Playing Russian Roulette with his pecker is one of his new favourite games
Director : Bradley Stryker
Cast : Alex Turshen, Keenan Henson, Caitlin Stryker, Bradley Stryker and Krista Donargo
It is not often that I review a film that has an average rating of less than 3/10 on IMDB, but here we are. I got randomly sent the trailer for this feature and thought it looks relatively interesting, but the 2.9/10 rating has left me with strong doubts that this will prove to be enjoyable.
Of course having a low rating on IMDB means precisely nothing until you’ve seen it. I’ve seen a lot of films with low ratings on there and enjoyed them, infact the first film I ever reviewed for this site was “Exit Humanity”, which had a very average 5.2/10 at the time, and I loved it. Then again, there have been times where I have said that the low rating is still too high for some films.
I guess we’ll just have to see.
Abby (Turshen) is reluctant to go on holiday until she catches her boyfriend having sex with another woman. She decides to travel to Thailand after all, and within hours she has her bag stolen, but it is returned by Ben (Henson) and Jewel (C Stryker), tourists making a documentary about backpackers. She soon receives a photo of her sister Penny’s (Donargo) feet.
A few days pass before Abby goes to have a video chat with Penny, but she is horrified when she sees her being held hostage by a man in a clown mask, but Ben tries to convince her that it is part of a known prank in Asia in which someone wants someone close to them to start appreciating life, or the right priorities in life.
As time goes on Abby starts to believe that it isn’t actually a prank and convinces Ben and Jewel to go with her to find Penny, but soon afterwards they receive a package with a video of Penny claiming to be fine, even though she is on the verge of tears. Ben admits to his camera that he doesn’t have the heart to tell Abby that the package it arrived in also contained some severed fingers.
How long can Penny survive?
So is it worth a 2.9/10?
Whilst I was watching this I decided to have a look at some of the comments from those that have watched the film already, and one thing that came to mind straight away is something that I have commented on in the past, in other words, people who are involved in the film, or related to them, have given it a good score, and that’s all that is proping it up at 2.9.
The reason I am so sceptical is because, putting it nicely, “Land of Smiles” is a boring, disjointed, piece of shit. Let’s start with the most confusing aspect of the film and that is that it can’t seem to make its mind up with whether it is a found footage movie or not. There are some scenes that are presented in that fashion, whereas others aren’t, I refuse to believe this nonsense from the throw-away line of a guy making a documentary about backpackers so his camera is ALWAYS on.
This lack of a clear structure is made even less convincing by the eyebrow-raising cringy acting from all concerned. For example, when Abby has her bag stolen, she is just stood there with a gormless look on her face whilst they remove the bag very slowly and casually off of their back, she doesn’t do anything to stop it and then they just canter off without Abby even so much as putting up a half-hearted chase. If you want me to care about your character and her plight then at least make it look like she cares herself.
I would normally suggest that the cast just aren’t capable of acting, but Alex Turshen was in another film that I reviewed a few months ago, Boy Meets Girl, and she was decent then, so I don’t get it. It is almost like she just decided “fuck it” just before filming started.
I think that is arguably the biggest reason why this fails as a compelling story, the characters just aren’t that interesting, or even well written. There is very little that actually compels you to get behind any of them, nor even feel sorry for Penny as she is getting tortured, and even then I’m being VERY generous with that. All you’ve seen of Penny for the majority of the film is, other than her sat there whilst the clown makes threats, is that she didn’t like Abby’s boyfriend and acted like a spoilt child when Abby declined to go on holiday with her. Even the Saw franchise built up it’s torture victims better than this, well……some of them anyway.
For me the biggest insult is that whilst it uses the beautiful location of Thailand to make it look very decent for a low budget film, it seems to use it purely to distract you from the poor dialogue on screen. There is one scene in particular that seemed to have the camera set up so far from what was happening so that you could admire the hilly island in the background of the shot, rather than focusing on the characters having a yoga session and an uninteresting conversation.
Other than the use of the location, I can’t think of a single positive about “Land of Smiles”.
Poor acting, awful dialogue, an uninteresting story and boring characters, I can definitely see why this is rated as 2.9/10 on IMDB at the time of writing. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this is the worst film I’ve seen for this site, nor would it break into a bottom five position, but there doesn’t change it from being awful.
If you’re looking for an example of good film-making with an exotic location, don’t choose this. Other than the beautiful location of Thailand, there is precisely nothing interesting in this movie at all and it is a waste of ninety or so minutes of you time.