FLYTRAP mixes sci-fi with dark humor to tell the story of a reserved English Astronomer who becomes ensnared by the mysterious Mary Ann and her creepy and dangerous comrades. Held hostage in a twisted version of suburban San Fernando Valley, the Astronomer slowly uncovers the reason for his capture and the miserable fate that awaits him-and humanity-unless he acts.
Stephen David Brooks
Stephen David Brooks
Billy "Sly" Williams
There’s an exchange of dialogue in the film Flytrap – in which Jimmy (Jeremy Crutchley of television’s Salem) teaches Mary Ann (Ina-Alice Kopp) how to dance. She’s not from around these parts, so it’s all new to her. She questions Jimmy, “What is the point of this?” – to which Jimmy replies, “There is no point.” Or something along those lines. With those snippets of dialogue, my entire case is made for this dreadfully boring and pointless film exercise.
Jimmy is a British astronomer who has recently taken a job at UCLA. Following a drive across country from New York, his car and cell phone give out somewhere in the Los Angeles area – just before he reaches his final destination. He goes to a nearby home and is welcomed inside by Mary Ann. He just wants to use her phone, but she offers him wine, and the chance to “reproduce”. He is taken hostage, fitted with a shock-collar and eventually he falls in love. There are others in the house (Skipper, Gilligan and some un-named fellow prisoner who Jimmy talks to through the vent). After several sessions of love-making, Mary Ann becomes pregnant and an escape is planned.
From the get-go, I knew that I wasn’t going to like the performance from Crutchley (who co-produced here), and he didn’t end up changing my mind. It’s not a good bit of acting, and the perfect example to draw this conclusion: when Jimmy’s car breaks down and he has no cell service. Admittedly, talking to oneself when there are no other actors to play off of – it’s tough – and hard to pull off. The lackluster delivery of his dialogue: “no mobile service” and “not now” immediately tried my patience. The rest of the film is no better, as his reactions to being tied up and seduced, are underplayed and ludicrously off-mark. The story doesn’t help things either, as the situations Jimmy is made to endure are uninspired and the stuff that actor nightmares are made of.
As Mary Ann, Ina-Alice Kopp is the only redeeming piece to Flytrap. Sadly, the terrible lighting and appalling dialogue do nothing to assist in her performance. It appears as though Kopp drew inspiration for Mary Ann from Lisa Marie’s performance in Mars Attacks! as well as Missi Pyle’s Laliani of Galaxy Quest; when bringing her character to life. It’s a commendable performance, if alas – her talents were sorely wasted here. She’s consistently able to rise above the boring story and unimpressive dialogue and still make us appreciate her skills.
And on the topic of script-writing – so many writers do this, so I can’t lay all of the blame at writer/director Brooks’ feet – but for heaven’s sake, we need to cease with all of the film reference/inside jokes. I’m not sure what it is, but it is beginning to cheapen (or in this case – further cheapen) screenplays and film efforts. As a screenwriter, I can be as guilty as the next, but I find these instances of “movie knowledge” irritating, distracting and unnecessary. Ugh.
The film’s technical parts are off-putting to say the least. There are static shots where the camera wobbles (a lot), the lighting is inconsistent (faces are constantly too dark and then outdoors, everything is washed out) and the music is often-times out of place. And the fact that veteran composer Simon Boswell (Lord of Illusions, Shallow Grave, Hackers) is the musician attached to this – simply boggles my mind. I’ll sound like an ass for saying this (so be it), but some favors were clearly re-paid when a composer of Boswell’s stature is somehow involved. But, then again – this was not a good score.
As for the production design/art direction, the set décor was as boring as the film itself. I can assume that some of these choices were intentional (these characters certainly wouldn’t take the time to properly decorate their bungalow hide-out), but it didn’t come off as an artistic statement. It came off as cheap and awkward.
I will admit that the initial set-up and introduction of Mary Ann was intriguingly goofy. But it never grabbed me completely, and then quickly went downhill from there. Nothing really happens in the film. And don’t get me wrong – it’s a sci-fi film – and I’m not one of those morons who thinks that you need great spectacle and immensely-budgeted effects to be… well, effective. But if your story and characters and situations are weak – then you’ve got nothing. It made me think of last year’s paranoia gem – They Look Like People. It’s a sci-fi/horror piece with little to no big effects or jaw-dropping visuals, but it still completely works – ‘cause their story is good, their dialogue believable and their actors gifted. None of that holds true in Flytrap (other than Kopp).
I see that the IMDb page lists it as a “comedy, drama, sci-fi”, and that helps to cement my thoughts. It was kind of all over the place. And I believe that wishy-washiness must have something to do with the poor performances and obviously uninspired direction. If the director/writer (in this case, Stephen David Brooks – who also produced) is unsure of what tone the film should take, how are the actors supposed to appropriately make choices? For that matter, how are audiences supposed to react? Bottom line – what is this film supposed to be? My only estimation was mentioned in the opening paragraph – it’s pointless!
And I can’t let slide two particular scenes which were laugh-out-loud funny, not because they were meant to be, but because they were so odd. First off, somewhere in the first half of the film, we’re given title cards of “Saturday” and then “Sunday”. Where did these come from? We’re never given anything to set up that story-telling device, so why would it come up at this point? It is also useless, since we don’t know what day this story began. I don’t get it. And then there’s Rondell (Billy “Sly” Williams); Jimmy’s colleague/friend. After an untold number of days with no contact from Jimmy, he finally calls 911. He gets a recorded voice message with something along the lines of, “This is the Los Angeles Police Department. We are unavailable to take your call, please leave a message.” What? I mean, in what world/reality does this film take place? And I’ve said it before (God help me, I know I’ll say it again), but if I’ve already given up on your film as a whole, and have left myself available to see all of these mini-problems which the filmmakers were hoping would go by unnoticed – well, then that’s a heaping helping of trouble.
And finally, Gabrielle Stone (daughter of the great Dee Wallace and the late Christopher Stone) inexplicably shows up in a brief cameo during the film’s epilogue.
Flytrap has a surround story which offers voice-over from Jimmy; as he people-watches on the UCLA campus. It’s about how he’s paranoid and afraid following the events inside the house, and how he’s been shunned by colleagues and therapists. I myself can relate. I carry a certain level of paranoia and fear in my head – about whether or not each film which has been assigned to me by my editor… will be mercifully brilliant, at least mediocre – or will that film which comes across my desk simply be another time-wasting, eye-rolling flop of a film like Flytrap.
Don’t you see how debilitating this fear and paranoia might be?
Flytrap is now available on various VOD outlets.