by Eric D. Snider
Released: January 10, 2002
"Taboo" should be watched on video with a group of friends who enjoy a good bad movie. It goes on the same list as recent self-serious cheese-fests like "Gossip," "The In Crowd" and "The Skulls" in that it's utterly worthless as an actual film, but quite entertaining as an object of derision.
But we must review films in relation to what they are attempting to be, not in relation to any alternate uses we may find for them. After all, most DVDs could be reviewed quite positively if you disregarded the movie and judged them solely on how they do at being drink coasters. And so "Taboo" -- based on what the filmmakers apparently THOUGHT it would be -- gets a very negative review.
It is sloppily written, badly acted and falsely hip -- strange, given everyone involved in making it is young. You'd think hipness would be the least of its troubles. But no, the dialogue (written by Chris Fisher, in his first and hopefully last screenplay) is forcibly arch and often rather awkward. No one actually talks the way these people do, and it's not believable for a moment.
It begins at a college graduation party for six miserable individuals who claim to be friends yet who are as bitchy and sniping as you could ever imagine your worst enemy to be. They are playing a parlor game in which cards with provocative sexual questions such as, "Would you ever sleep with a relative?" are passed around. Respondents answer anonymously, and then the fun comes in reading back the questions and anonymous answers, then trying to guess who would give that answer to that question.
We skip ahead to a New Year's Eve a year later. We're at the same out-of-town mansion, and it's a dark and stormy night. The same six wretches are back again. They are: Christian (Nick Stahl), an ardent conservative Christian -- yes, the movie is lazy enough to give a character a name that describes him -- who owns this house; Elizabeth (January Jones), his fiancee; Adam (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who seems a little smarter but also a little more lecherous than the rest; Benji (Derek Hamilton), who is merely dumb and lecherous; Katie (Lori Heuring), his girlfriend; and Piper (Amber Benson), the alcoholic. All are wealthy and horrid.
Soon a package arrives containing five cards with the words "Homosexual," "Rapist," "Infidel," "Prostitute" and "Hypocrite." There are only five: One of the six people is accusing the other five, based on the answers to those questions a year earlier. But who is doing the accusing? Probably the same one who is killing everyone off one at a time, which commences shortly.
It sets up Elizabeth as the murderer, even though she is the one character whose whereabouts we always know, which means she can't have done it. Then there is a twist, and then some more stuff, and then another twist. It's all blazingly stupid and laughable.
It is, sort of, a tale of revenge, jealousy and moral absolutism, but to suggest it contains much insight on any of those would be giving it too much credit. It's a tawdry affair, directed with an eye for trash by Max Makowski. If it were meant as a send-up of ridiculous horror films, it would be a success. But since it meant us to take it seriously -- indeed, even to feel suspense at its proceedings -- it barely avoids failing altogether.
Rated R, abundant harsh profanity, some sexual dialogue, some blood and gore
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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