by Chris Banks
Timing is everything; particularly when it comes to hastily knocked-together schlock, released so as to ride on the back of more professionally produced, superficially similar stuff. Roger Corman made a career doing it, although to be fair, he did also produce his fair share of innovative and exciting drama: just take a look at his canon of movies adapted from Poe stories. He also produced dreck like 1981’s Galaxy of Terror, a rubbery piece of space horror created to capitalise on the success of Alien two years before, and 1993’s Carnosaur, an unfathomably dull dinosaur picture rushed out a few weeks before Jurassic Park. Movies such as these exist to ride an overflowing wave of excitement and goodwill and, one suspects, to relieve well-intentioned parents, confused at the nature of their purchase, of a few pounds. The sort of parents who happily present their offspring with a neatly-wrapped copy of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge.
Anna, an inexpensive yarn about a haunted doll, is one such movie. An opportunistic piece of horror designed to piggy-back on the success and appeal of a similarly-named product revolving around a sinister-looking toy. Offerings of this sort can be decent-enough, can work within the pretty limited parameters set by themselves, if they remain entertaining. The trouble with Anna is: it is so exhaustingly preoccupied with looking cool, so full of its own sense of importance, that it quickly becomes a dispiriting and tedious watch.
A couple of blokes barter a supposedly haunted doll from a museum of creepy paraphernalia with the intention of carrying out a sarcastic Most Haunted-style video project that will effectively pour cold water on the notion of a demonically-possessed doll. They lock themselves within the confines of a grubby-looking squat and carry out their task of cheerily debunking the haunting with a scornful air of condescension and pomposity. Naturally, things start to go pear-shaped quickly as it turns out the doll is not as benign as the pair had hoped.
It’s a promising, if somewhat unexceptional, plot that has the potential to deliver shocks and a skewering of viral YouTube personalities, if delivered with panache and originality. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to much of the way of ingenuity on show as the piece rapidly gets lost down a cul-de-sac of bog-standard, vaguely-satanic rituals and snarky mugging to the camera.
Director Michael Crum seems to more preoccupied with stuffing his movie with self-congratulatory sarcasm at the expense of any tangible sense of horror. Not a missed step if your humour is sharp enough, but the script, which has an opportunity to undermine both the genre and popular media, never gets beyond a few trite references and some irritating smirking. At its worst it seems to indulge in too many excesses – an overbearing desire to wow with its style – that you wouldn’t accept in the most self-serving student movie.
It’s not even really worth watching on a purely exploitative level as the whole thing is so visually incompetent that much of it is simply unwatchable. Some kudos might be awarded to anyone who can get a film made on a micro-budget, but in this case it seems to have hardly been worth the bother.
Dir: Michael Crum
Scr: Gerald Crum
Starring: Justin Duncan, Gerald Crum, Rebekah Lynn Bruflodt
Prd: Joshua Winch
Music: David Levy
Runtime: 97 minutes
Anna is available on Digital Download now