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Warner Home Video presents
Otis (2007)

Mrs. Lawson: What do we have to do to keep Kim alive?
Otis: Just let me take her to the prom.

- (Illeana Douglas, Bostin Christopher)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: June 23, 2008

Stars: Bostin Christopher
Other Stars: Ashley Johnson, Daniel Stern, Illeana Douglas, Jere Burns, Kevin Pollak, Jared Kusnitz, Tarah Paige, Tracy Scoggins, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Ashley Greene, Ellie Gerber, K.T. Thangavelu
Director: Tony Krantz

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:40m:13s
Release Date: June 10, 2008
UPC: 883929005420
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-BB+ B+

DVD Review

Otis is another entry from Warner Brothers' sometimes spotty Raw Feed horror banner. This one was directed by Tony Krantz and written by Erik Jendresen, both of whom were responsible for the wonderfully dark Sublime, a Raw Feed title from 2006. There's even a quick nod to Sublime here, a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo.

The pairing of Krantz and Jendresen is really good news, because with a mix of bloody violence, black humor, and abduction terror, Otis bounds around madly on its ripped-from-today's-headlines subject about a sociopath/pedophile/serial killer who kidnaps and imprisons pretty blonde teenage girls so that he can live out some happy twisted high school prom past that never happened.

Newcomer Bostin Christopher is the hulking, shaved-head landmass known as Otis Broth (aka The Kim Killer), a hefty 40-year-old pizza delivery guy with a penchant for young blondes that in his mind are all named Kim. He has a creepy underground lair to house his one-at-a-time victims, complete with a human toaster feature to keep his captives in line, a bank of really hot ceiling mounted light bulbs. Otis' problem is that he has trouble keeping his Kims alive, so after eventually dismembering four, he settles on his latest Kim, Riley Lawson (Ashley Johnson).

Riley's abduction and imprisonment are balanced by the desperate actions of her mom, dad, and brother (Illeana Douglas, Daniel Stern, Jared Kusnitz) to get her back. They eventually opt for the eye-for-an-eye personal vendetta route (think nailgun, chainsaw, curling iron), only one that goes horribly awry. Krantz and Jendresen intend Otis as a satire on the serial killer genre, but the material waffles so quickly back and forth from humor to darkness that the bursts of comedy—such as anything said by the cluelessly crude FBI profiler played by Jere Burns—carry a kind of "that's just wrong" feel. But that's what makes the whole of Otis tick, and it is the often weird juxtaposing of suspense, terror and humor that meshes together in a disturbingly appealing way.

Much of Otis is played very straight—with Bostin Christopher's lead consistently threatening, dangerous, and unhinged (even somewhat tragic), as is his coarse, abusive brother Elmo (Kevin Pollak). And poor Ashley Johnson as Riley/Kim has very little good happening to her, though she does learn a valuable lesson about wearing a dreaded underwire bra. This is played against the likes of a deadpan Jere Burns, who gets the more traditionally comic dialogue, as well as a pair of fine tragi-comic performances from Illeana Douglas and Daniel Stern as the heads of the suburban nuclear family with the pill-popping delinquent son, about to go sadistically full-bore vengeful and primitive.

There are plenty of interesting and diverse tunes on the soundtrack, from Shocking Blue (Venus), to Flock Of Seagulls (I Ran), to Quiet Riot (Cum On Feel The Noize). In the 1994 mini-series of Stephen King's The Stand, Blue Oyster Cult's classic Don't Fear The Reaper was used so effectively that for years I would associate the song with the mini. Don't Fear The Reaper does have a very memorable and critical appearance in Otis, and just may have become my new go-to song/movie association for the tune. Whoa!

Otis is a real trip. A dark, violent, comic trip.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Otis has been issued in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Though shot with HD cameras, the transfer still retains a bit of shimmer and grain, and the color palette lacks a consistent pop. Some sequences do, however, look brighter than others, though edges come across fairly soft overall.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The main audio track is delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It's a modestly aggressive presentation, kicking off with an opening credit sequence with gunshots popping periodically out of all channels. Voices are clear, and the mix provides a pleasant sense of movement, with directional pans lending a wide feel to the action. The frequent soundtrack music comes through with a deep punch.

A Spanish 2.0 dub is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring ISeeYou.Com, Lost Boys: The Tribe, Appleseed:Ex Machina, The Orphanage, Rest Stop 2: Don't Look Back, Rest Stop, Sublime, Believers
1 Alternate Endings
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Tony Krantz, Erik Jendresen
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The principal supplement is a commentary from director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen, with the main theme the difficult task of combining satire and suspense. Krantz in particular provides all sorts of detail on the project, including the diverse assortment of influences and homages. The tone is fairly straightforward given the content and the occasional "happy accidents," and it lends an almost scholarly texture to things, except when they joke about selling wee-wee pads out of their car.

The Twisted World Of Otis (12m:07s) is a typical EPK, with input from Krantz, Jendresen, and most of the principal cast. Some of the Krantz/Jendresen material also is present on the commentary, but it's the surprising reflections of the actors that give this one an interesting angle.

The Birthday Party: Alternate Ending (05m:51s) has an intro instead of a commentary, with Krantz explaining why it appears on the disc and not in the film. The intro-free version runs 04m:53s, and the sequence itself carries a bleaker, more open-ended climax. Otis' Home Movie Suite 16 (02m:53s) is the uncut version the "Otis Broth Joint" glimpsed briefly in the film, and it's a collection of footage of the various Kims.

A block of trailers (including one for the feature) are included, and the disc is cut into 26 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French, or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Otis seems to tread on morally dangerous ground, a satire about a serial killer who targets pretty blonde teenage girls. But it does so exceptionally well. Clearly intended as a dark comedy, the mixture of black humor and traditional suspense will find you laughing at things that you know you shouldn't.

With that said, Otis is continually exciting, clever, and violent, and newcomer Bostin Christopher even allows a sliver of compassion to shine through as the brutally dangerous title character.

Highly recommended.


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