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By Jessica Baxter | May 21, 2014

Thank god for official film synopses, otherwise I would have had no idea what writer/director Jason Bognacki was going for with his debut feature, “Another.” It’s described as a “phantasmagoric chiller” influenced by “Italian Giallo and Hammer horror.” And here I thought it was just some mom’s basement-dwelling misogynist’s way to get a pretty girl to show her boobs on film for free or cheap. (I sincerely hope Bognacki paid his actors because if there was any money in this film, it certainly didn’t show up on screen.) The film’s shortcomings begin as laughably entertaining, but degrade into maddeningly amateurish editing, paradoxical dialog and the most robotic performance from a lead actress (Paulie Rojas) this side of a porno.

The film opens on a Druidic ceremony involving a baby and then smash cuts to a birthday cake 18 years later baring the name Jordyn (with a Y!). Jordyn’s aunt Ruth delivers an ominous speech in honor of the birthday girl, reminding her niece, whom she raised, that her real mother died on HER 18th birthday. This is apparently something that Ruth reminds Jordyn of “every year.” While Jordyn, her roommate and her 38-year-old boyfriend enjoy their cake, Ruth’s little birthday tribute gets more and more creepy until she ultimately grabs the cake knife and plunges it into her stomach. Aunt Ruth sure is a drag at birthday parties.

But don’t worry, folks. Ruth is OK. That means Jordyn can still go to her night shift at the Pharmacy that starts after dark and ends when the place closes sometime before dawn. The plot points in this movie are positively maddening. Jordyn JUST turned 18 but she already has a full-time job and an apartment? It’s just Jordyn and old Janitor Joe at the pharmacy until a horrifyingly unhygienic lady in a hooded cloak comes in to cackle ominously and scratch Jordyn’s wrist with one of her filthy claws. Jordyn thinks this is a pretty weird encounter, but decides not to worry about it. She remains unconcerned even after she wakes up in a porn dungeon with the vague recollection of being raped and then finds Joe’s coveralls on the bed, revealing the culprit. She doesn’t seem too mad at him about it, and even shows great concern for him when she later discovers his mauled body at work. I find myself wondering what their budget was for stunt crows. But they must have saved some dough by not buying Jordyn any pants.

Bognacki desperately wants to be Dario Argento, but he is, at best, a poor man’s Rob Zombie (and by “poor man” I mean penniless vagrant). There are many quick cuts to black and white TVs with bad reception and Victrola music. There is a faux-retro vibe to the set design. The gratuitous use of slow motion (a transparent attempt to look “artsy”) grows tiresome.

Occasionally, there are some (certainly inadvertent) moments of levity from the performances and effects that are straight out of iMovie. But mostly, it is just so, so painful to watch. The dialog is the biggest source of laughs, but only because it usually doesn’t make any sense. Some sample lines:

“She will know things about you that YOU don’t even know.”

“My mother is dead, Ruth! I have the obituary!”

“You’re not my real mother.” “Now that’s no way to talk to your real mother.”

And my personal favorite: “Give yourself to yourself.”

As if all that weren’t bad enough, the film is rife with misogyny. Bognacki basically accuses women of being obsessed with “beauty and power” as if being young and beautiful is the only way that a woman CAN be powerful. I know he’s met women because he has them in his movie, but given the way he writes for them, it doesn’t seem like he’s ever had an actual conversation with one.

If you told me that “Another” was made as a film school final that received a C+, I would only be surprised that the teacher was such a lenient grader. It boggles my mind that “Another” made it into a film festival. I know SIFF has more films than any other festival in the world, but I have a hard time believing there wasn’t something better that could have filled their slot.

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