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Mute Witness (1994)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Anthony Waller

Starring:
Marina Zudina/Billy
Faye Ripley/Karen
Evan Richards/Andy
8 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
A mute makeup artist named Billy works on a horror film set in Moscow. One night, she accidentally gets locked inside the soundstage and stumbles upon two of the crew members conducting what appears to be a snuff film (a woman being filmed having sex and then getting killed on camera). I’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say that it's gets tricky from then on...
THE LOWDOWN
She Can't Speak. She Can't Scream. She Can't Beg For Mercy.

Anthony Waller showed much promise with his feature film directorial debut “Mute Witness” from a script he had written. His follow up, "American Werewolf in Paris" (which he also wrote) was a "so bad, it’s good" cheese sandwich, while “The Guilty”, his film after that, was entertaining, but nothing too memorable. In my opinion, he never lived up to "Mute Witness".

The first 20 minutes of this nail-biter alone were more rewarding than "H20" and "Halloween 8" rolled up into one with a clever opening (that nodded the intro to "Halloween"), followed up with one hell of an extensive stalk and chase sequence. You want suspense? You want to chew your toenails in anticipation? YES? Get ready to munch down! Sure, Waller used a lot known conventions in his stalk scenes, but the energy and the visual panache he put into his execution made them feel fresher than a napalmed city on a Sunday morning. He also came up with a couple of new twists of his own within his set pieces that whooped my numb skull into a numbed state of horror bliss. Future horror filmmakers take notes…this is how a stalk scene is done right!

The “language barrier” was also a ploy that was expertly used to up the stakes of the narrative and to add even more stress to the situations at hand. Be it the mute gal Billy (Zudina) who couldn’t speak, which was an obstacle when it came to keeping her out of trouble (all about the phone scene) or the Russian might be “bad guys” who often blabbed in their native language much to the dismay of the Americans around them. Since the flick didn’t provide any subtitles during the Russian dialect scenes, we the audience, were put in the lead characters' shoes and felt what they felt: unease as to WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON!

Lastly, while I was holding on to my armrest for dear life (or was that a cadaver I forgot to bury), Waller surprisingly managed to make me laugh, and I thanked him for the occasional relief. The dark and circumstantial comedy here was the money and it never dumbed down the film’s brutal edge. Not just any director on the block has the ability to walk the fine line that is properly dosing the terror and the laughs within a genre film (John Landis was a pro at that), but Waller made it happen. I can see how he was an obvious choice to helm "American Werewolf in Paris", a sequel to a film ("American Werewolf in London") that was all about the appropriate balance of horror and laughs. Too bad Waller’s sequel didn’t come out on top.

On the “bummer dude” side of the Kit Kat, the film did lose me a tad by going too far left field as to the reason behind all of the madness. Although I was suckered in by the many plot turns and was still very much engaged in the happenings, the horror vibe disappeared about an hour in and it all started to smell like a “spy” movie. What did the snuff stuff have to do with the whole affair again? Who knows? I dig my intrigues just like the next Bond fan, but why let the horror go? Why convulse what could’ve been a simple and hard hitting scenario? They should’ve kept the snuff angle as the main driving force behind the storyline, but that’s just my opinion and last time I checked...it wasn’t worth spit.

Overall, "Mute Witness" was a very fulfilling, fast-paced watch. The suspense level in the film was cranked up to “VISCIOUS BEATING” and for that alone, it's worth the price of purchase. And I stress the word PURCHASE! Now cut my tongue out and “mute” me already! I’m getting on my own freakin' nerves!
GORE
We get violent and bloody stabbings, bullets to the head and bullet hits to the body.
ACTING
Marina Zudina (Billy) was a cutie and my anchor to the film. Although she didn’t speak, her eyes communicated all that I needed to know. Grade A job! Faye Ripley (Karen) was efficient and natural as the tough sister. Evan Richards (Andy) played the wimpy, yet arrogant, director to a T. Loved him! NOTE: The villains in this film all came through hardcore. They shall remain nameless in fear of spoiling anything for anyone.
T & A
We get some old broad’s breasts early on and Marina Zudina shows all via various scenes in the movie (nice derriere). The ladies get some out of shape dude’s flabby ass. Enjoy ladies! He He He…
DIRECTING
Waller’s stylish and striking visual flair definitely gave the flick, specifically its horror set pieces, a mucho effective boost in terms of effectiveness (the bathtub scene comes to mind…wow). You also gotta love that triple frame shot (you’ll see), the slow motion and the thick spread of tension all around! The film’s look often reminded me of some of Argento’s work. Slick stuff!
SOUNDTRACK
The score by Wilbert Hersh went from amazing in terms of backing the action at hand, to average. When it worked though...it kicked bootie!
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: Columbia TriStar DVD Release date: August 26, 2003

IMAGE: The 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen image was grainy and the colors weren’t solid enough. Disappointing.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 2.0 worked when it came to the score and the many noises found in the film, but the dialogue was too low for my liking (or I’m going deaf). We also get a French Dolby Digital 2.0 option.

There are no extras on this disk, quite a shame. I would’ve loved a director's commentary. Bugh.
BOTTOM LINE
"Mute Witness" was a rewarding watch. I caught whiffs of Hitchcock, Argento and Carpenter here and that’s quite the compliment. It had me firmly by the balls with its acidic suspense, had me chuckling via it clever humor and never let me go through its lighting pacing and astounding visual approach. Although the narrative didn’t jet in the direction I wanted it to go, my eyeballs were still riveted to the screen, full beans on the counter. If you haven’t seen this little ditty, I recommend you hit it with your best shot! Just fire away, Mon Capitaine!
BULL'S EYE
Alec Guinness (yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi) has a cameo here. His part was actually shot in 1986, years before the full shoot was conducted. Waller edited him into the cut. Marina Zudina is a well-known Russian actress.
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