ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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The Ugly (1997)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Scott Reynolds

Starring:
Paolo Rotondo/Simon
Rebecca Hobbs/Dr. Karen
Jennifer Ward Lealand/Simon’s mom
Roy Ward/Dr. Marlowe
10 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Serial killer Simon (Rotondo) is living out the rest of his days in a loony bin (a bin filled with loonies). When he requests that a controversial shrink, Dr. Karen (Hobbs) come in to re-evaluate him, we learn about his past via flashbacks while Karen begins to get affected in peculiar ways by their shared time. Hold on to your sanity...it’s going to get ugly.
THE LOWDOWN
"The Ugly" is one hell of an engrossing and chilling journey inside a serial killer’s haunted mind. We not only get to walk through the killer’s tragic and violent past memories but we also have to deal with the chilling supernatural touches that the film relentlessly slaps our way. Think the Hannibal Lecter/Clarice tete-a-tete in "Silence of the Lambs" but on a heavy dose of 70’s high quality acid and you’ll capiche what we’re dealing with here.

This gem was a hard watch for me but not for the obvious “horror” reasons. I just found the whole of it extremely sad and depression hit me hard once the end credits rolled. If it wasn’t Simon’s troubling relationship with his psychotic Nurse Ratchet-like mother (Lealand) or the “ugly duckling” childhood that he had, it was the poignant love story that inevitably ended on a very sour note. Ouch, I felt that one. Where’s the tissue, the rum bottle and the gun so I can shoot myself in the head in a drunken state?

This movie also managed to pull off quite a hat trick on me. At its core, Simon is a heartless killer but the film manipulated me in feeling lots of sympathy for him throughout. Paolo Rotondo’s riveting turn as Simon had a lot to do with that as well, but so did Reynolds’ gripping visuals. A note on the directing: not only was Reynolds able to evoke emotion through his aesthetic style, but he also managed to offer us quite an arresting picture that went from slow, morbid build-ups to flashier, quick cuts constantly. The play in both extremes gave the picture a mucho original feel.

Time is also a very prominent theme here and I relished the way Reynolds handled it. The film jumps from the present to the past in very creative ways, even incorporating both time periods together in one frame at times. That made for a very unique method of storytelling. The simplistic sets were also milked for all of their worth, fully conveying the necessary dread-filled atmosphere that this particular dark poem needed. I once heard that in a low budget film, if you want to make a limited location look striking, paint all of the walls white. Reynolds applies that and the whitish environment (with the bluish tint) gave the sets the cold and eerie feel which they needed. Add to that, a novel way of using the color red (all about that mom in the doorway scene…brrrrr) and you get one hell of a morbidly beautiful picture. I was flabbergasted.

Then you have the supernatural elements which I’m still confused about. I’m still not sure if my uncertainty about WHAT was really going down is due to the script being so good (and it going over my head) or because it just wasn’t tight enough to give us a concrete reason behind the apparitions. You decide on that one, but I’m leaning towards the “it was that good” vibe. Either way, the creepy ass cadaver appearances (cousins of the Cenobites perhaps?) definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Tag to all that, the "is it a dream or isn’t it" moments that Reynolds likes to play with (he always had me going), the kooky doctor running the place that had me scratching my head like a monkey, the two warped orderlies who added an extra layer of menace to the film and the ambiguous ending that stopped me dead in my tracks...and you get a bonafide horror classic. In plain English, "The Ugly" is a must see!
GORE
We get some bloody slit throats, a thumb in the eye, mangled ghost-like figures and a thumb in the neck. I particularly liked the fact that the blood here was black. It gave the kills an odd, visual edge.
ACTING
Paolo Rotondo (Simon) is simply astounding as the serial killer. The vulnerability that he displayed allowed me to delve into his character and care for him. Rebecca Hobbs (Dr. Karen) plays off Paolo like a trooper. Jennifer Ward Lealand (Simon’s mother) walks the fine line of playing crazy and being over the top. She manages to never cross it and in consequence, gives a scary show. Roy Ward (Dr. Marlowe) looks weird, acts weird, is weird. It worked! Vanessa Byrnes (old Julie) is very natural and Beth Allen (young Julie) is a cutie and also very credible.
T & A
We get grown up Julie’s butt crack and the ladies get Paolo Rontondo shirtless…a lot.
DIRECTING
Reynolds displays a very strong visual flair. He plays with our senses slapping in quick cuts, shaky cam movements, slow pans, brilliant time transitions, effective spirit appearances and knows a thing or two about generating suspense. You like your horror polished and visually creative? HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
SOUNDTRACK
The striking score came through. It’s very powerful and emotionally stirring at times. We also get two rock songs and a gnarly use of a heartbeat.
BOTTOM LINE
Powerful, suspenseful, intense, sad, dramatic and tragic are all words that came out of my mouth after viewing this film. I HIGHLY recommend this picture. It sucked me into its world and wouldn’t let go for an hour and a half. I will never forget this line from the film: “kill the bitch”. Once you hear it in its context, you’ll most likely never forget it either. Damn did this movie whoop my ass! Thank you! I needed that beating!
BULL'S EYE
This flick was shot in Auckland, North Island, New Zealand.

Scott Reynolds also directed the features: Heaven (1998) and When Strangers Appear (1998).

Paolo Rotondo quote on The Ugly: "To work with a young director who has such a strong vision of what he wants for his film, that gave me the freedom to explore, to be secure with the nature of such a dark character."
Strikeback
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4:19PM on 06/24/2011

Love this movie

Wonderfully bizzare.
Wonderfully bizzare.
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5:49AM on 08/06/2005

Weird movie

This is not the usual thriller you use to see.
The atmosphere is really cold and strange.
The Simon's character is interesting and you learn more about him because of the flash-backs.
It is sometimes gory but this movie does not stand on the gore level but more on the killer's psychology and the reason why he kills.

Sometimes it's really creepy and you are a bit shoked.

I also like the ending which is not the usual happy-end.
This is not the usual thriller you use to see.
The atmosphere is really cold and strange.
The Simon's character is interesting and you learn more about him because of the flash-backs.
It is sometimes gory but this movie does not stand on the gore level but more on the killer's psychology and the reason why he kills.

Sometimes it's really creepy and you are a bit shoked.

I also like the ending which is not the usual happy-end.
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