Review: ‘Kalamity’

Generally unpalatable combo platter of post-adolescent anguish and homicidal mania.

Like extraterrestrials and naked people, deranged killers still manage to eclipse anything else that happens to be in a storyline, and that’s bad news for “Kalamity,” writer-helmer James M. Hauser’s generally unpalatable combo platter of post-adolescent anguish and homicidal mania. An object lesson in overconfidence and underdevelopment, almost as unbalanced as its central psychotic, the film opened Oct. 22 in Gotham in limited release and is unlikely to gain wider exposure.

“Kalamity’s” problem is in its DNA, and a structure that couldn’t conceivably have worked: Billy (Nick Stahl) has returned to his parents’ home in Fairfax, Va., wounded by his recent breakup with Alice (Beau Garrett), who remains at school in Ohio (even though he sees her everywhere, and engages her free-roaming image in regular conversation). At the same time, Billy’s boyhood friend Stan (Jonathan Jackson) is experiencing abrupt flashbacks of a bloody sort, spouts viciously misogynistic rhetoric and reacts violently when anyone mentions the name “Ashley” — his ex-girlfriend, who, according to the radio news, hasn’t been seen in some time.

Balancing the two stories — one about a lovesick puppy, the other about a psychotic killer — is like chasing an Oreo with a martini: Not only do they not complement each other, but they’re actively at war. How can a viewer care about Billy’s mooning moroseness when it’s not clear how or where Stan’s going to strike next? The story might have tilted into a “Fight Club”-style flipping of perceived reality.

Stahl and Jackson do what they can, within a tension-free story that insistently spins its wheels. Helmer James M. Hauser is wont to cast his friends (some of whom have appeared in his previous films “Trip Out” and “Wild Seven”), a policy more generous than wise; Robert Forster and Patricia Kalember appear only fleetingly as Billy’s parents. Many scenes are either protracted or just pointless; Stan, having had a nasty run-in with an ex-friend while at a bar with Billy, is shown a few minutes later pointing a gun at the young woman, while their cars are stopped at a traffic light. He hesitates, nervous. But given that he’s already been established as a killer, the intent of the scene is bewildering, and there are many like it.

Except for the fact that the camera often lingers where it oughtn’t, d.p. Jim Hunter’s shooting is acceptable. Not so the music: When Billy decides to call Alice on the phone, the score suggests that something Hitchcockian is about to occur; when something awful does happen, we hear Anonymous 4 chirping Elizabethan airs, or a silent-movie-style piano tinkling away. It’s perverse — and as such, not entirely out of character with “Kalamity.”



A Screen Media Films presentation in association with Original 4 Releasing. Produced by Juliana Penaranda-Loftus. Directed, written by James M. Hausler.


Camera (color), Jim Hunter; editor, Chris Lorusso; music, Christopher Mangum; production designer, Elizabeth Jones; art director, Katherine Rusch; set decorator, Brian Goodwin; costume designer, Susan O'Donnell; sound (Dolby Digital), Andrew Braswell; visual effects, Image Engine; stunt coordinator, Johnny Becker; assistant director, Derek Rimelspach; casting, Lauren Bass. Reviewed at Village East Cinema, Manhattan, Oct. 23, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 94 MIN.


Billy - Nick Stahl Stan - Jonathan Jackson Christian - Christopher M. Clark Alice - Beau Garrett Tom - Robert Forster Ashley - Alona Tal Terry - Patricia Kalember
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