The Sleepless Movie Review
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Written and directed by John Bowker
79 Minutes
Not rated

I'll be the first to tell you, filmmaking is difficult. Budgetary issues notwithstanding, trying to get your ducks in a row in terms of good casting, good performances, good cinematography...pretty much everything requires a hell of a lot of work, and even then you may not necessarily get what you were hoping for. Issues and mistakes may mar your project irreparably. I've always felt that the one thing you can do to salvage your project is to at least make sure your script is tight.

And then there's John Bowker. I don't want to piss on someone else's amateur work, and I'll go ahead and lay myself out now by posting a link to my production company's efforts here. But there's a certain tenacity that you can take to the material where the viewer should at least be able to dig some fairly unique and interesting ideas out of your work. They can at least get the feeling that you enjoyed what you were doing, that everyone was pretty psyched about what you were coming up with. Enthusiasm can carry a cheap project a long way (one of my personal favorites in this regard is American Nightmare, which I hope to review here in the future).

John's ideas suck. And without these good ideas, he's unable to get past the limitations of his low budget, amateur actors, and sub-After Effects level visual effects. I shot a short film in 2005 on a consumer grade video camera that looks and in some cases sounds better than Abomination: The Evilmaker II, and I don't have much better resources than average Joe. I'm for the most part a pretty unlikeable fucker, but this one I was able to pull together with halfway decent effects, shooting, and so on. I know what consumer video was like in 2003. John could've done better than this. I mean, I do my work on a PC for Chrissakes.

The movie doesn't work on any level. The requisite nudity of the low-budget horror film - the second cheapest special effect behind using black and white - isn't even terribly notable here, and I don't know whether I should give him kudos or not for being progressive enough to include a heavyset girl and try to make her sexy even though her character is batfuck annoying. Character names like "Madam Vladmiria" and stereotypical goth girls don't do Abomination any favors, and a scene involving tarot is going to raise the hackles of anyone even remotely familiar with it. To wit: the "Death" card is not a bad one to flip, since it just means "change." The correct one for maximum dread would be "The Tower," which typically at least pictures a flaming fucking tower with people falling out of it and general carnage, not to mention meaning absolute disaster.

I actually have a hard time pointing out anything in the movie that worked. Including a gay character in the main lineup (yes, I spoiled a twist) should seem progressive somehow, but frankly doesn't help the film much. I love the ideas of haunted places - they're an incredibly easy sell for me, I watched The Haunting in Connecticut for crying out loud - but the film fucks it up by having essentially an "avatar" for the evil place who's about as frightening as an ingrown hair. Yes, goth girl, I'm sure you're very scary, but don't you have a My Chemical Romance concert to go to, or were you just going to stay home, cut yourself and whine about how no one understands you? Oh, the gulf between goth and emo is a tiny one indeed.

This review is being really relentlessly mean, but honestly, I don't get the feeling this motherfucker even tried. Making a movie is a bitch, much less making a good one, but this so utterly revels in its cheapness and is so unambitious that it's indefensible. Film students and amateur filmmakers take note, if nothing else be willing to take risks and take chances with your work. You don't need a thousand dollars to make a punch look real on camera. EXPERIMENT. Test things! I'm not epically proud of my work, but each one's a learning experience that made the next piece a better one.

I remember the first time we tried to watch this, and I turned it off after fifteen minutes because I was still smarting from my own first epic fail as a filmmaker. Years later, I demanded another shot, a chance to prove myself and play like a champion. Reflecting back, my own Shadow Man was indeed an awful film, but it was only nine minutes long, didn't wear out its welcome, and was my first project. Abomination is 79 minutes and a sequel, so what's your excuse, John?

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.