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Lions Gate presents
"If you're going to step up to the plate and start taking some people out, at least put some effort into choosing your victims. Prostitutes and the homeless? Where is the challenge?"
DVD ReviewR.S.V.P., the sophomore effort from writer/director Mark Anthony Galluzzo, wants desperately to be a wickedly smart thriller with a dark comic edge, and with its hip, trendy Hitchcock references and fragmented serial killer lore it seems to be cut from much of the same cloth as the Scream films, but instead of wink-wink in-jokes about Freddy Krueger we get asides about real-life killers Leopold and Loeb. And like the dead teenager genre, R.S.V.P. piles a group of expendable victims together and expects us to marvel, snicker and shudder as they are systematically disposed of.
Young, gloomy college psychology professor Hal Evans (the late Glenn Quinn from Angel, here in his last film role) teaches a grim course on serial killers, and somehow fails to notice (or does he?) that his lectures seem to have really grabbed the attention of student Nick (Rick Otto), perhaps a little more than they should. It seems that Hal's vast knowledge and near adoration of all things murderous have rubbed off on young Nick, and an exclusive going-away party for a group of college pals becomes a literal hunting ground for committing what is intended as some kind of attempt at making the serial killer history books.
This is another collection of identifiable stereotypes, including a Bob-less Jason Mewes doing a variation on his Jay character, being killed off in order of least importance, and considering that we know who the killer is, the element of whodunit, a seemingly essential component, is gone. Instead, we're left with pockets of snappy dialogue and fairly inventive camera shots littered in-between assorted murders, culminating in a rambling explanation by the killer that seems to contradict that individual's original intentions. Or, maybe I'm just analyzing things too much.
As a trippy post-modern reworking of Hitchcock's Rope (the story of the daring thrill killers, Leopold and Loeb), R.S.V.P. does manage to work well on some levels (more often than not, if the truth be told), while stumbling a bit on others. Galluzzo gets high marks overall for most of the spot on dialogue, and it really flows like bong-induced party dialogue should. Perfect moments like Jonathan Banks' terrific impromptu bartending scene, in which he dispenses a real wealth of middle-aged logic, are buttressed up against groaners like the agonizingly inane lines uttered during the film's final moments, which try to be funny when the logical response would have been utter grief and remorse. The balance between witty black comedy and edge-of-your-seat thriller is a slippery slope indeed, and Galluzzo doesn't as much straddle it as he tries to slam our heads against its walls, and I could never tell if he was trying to be scary, satirical, comical or something in between.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: R.S.V.P. is presented in an uneven 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen from Lions Gate. Quite a bit of tiny nicks to be found on this print, and though the predominate deep golden colors are generally spot on, black levels are slightly on the muddy side. Some moments look exceptional (the crisp green and black of Callie's outfit), while others don't fare as well (anything involving too many shadows, like the closet, or the rooftop shots).
Not a perfect transfer, but certainly tolerable.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The backcover claims the audio transfer is supposed to 5.1 surround, but it only registered as 2.0 on my HT receiver. Either way, rear channels are totally neglected, with everything restricted to the fronts. Not that is was that big of a distraction, but there wasn't any real depth to the vocal track, and when more than one person was speaking (which was often) there was a hint of distortion. A film like this, with all of the overlapping conversations, could have really stood out with a more discrete mix, and it's a shame the rear channels were not put to better use.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Mark Anthony Galluzzo, Reno Wilson, Daniel Joseph
Extras Review: Leading things off in the extras column is a full-length, scene-specific commentary from writer/director Mark Anthony Galluzzo, along with cast members Reno (Garrett) Wilson and Daniel (Skyles) Joseph. The track is pretty light in tone, with Wilson and Joseph giggling and snorting at most of the onscreen proceedings, with Galluzzo doing his best to inject a bit of actual worthwhile commentary. There isn't as much discussion of Galluzzo's intended, and much darker, "non-linear" version as I would have hoped, and instead consists mostly of dry in-jokes and outright laughter, and sadly no elaboration on the numbingly bad dialogue that concludes the film.
The deleted scenes (16m:12s) consist of 11 cut sequences, and are available with or without a Galluzzo's commentary. Galluzzo comments, in the brief span of 16 minutes, cover more ground than did his meandering commentary, and it is here that he sheds some light on the original cut of the film which, based on the footage here, would have made for a much better version than the one that was released.
A behind-the-scenes feature (19m:40s) has the various cast members picking up a hand-held and recording whatever happens to be going on. This is largely an excuse for Jason Mewes to hog the camera, and his one-note act tends to get spread a little thin during this segment. No real revelations to be found here, but any chance to see more of Majandra Delfino is more than okay with me.
The disc is cut into 24 chapters, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsR.S.V.P. is all style over substance, as writer/director Mark Anthony Galluzzo tries to regurgitate the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, only this time with a Gen X attitude. The cinematography is certainly hypnotic and appealing, the characters are attractive, and there is a wealth of funny, natural-sounding dialogue in-between all of the rampant murder, but when all is said and done too many things just didn't make enough sense for me.
Fun to look at and listen to, but very light in satisfying content.
Based on Galluzzo comments during the deleted scenes, I think I would have preferred his original "non-linear" version instead.
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