This review was originally published on March 24, 2013 and referenced the original title of Well Enough Alone; Review has been edited to reflect the title change…
Joe (Jackson Kuehn) is a socially awkward artist whose self-imposed solitude is a problem his roommate Scott (Chad Bishop) desperately wants to help solve. Scott convinces Joe to accompany him to a party, and things seem to go well enough, especially when Joe strikes up conversation, and a friendship, with Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Boylan). It’s later on in the evening, when Joe participates in a drinking game of “Truth or Bullshit,” where things begin to fall apart. When Joe’s turn comes around, he’s asked about the most evil thing he’s ever done, and at first he can’t recall anything… but then starts freaking out and breaks a glass in his hand, slicing himself up.
Thus begins a slow descent into questionable sanity for Joe, as he begins having odd visions that are nothing compared to his new physical issues. Turns out he’s not just sick to his stomach, he’s puking up tennis ball-sized globs of pulsing, red flesh. Which, you know, isn’t normal. At a loss for what is going on, Joe is helped through by Scott and Wendy, who want to see him well.
Antisocial Behavior is a psychological horror story that may actually be a more traditional horror story, depending on how you interpret the film. Certain elements play predictable, but the film seems more than aware of that and what could be considered obvious gets enough of a turn to set it apart from the expected. The result is a film that keeps your attention, mixes in some gross-out elements and overall spins an interesting tale.
Credit is due to Jackson Kuehn for his commitment to the role of Joe, and for playing it as sincere as possible. The fact is that he spends much of his time writhing in pain, or reacting with the highly emotional capacity of a young boy, and it’s a challenging performance for anyone, let alone the possibility that it falls over into scenery chewing and becomes more cartoonish than anything. It’s a vulnerable spot to put yourself in, but Kuehn stays true to his choices and thus evades the obvious pitfalls.
Where perhaps I had a narrative critique here or there while watching, I found the film resolved most of them by the end. For instance, it often seemed that Wendy, for such a new person in Joe’s life, showed immense patience and caring, almost irrationally so. When things become clear that he’s got some serious issues going on, you’d expect most people to take a step back. Maybe be supportive, but not to such a degree.
In this case, while at first it seems like she’s attached to Joe in a surprisingly quick amount of time, her character does show misgivings and start to step back, thus grounding events in a more realistic sense. You believe that she might be in over her head, and at least realizing that as opposed to blindly endangering her life, or at least her sanity.
Overall, Antisocial Behavior was an entertaining film that remained open to interpretation, even when things seemed to be playing out in a more literal sense. It might have turned one narrative element too far for my personal taste, but I think it is in keeping with the themes it develops as the film moves along, and thus didn’t bother me too much. The film does its job well, particularly Jackson Kuehn who, again, takes some major acting risks in the role of Joe, and succeeds more often than not.
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