PrintE-mail Written by John Knott

Review: Rosewood Lane / Cert: 15 / Director: Victor Salva / Screenplay: Victor Salva / Starring: Rose McGowan, Daniel Ross Owens, Ray Wise / Release Date: Out Now

The armoured grav carriers of Earth’s 1085th Inter-Dimensional Shock Army materialised in the turquoise sky above the living planetoid of Keanu-3; it’s scarred mass still holding open the tear in reality that had caused Event 405. Brigadier Witch-General ‘Bear’ Munroe eyed the surface through his ancient cybertronic lens and focussed on the fast-moving swarm of shoggoths. He knew that this cycle would be long and deadly; there could be no winners here...

Sadly, this is not how Rosewood Lane starts. You see, there are two schools of thought on how to open a movie. There’s the one that says you start with a bang, a hook or just anything to grab the attention. And then there’s the one director Victor Salva has chosen to follow here. So instead, it starts like a filler episode of CSI: Sleepy Town directed by the caterer’s mother who doesn’t like too much excitement in her time of life, thank you very much. Attempting to bore the audience into submission in your opening ten to twenty minutes is, at least, an unusual approach to a horror film but unfortunately it’s not a runaway success here. Full marks for pushing the envelope, but a more conventional approach is probably the way to go on these sorts of things.

Get past this and you’ll learn that the plot involves Sonny (McGowan), a popular radio somethingoranother, moving into her old family home following the (not particularly) suspicious death of her alcoholic father. There she learns from the elderly neighbour that the local paperboy (Owens) is a wrong’un who terrorizes the neighbourhood through means that are never quite explained. And there, right on cue (assuming you’re still awake) is our paperboy sitting on his bike with a menacing stare and looking... er... about thirty. In fact, Daniel Ross Owens is, indeed, nearly thirty so quite how he managed to get quite so miscast is something of a mystery. You start to wonder if this paperboy is just a massive underachiever but when the police are later involved they tell us several times that their ‘hands are tied’ as he’s a minor. Repeatedly drawing attention to the fact that entirely the wrong actor has been cast in the most important role does not really do the film any favours. Just saying.

As the film unfolds our protagonists just seem to show increasing levels of irritation with Derek the paperboy. To be fair, that would seem to be the appropriate response as Derek’s reign of terror does rather seem to mainly consist of knocking on doors, moving things round their homes and making prank calls. ‘Reign of annoyance’ would seem slightly more appropriate. But then he starts popping out of shadows behind people at entirely predictable moments that might very well get on their nerves (and the audience’s) but are so expertly telegraphed that you’ll find yourself calmly thinking ‘get ready to jump... now’. As you’re unlikely to be doing any jumping this can at least be recommended viewing for people of a nervous disposition. In fact, you might even enjoy trying to work out why it is that Derek’s face is purposely obscured in shadow in at least half of these semi-sudden appearances when we know full well what he looks like. He looks like a thirty year old man, for heaven’s sake; we’re not likely to have forgotten. Eventually Derek’s antics get a bit more menacing (or at least as menacing as a thirty year old supermarket manager can be) and the film can lose itself in clumsy attempts to suggest that Derek may or may not be a supernatural presence, purposeless characters and lost plot threads. The purposeless characters include Lesley-Anne Down as Cloey who acts like she’s there for reason but we're damned if we can tell you what it is other than for middle-aged men to confirm that she is, indeed, still hot. One suspects her agent got the gig and they were so keen to have her that they just made up a character for her. The lost plot thread is quite interesting as (without giving anything away) there is a possibility that this was deliberate. Hard to tell in a film like this but it would fit in with the fact that it isn’t completely beyond redemption. There’s rather a good bit where Sonny tries to confront Derek’s parents (who surprisingly aren’t in a nursing home) and a whole dark world of suburbia is hinted at. But it lasts about five minutes so it’s not going to save the movie, we're afraid.

This is the kind of film where a character plays with a crossbow at the garden barbecue and it doesn’t expect you to realise that the crossbow might get used for more nefarious purposes later in the film. So when it lines up a twist ending you just know it’s going to be a lame one. Actually, we didn’t spot what it was going to be but it was underwhelming nevertheless. It’d have been far more convincing if it turned out the Derek the Paperboy was just suffering from a midlife crisis and a stomach ulcer.

Extras: Making of documentary and trailer

* including bonus Lesley-Anne Down point

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