hour or so of ‘Serum’ focuses on character development and plot development. Here we meet the star of our film, young Eddie Kanopolus (Derek Phillips), nephew of our crazy researcher who is on his way to medical school. He has a hot bitchy step mother, and a slacker best bud who is always trying to drag our hero to this party or that party. He has a neighbor with huge fake breast who likes to sunbathe topless, and a doting loving M.D. father who is very proud of his little med

student. Most importantly though he has an ex-girlfriend whom he still has a jones for in Sarah (Lizabeth Cardenas). Apparently Eddie thought they should date other people but he couldn’t find no one else to date, and she could, which would make that a sucky ass plan. Eddie begs for forgiveness, Sarah gives it too him and now everything in Eddies life couldn’t be better. He’s smart, has good friends, is going to be a MD, and has his hottie back. If only he looked both ways when he crosses the street…

So Eddie is lying near deaths door in the hospital, his Dad is crying but his brother the mad scientist says he can save him. I’m thinking I hope he’s not talking about that gunk he injected into the last dude, but oh he is. He just needed a live donor to get their brain extract juice to make it work this time (don’t ask). He gets his brain juice, injects it into Eddie and damn if it didn’t worked the same as the last time. Now Eddie is now running the streets with a pulsating bubbly face eating people. Methinks the AMA board is not going to like this when Eddie goes for state certification.

Even though the story behind ‘Serum’ is your basic good boy takes bad drugs and starts eating people rehash, screenwriter Franke is able to infuse a few original elements into his tale along the way, and he has also given his actors some fairly decent dialog to work with in spots. There wasn’t an awful lot of gore in this movie, but what was there was pretty decent with some face chewing, prostitute devouring and brain gobbling. As far as Franke’s work behind the camera he seems to have a pretty good feel for the framing and composition of his scenes and despite the obviously low budget that he was working with, and the limitations of what I’m going to assume is the mini-DV format, he and his DP make the best of it.

What ultimately dooms Franke’s films are his actors and their overall inability to carry off the film. When a movie spends as much time building character as this one does, it damn sure better have actors who know how to build character, and the majority of the actors in this movie, without trying to be mean because that’s not cool, are basically doing dinner theater quality work here and overall it comes off as a bit amateurish. I’m no acting coach but while Dennis O’Neil, who plays Eddie’s dad, was trying to display to us his feelings of grief, he seriously looked like he had more of a feeling of constipation, and I don’t think that chapter is in the Stanislovsky method on displays of grief, but I could be wrong.

It’s unfortunate because despite its low budget ‘Serum’ had some potential. Perhaps with a bigger budget to land actors with a little more skill, I expect Steve Franke’s next film to infinitely better than ‘Serum’.

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