Psychological horror is often the best route to take for micro-budget films as it places more emphasis on creating an atmosphere of dread rather than elaborate set pieces. That being said, it can still be difficult to execute properly because without the gory spectacle to entertain viewers there is a greater importance placed upon the performances and the quality of the script to keep the audience engaged. The smaller the cast and fewer the locations the more important the acting and story become. So, does Flytrap, a film with one primary location and a very small cast have what it takes to provide an hour and a half of quality entertainment? Well, let’s discuss.
The story follows James Pond (Jeremy Crutchley) an English Astronomer who drives cross-country from New York City to California to take a teaching job at UCLA. He has nearly arrived when his car breaks down in the suburbs and with no cell signal to be found he is forced to knock on the nearest door and ask to use the phone. He is graciously welcomed in by the home’s beautiful but strange occupant Mary Ann (Ina-Alice Kopp) but soon finds leaving much more difficult as he becomes ensnared in a sinister plot that could effect the human race itself.
The first thing I want to say is that I think the concept itself is solid and there’s no reason that a great film couldn’t be made using it….but this is not that film. It starts off promisingly enough with an intriguing voice-over and great cinematography but after about five minutes the dialogue begins and the film takes a hard nosedive and never stops plummeting. I’d like to believe that given a better script and direction the actors here could be capable of decent performances but the writing is just so irredeemably poor that it’s honestly hard to tell. What we are left with is awkward, stilted performances that don’t portray anything resembling authentic characters and quickly become a chore to watch.
I do want to point out that I know that the performances are supposed to be somewhat off because Mary Ann and her comrades are in fact aliens disguised as humans. However, even for that, they severely missed the mark and Crutchley’s awkward performance makes him unintentionally come off as the most alien of all. What is clearly intended to come off as charmingly befuddled comes across as cringingly awkward and socially dense. Oh, and don’t worry, the extraterrestrial revelation isn’t a twist that I spoiled, it’s something that’s clumsily introduced very early in the film when Mary Ann blurts out that they’re from….(sigh) Venus. Okay, here’s a free tip for writer/director Stephen David Brooks; if you’re going to pick a home planet for aliens don’t pick one that we already fucking know can’t support life!
However, this may have been one of the film’s many failed attempts to inject comedy into the production, an ill-conceived move that proved to be the biggest detriment to it’s success by far. The attempts at humor are relentless and fall completely flat every time making for an unbearably irritating experience. Most baffling of all is the fact that so many of the “jokes” involve references to Gilligan’s Island (!). Apparently, Brooks thinks this target audience will be primarily made up of fans of bad sitcoms from half a century ago.
I also take issue with this film in any way even associating itself with the term “horror”. This is at best a weird comedy/drama with elements of a thriller that provides absolutely no tension or dread and primarily focuses on a Stockholm Syndrome induced romance between characters you will hate. And truly, this is a real shame because all this terrible, awkward dialogue is delivered in scenes that are surprisingly well lit and competently framed. This adds to the feeling that this was an enormous missed opportunity that could have had a very different outcome if Brooks had ditched the “comedy” and workshopped the script more before shooting.
I think it’s fitting that this film is posted after Romeo’s Distress on my site because they represent opposite ends of the spectrum for how a micro-budget film can turn out. I wasn’t given information on the budget of this one but it couldn’t possibly have been lower than the $2,500 spent on Romeo and that film managed to be fascinating, engrossing and highly watchable. In other words, the complete opposite of this, which can best be described as a really shitty version of Misery…..with aliens.