×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

388 Arletta Avenue

A taut, often ingenious thriller that falls short only when it becomes untrue to its central conceit: the surveillance of a couple by a virtual intruder.

With:
With: Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner, Devon Sawa, Krista Bridges.

Giving the venerable “Gaslight” concept a high-tech spin, Randall Cole’s “388 Arletta Avenue” is a taut, often ingenious thriller that falls short only when it becomes untrue to itself and its central conceit: the 24-7 surveillance of a not-quite-happily married couple by a virtual intruder, whose manipulations and mischief drive the husband to the brink. Thesps Nick Stahl, Devon Sawa and Mia Kirshner bring authenticity to a fairly audacious plotline, and helmer Cole adds a certain flair to what’s becoming a familiar device. Play will be limited, but genre fans will likely lap it up.

James and Amy (Stahl, Kirshner) live comfortably in upscale Toronto; she’s a Ph.D. candidate, he’s an up-and-comer at an advertising firm. What we first see of them is through the lens of a camera, trained on their house, which watches as they leave the home, hide a key in a planter and drive away. The cameraman sees it all, too, and uses the key to plant at least half a dozen cameras in the home. The movie-within-the-movie is thereafter viewed chiefly on a bank of monitors at an mysterious location, the visible action shifting from room to room, and screen to screen, via the unseen hand of the puppet master/fiend.

What begins in confusion — with an unknown CD set up to play on their car stereo — leads to frayed nerves between James and Amy, neither knowing where it came from nor, of course, jumping to the conclusion that someone’s trying to drive them crazy. But matters escalate, to the point that when James finds a goodbye note on the bed, and Amy gone, it’s entirely plausible that she’s simply run away. James, after all, has been cheating on her: In the film’s subtler moments, a woman at the office gives him a begrudging smile; his sister-in law, Katherine (Krista Bridges), greets his phone call with venom — her violent dislike of James eventually leading her to jump to the conclusion he’s killed Amy. Meanwhile, James tries to figure out who would be kidnapping his wife, killing his cat and otherwise monkeying with his life.

A movie with a gimmick almost dares the viewer to find flaws in the process, and there seem to be a few in “388 Arletta Avenue,” even if most of what we see remains faithful to the initial setup: When James seeks out an old classmate, Bill (Sawa), whom he suspects of being his tormentor, all the action takes place in front of a camera the viewer knows has been planted in the car. When the police come to call, the kitchen cams pick up the conversation. How we see James at his workplace isn’t quite as clear, unless the devilish mastermind has infiltrated his office computer (quite possible, given all else that happens). But when James chases a real, physical intruder out of his house one night and takes to the streets in his car, it’s a bit tougher to reconcile how we’re seeing it all, unless Mr. Evil has strung cameras like Christmas lights up and down Arletta Avenue.

It’s a curious psychological game “388 Arletta” plays: Although the p.o.v. is the criminal’s, we should be sympathizing with James, yet we don’t, really. He’s a not particularly charming philanderer, and when he seeks out Bill, it’s ostensibly to apologize — he and others bullied Bill back in school, and the shattered-looking man seems to have suffered long-term consequences. Even as he asks Bill’s forgiveness, he suspects him of being behind his wife’s abduction. So it’s with mixed feelings that one watches James come apart at the seams, and several others along with him.

The movie-through-viewfinder, probably done best in the Spanish horror film “REC” (and to headache-inducing effect elsewhere, like “Cloverfield”) is a novelty that seems both a distraction and a decoy from what might otherwise be just moderately interesting horror constructions, “388 Arletta Avenue” included.

Production values are good, considering that the overall aesthetic is purposefully raggedy.

388 Arletta Avenue

Canada

Production: A Copperheart Entertainment presentation. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Boulogne-Billancourt, France.) Produced by Steve Hoban, Mark Smith. Executive producer, Vincenzo Natali. Directed, written by Randall Cole.

Crew: Camera, Gavin Smith; editor, Kathy Weinkauf; production designer, Peter Cosco; art director, Ian Hall; set decorator, David Edgar; costume designer, Patrick Antosh; sound, Zenon Waschuk; supervising sound editor, David McCallum; visual effects supervisor, Ryan V. Hays; assistant director, Bruce Speyer; line producer, Derek Rappaport; casting, John Buchan, Jason Knight. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema) Sept. 10, 2011. Running time: 86 MIN.

Cast: With: Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner, Devon Sawa, Krista Bridges.

More Scene

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' Album Review: Mike Posner's [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' Album [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. More Reviews Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' Album Review: Mike Posner's 'A [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content