Death By Engagement (2005)

All forms of media have been democratised. Nowadays, anyone can write a book, run a website, or make a movie, and this can be a great thing - after all, it's highly unlikely that anyone would actually pay me to write damning reviews of the abysmal films I'm all too fond of watching, and then what would I do for fun? Bringing entertainment out of the domain of the big media moguls is also a good thing - there are some great writers on the Internet who would struggle to get published anywhere else, and independent movies can tackle subjects movie studios would never dream of touching.

But. And it's a big but. In an age where anyone can make a film, it is still absolutely true that not everyone should make a film. Death By Engagement is the best argument I've ever come across for being absolutely honest with your friends or acquaintances when they ask you what you think of their film/book/poetry/etc. It is unredeemably dreadful. It's embarrassing to watch. It's terrifying to think that any distributor would think it worthwhile to make this available to the general public. It's actually offensive that someone somewhere had to make the decision to inflict this on the world at large. It's not even a movie. It's practically home footage.

It's crap.

The basic plot of Death By Engagement is that, after being jilted at the altar by his bride-to-be, a violent psychopath becomes obsessed with retrieving the antique engagement ring he'd given his fiancée. Luckily, his mother is a deranged hippie-type who keeps him on life support even after he's shot and killed by police, so death doesn't have to be a barrier. Unluckily, for some reason, the ring keeps getting stolen by unscrupulous types and presented to a never-ending parade of new brides-to-be, all of whom then have to be tracked down and killed in order to regain the ring.

That summary credits the movie with more coherence than it actually has. The story isn't really a story when you're watching the film; instead, scene after scene plays out with badly-written, uninteresting, badly-acted characters going through the necessary motions to get to a point where a ring gets put on a finger. Then the inexplicably-masked psycho turns up and gets his murder on. It feels like a porn film, insofar as it's a string of vignettes which have no point other than to get to a certain point - only instead of the climax being explicit sex, it's off-screen violence. The acting and dialogue are porn-standard, too; as if time is just being filled until the film gets to the important bit, except there is no important bit. It's like the person who wrote the script set out to make a horror movie without ever having watched anything other than porn in his whole life. Or having ever talked to any human beings in his whole life. Which is strange, because since no-one in this film can act, and because none of the scripted descriptions of the characters comes close to describing the person playing the relevant role, I'd assume that the director just phoned up his friends to come round and read some lines for him.

Even from a technical standpoint, Death By Engagement is dreadful. The pacing is painfully slow. The camera angles are uninspired. It's shot on HD DV, which doesn't quite look like film, and it seems to be mostly handheld footage, which means whenever there's a long, lingering shot of something (and there's a lot of them, because this film is 99% padding) the camera shakes slightly.

It depresses me that the people who made this monstrosity can think of themselves as filmmakers and be credited on the IMDB. Looking at the box cover depresses me, because some poor schmuck had to design that. And it's good - it's a really good cover, and it's quite a good tagline. It's just that inside that box is a DVD on which is something which is not a film. If you happen across this anywhere, please don't buy it. Don't rent it. Don't watch it. I know you're contrary bastards who'll watch anything if you're told not to, but if you sit through this, you'll only have yourselves to blame. (And the distributor and the camera-holders. But you can't say I didn't warn you.)

IMDB link

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