Coming back from the hospital after one of those pregnancy checkup things, a young married couple decide to stop at a local hotel. Two guys break into the couple's hotel room, kidnap them and proceed to beat them into submission for sale on the black market slave trade. One of the kidnappers begins to have second thoughts about the whole thing, and so do I about watching this film.
It must be a full moon or something. Lately, I've just been seeing some of the weirdest and hardest to watch sh*t ever put to film. I struggled through INSIDE and I watched THE GATEWAY MEAT on a quickly-emptied stomach. And now, I've sat through STOCKHOLM SYNDROME, the latest effort by writer/producer/director Ryan Cavalline and his production company, 4th Floor Pictures. Echoing HOSTEL in its fascination on torture and plasma, and obviously pushing it that much farther without the restrictions of Hollywood, STOCKHOLM SYNDROME is one for the gorehounds. Gore, and not much else.
Maybe it's because I'm on gore overload, but at what point does story and character development take a backseat to the red stuff? If it's a good story with strong characters, it shouldn't. Sure, there are tons of cases for films where the gore is first and foremost, but in those cases the gore had a point to be entertaining. As well, in those films you had characters you gave a sh*t about (or hated, which made their demise that much more entertaining). In STOCKHOLM SYNDROME, the gore is the story (never mind what I wrote as the synopsis), and serves the purpose of disturbing you to the point of it no longer being entertaining, with characters you couldn't care about despite them being obvious marks for sympathy.
Speaking of the characters, it's also hard to sympathize with the folks in STOCKHOLM SYNDROME when the acting is almost as disturbing as the gore itself. Yes, it's a low budget film, but at least make a conceited effort to be believable. I haven't seen or heard performances this bad since my high school's rendition of Romero & Juliet. Really, the exposition at the start was that painful to listen to. It was made even more painful by the fact that the volume levels throughout the film changed constantly. One minute I'm having to turn the volume up to make out a whisper of a conversation, the next I'm scrambling to turn it back down to avoid permanent hearing loss.
Going back to the gore, the effects are both laughable and disgusting at the same time, and never mind the fact that this is a no-budget film. When you have shorts like CHEERBLEEDERS pulling off better effects with consistent acting by everyone involved to back it up -- on a student budget -- there's something wrong here with STOCKHOLM SYNDROME. Having a woman's baby (which is really a doll with an umbilical cord glued onto it) cut out of her, then having its head lopped off with a meat cleaver right in front of her isn't entertaining in the least, no matter how bad the effects are. Then of course you have a victim urinating on the floor and being made to lick it up, a woman gutted and having her entrails removed (at least that's what they were supposed to be), something that looks like a mace/toilet plunger being shoved into a woman's nether regions, and the list goes on.
If the film had better characters and a decent script, and had avoided the route of "let's throw in as many tits and disturbing gory moments as we can instead of actually developing anything else," I would've been more lenient. Instead, the film is just an excuse to torture characters we could care less about mixed with gory moments that are as lousy as they are offensive. Sure, there are things like this (and worse) that are done in real life, but why would you call that put that stuff in a film and call it entertaining? The answer is "you don't," as in "you don't want to waste your time on this film".
Video: Shot on what looks to be miniDV, the 1.78:1 non-anammorphic widescreen transfer is average, at best. Interlacing errors and a lack of detail in the picture overall is the story for this one. Colour is okay, but even in that there's a lack of richness and saturation, with shadows eating up any detail there was in some scenes. It might be due to the fact that this is a screener disc I'm reviewing, but I could be wrong.
Audio: Look up 'continuity' in the dictionary and you won't see this film's name. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is inconsistent, to say the least. One scene will have one level of volume, the next scene an entirely different one. Throw in some distortion in the dialogue in spots and some audio noise, and you get the sense that the sound designer was half-asleep most of the time.
Being that this is a screener disc, nada. No menu, chapter stops, nothing.
Call me a hypocrite, but there's a line between gore that's entertaining and gore that's not. Add in the condition of gore intentionally offensive as an excuse for a questionably-made movie, and you have STOCKHOLM SYNDROME. If you're into the latter, save yourself money and don't buy the DVD. Hang around a slaughterhouse, instead.