Stars: Kurt Ela, Rachael Drummond, Rob Norton, Andy Hoff, Alexandra Fatovich, Adam Karell, Stephanie Beran, Tony Rago, Stephanie Tobey, Katerina Mikailenko, Suzanne Sena, Drew Benda, Evan Gamble, Paul Natonek, John Brody, Liz Loza, Ted McKnight, Neil Rodriguez, Meredith Lyerla and Audrey McKenna
|This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.|
[Update for 20th August, 2016: the movie is now being released as Killer Party, which gets round that shower misconception and sneaks a neat pun into proceedings too. It's now available on VOD and iTunes. Here's its new website.]
The key name here is Alex Drummond, not only because he wrote and directed the movie but because he wrote what he knew. In 2011 he was given a couple of grand to write a screenplay, even winning a contest, but the sponsor went bankrupt and it was never turned into a picture. So Alex Drummond did what any writer worth his salt would do; he wrote another picture about a writer, Nick Drummond, who was given a couple of grand in 2011 to write a screenplay, which was never turned into a picture. This sort of similarity doesn't stop there. To play Mary Drummond, the heavily pregnant wife of this slightly fictional version of himself, he cast his heavily pregnant wife, Rachael Drummond. To play a varied set of friends to attend Mary's baby shower, he cast a varied set of friends. As producer Andy Hoff, one of those friends who plays one of those friends, points out, there's a strong connection between them: a restaurant where they all worked on their respective arrivals in Hollywood.
Beyond being true, this sort of story rings true, backed up by the comments of every local actor I know who got big enough in the small pond of Arizona to hightail it down I-10 to LA and see how they would fare as small fish in the big pond of Hollywood. Reality in Tinseltown is described simply: everybody you meet is in the movie business. They're actors, writers and directors, people who are almost famous but for now have to settle for shining your shoes or cleaning your windscreen outside a 7-Eleven. These folk happened to work in a restaurant, not only the ones who play people who work in restaurants. In a neat touch, Drummond captures this simple reality by introducing each of the ensemble cast of characters played by his ensemble cast of friends with a few little snippets to detail how they tie to the industry, thrown up on the screen neo-grindhouse style so we can't miss them. It works well. We're deluged with characters early on, but we never get lost. That's a major plus point in Drummond's favour.
All these folk are nice, at least on the outside, but things aren't going to stay polite for long; we grasp that when Tommy shows up and brings tension with him. He's a bartender who played a bartender in a beer commercial but, more importantly, he used to date Kim and dearly wishes he still did. This hint at romance never goes away; this isn't quite a zomromcom, but it has all the elements. These folk half get on and half really don't and we watch the cracks appear in their facades. The guys feel bad about not living their dreams, so hide inside watching golf and drowning their sorrows, while the girls hang round the pregnant chick in the hope that her condition might be contagious. It's only when Viola, Dr Froman, is called into work for an emergency, presumably the one that will soon overwhelm this baby shower, that we start to move forward. If we've been paying careful attention, we'll have seen it already take down a few background characters, but there are many to go. There's an enjoyable apocalypse in store.
For a while it plays it by numbers, with some comedy thrown in for good measure; this is very much a comedy horror film, where the former trumps the latter, but not by too much. The TV signal turns into static, the radio reports riots all over the city and folk who've already left show back up because all the roads are blocked. All the phones die just as Doc Viola rings her husband with news of an outbreak, so communications are clearly being stopped and our shower guests have to go out for background. One neighbour standing oddly in the back yard has a police scanner: he says that the LAPD is on full tactical alert and the national guard is coming in. But then he beats Zach to a pulp and the clown takes a chunk out of Joanne's arm; they throw him out, so he takes down the neighbour and howls at the imaginary moon. The apocalypse clearly wanted an invite to this baby shower and the guests start shrinking to a much more manageable number, reimagining their relationships as they go.
However much it's grounded in sci-fi, The Shower clearly plays out as a horror movie with a strong dose of comedy. Many of the characters were clearly set up to interact in certain ways, so their story arcs are hardly surprising, but they unfold well nonetheless, aided by the fact that these actors know each other and are able to bounce off each other capably. The character interaction also makes some of the more violent scenes expected too, but they also unfold well with a healthy black humour. All this renders The Shower an enjoyable ride, especially in good company, but the lack of many surprises is a flaw which is impossible to overlook. There are other problems too. While the first act sets everything up capably, the second drags a little as the film tries to establish where it wants to go. The ending is a good one, but it arrives a little too emphatically, suggesting that the pacing wasn't quite right. The picture runs short at 78 minutes and there could easily have been another ten before it wrapped up.
If the pacing and lack of surprises are the weaker links, the stronger ones are the comedy and the cast. While the horror violence is sometimes extreme, this never feels disturbing (unless you're one of those people who are freaked out by a combination of clowns and blood) because it's always funny, in a real, or at least a surreal way. The laughs are generally good ones, written well and delivered well by a solid ensemble cast. Kurt Ela is most notable as Nick, not the usual lead but one who transforms from Henry the mild mannered janitor into something far more, even if he would never get his own cartoon series. Suzanne Sena isn't as strong as Joanne, but she has the most overt character and appropriately makes herself very noticed. All these characters are real and recognisable, grounding this low budget success. Producer Hoff, who also plays Tommy, described the making of the film as 'the right blend of arrogance and ignorance' and I hope that blend carries through to their next picture.