In this week’s minor VOD releases, current B-movies recreate the style of past B-movies, a Belgian office worker goes on a rampage, and a suburban dad gets some exercise.
Johnny & Clyde (VOD and select theaters May 5): The title may be a reference to Bonnie and Clyde, but director and co-writer Tom DeNucci has no understanding of the allure of those angry, tragic true-crime figures. Instead, his Johnny (Avan Jogia) and Clyde (Ajani Russell) are unrepentant serial killers who go on a murder spree in an early montage but spend most of the movie grinding through a confusing heist plan. They’re out to steal from casino mogul Alana Hart (Megan Fox), who’s equally kill-happy but has a conveniently endless supply of underlings to satisfy her bloodlust. The budget-friendly robbery takes place at an offsite location that allows the characters to mull about in nondescript warehouse rooms while getting killed off. An abrupt, late-breaking shift into horror introduces a demon that Alana summons to do her bidding, and DeNucci revels in empty graphic violence. His strained attempts at edginess are pathetic, and the acting is just as painful. Even the garish lighting is trying too hard. Grade: D
The Third Saturday in October: Part V (VOD May 5): Writer-director Jay Burleson has created an ambitious project with this fictional slasher series, starting with a movie designed to represent the fourth sequel to a long-lost horror classic from 1979. Meant to be watched before the “original” movie, which was produced afterward, Part V emulates the lesser sequels to lesser horror franchises, meaning that it’s a deliberately shoddy imitation of movies that are mostly forgettable to begin with. In that sense, Part V is a success, lining up a group of annoying, poorly defined characters to be slaughtered by the “iconic” villain Jack Harding, who wears a silly-looking mask and drives a hearse. Part V isn’t exactly a parody, although it’s often quite goofy, and Burleson’s efforts to reproduce the style of a ’90s direct-to-video horror sequel are inconsistent. Elaborate conceit aside, Part V is just a passable modern-day low-budget slasher movie, without a particularly clever or original take on the genre. Grade: C+
The Third Saturday in October (VOD May 5): Burleson’s second faux-vintage slasher movie is a more successful recreation of its time period, and a more successful piece of horror as well. Here, Burleson recounts the origin of series villain Jack Harding (Antonio Woodruff), a death row inmate who rises from the grave after being electrocuted, steals the hearse from the cemetery, and heads to the small town of Hackleburg, Alabama, to wreak havoc. The title refers to the annual date of a regional college football showdown, which becomes the day when Harding always returns to kill again. Burleson captures the feel of a Halloween-era proto-slasher without going overboard on the fake film grain or pop-culture signifiers, and he generates some decent suspense, too. With stronger performances, more interesting characters, and better kills from a more menacing villain, this “first” movie is superior to its pseudo-sequel — which is an accurate representation of the trajectory of actual horror series, too. Grade: B
Employee of the Month (VOD and DVD May 12): Combining aspects of 9 to 5 and Promising Young Woman, this Belgian dark comedy takes a cartoonish approach to its depiction of workplace discrimination and harassment to go along with its cartoonish approach to violence and revenge. Jasmina Douieb stars as Inès, the put-upon office manager of a cleaning-supply company, where she performs the job duties of at least five other people. On a day when all her boorish male colleagues get raises, Inès is resigned to yet more indignity before an ill-timed entrance from new intern Melody (Laetitia Mampaka) causes her boss’ accidental death. Soon a liberated Inès and Melody are hiding multiple bodies. Douieb mugs her way through a performance that gives no sense of Inès’ pent-up rage or resentment, and Mampaka just stays out of her way. The humor is cheap and repetitive, the plotting is sloppy, and the characterization of the asshole men is so broad that their comeuppance is rendered meaningless. Grade: C
Out and About (VOD and DVD May 16): “Guy takes walk” doesn’t seem like much of a premise for a feature film, and writer/director/star Peter Callahan fails to transcend those limitations in this smug, irritating vanity project. Callahan plays Jeff Fisher, a middle-aged, upper-middle-class divorced guy ambling through his New York City suburb on a sunny afternoon, as he contemplates some minor life events (a pay cut at work, a visit from his college-student daughter) and has inane interactions with his neighbors. Callahan narrates the movie in a nearly nonstop stream-of-consciousness that sounds like bad ASMR, revealing Jeff’s often crude, sexist, judgmental thoughts and opinions. Jeff is outwardly affable and clearly not meant to be a bad person, but Callahan’s efforts to illustrate unfiltered, “politically incorrect” thinking just make him sound like a hypocritical jerk. Spending 83 minutes in this dude’s head is an insufferable experience, and the people around him aren’t much more tolerable. Hastings-on-Hudson sure looks pretty, though. Grade: D