388 Arletta Avenue Review

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  • 388 Arletta Avenue film still

Score

Randall Cole's film is a very poor effort within the increasingly irrelevant found footage subgenre.

Somebody is playing games with young couple James and Amy (Nick Stahl and Mia Kirschner) and they are not the least bit amused. What begins as an insignificant incident with an odd CD found in the stereo of a car blooms into full-blown paranoia and, naturally, the slow but sure destruction of humdrum suburban bliss.

Randall Cole’s 388 Arletta Avenue pilfers ideas from David Lynch’s Lost Highway, countless slasher films, two key Michael Haneke works (Funny Games and Hidden) and bolts on a found footage set up just for good measure. It almost goes without saying this is no contender, even as a piece of low-rent genre entertainment.

A subplot exploring James’s past ‘crime’ directly references Hidden, sans cryptic and sophisticated historical symbolism. James, we discover, was a high school bully. Yet its sole dramatic function is a total cop out and serves as merely a lame red herring.

So when Amy mysteriously disappears one day, the killer ups the taunting and her husband descends into a mental rot and takes to wandering around with a knife and gun. The found footage aesthetic is supposed to act as conduit to the victim’s increased unease and derangement. However any sense of mounting dread is botched at every turn.

The deliberately muffled and selective sound design, along with use of various colour filters and lenses, works against the material. It should heighten the atmosphere, not wreck it.

Quite why the mystery man goes to such mad lengths in the first place to re-wire a home and workplace with cameras and microphones is left unexplained: To think about these things for too long would make them all fall to pieces like a collapsed pastry.

The only shock this sorry film can muster occurs during the end credits after the lame whodunit ‘reveal’: It appears cult fave, Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) served as 'Executive Producer' of this tripe.

Anticipation

Yet another found footage horror flick…yawn.

1

Enjoyment

A very poor effort within an increasingly irrelevant subgenre.

1

In Retrospect

Cole’s film serves as a reminder to go back and watch the superior works it lifts from.

1
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View 20 comments

Mary Powell

2 years ago
Why did you bother reviewing, you clearly went in not wanting to like it, and to pick holes in it!

You list the "pilfering" of ideas ....but how often do you see films that don't have elements that have been seen before?

romano

2 years ago
greatly looking forward to your first feature, Martyn, what with you knowing so much and all...
:-)

Anton Bitel

2 years ago
If you read on, the criticism here is not that the film 'pilfers', but that it fails to improve upon the standards of what it pilfers, or even to live up to them on its own terms ("this is no contender, even as a piece of low-rent genre entertainment.")
It is actually the job of a film critic to 'pick holes' in a film - esp. when the holes are there. And (with a few notable exceptions), critics do not make films. That's the job of filmmakers.

Adam LWLies

2 years ago
Hi Mary,

Thanks for you comment.

We 'bothered' reviewing this film because it is our editorial remit to cover every UK theatrical release, big and small.

We pride ourselves on the integrity of our reviewers, and as such I wholheartedly disagree with the notion that any LWLies writer would go into a film objectively seeking to "pick holes in it".

I haven't personally seen 388 Arletta Avenue, so can't comment on the film itself.

romano

2 years ago
sure but I guess its easy to pick holes in a film, very hard to make them in such a way they are faultless. I'm sure the makers of 388 Arletta Av did not start out to make a "rubbish" film, as I see the reviewer just tweeted to promote his review here! There almost seems a degree of spitefulness in the review. personally I think the mark of a good critic is that they can create work to a high standard in their own right, so their criticism is peer criticism, and reflects what it takes to set up, fund and produce a film. I do feel there are too many self appointed "film critics" in the market that set up free to view blogs and swagger around as if their views really count. If people had to pay for access to their reviews they'd be history very soon!

Anton Bitel

2 years ago
In my experience, it is easy to pick holes in a film if that film, well, has holes. It *is* hard to make a film that is 'faultless' (or to put it in absurdly reductive terms, that merits five stars) - but there are plenty of films (indeed, *most* films) which, while not faultless, still have much to recommend them. Here the critic is not taking issue with the film for failing to be faultless, but rather for (in his opinion, of course) failing to have much merit to it at all. He also states why he holds this view, in some detail. That is what critics do. What they do not (indeed cannot) do is review what filmmakers 'start out to make'. The finished product is all that can be judged and discussed. Of course anyone is welcome to disagree with Martyn's opinions, but why the ad hominem attack? Martyn is an established film critic, and his work is commissioned by a number of print publications, including LWLies - whose website, like most publications' websites, is no less free to access than a private blog. i don't know whether he calls himself a 'film critic' (that was my description of him), but anyone who receives commissions from an editor can hardly be called 'self-appointed'. However, critics, like filmmakers, have to start somewhere, and blogs are currently an excellent place to publish opinions. Not all bloggers, however, 'swagger around', and there are many whose work is as good as anything you'll find in the more traditional print outlets.

Josh

2 years ago
Well I thought it rather entertaining - and I think that's the key point; it was just trying to entertain and deliver a certain type of formula that people respond to. Maybe the formula is getting a bit tired, but its fun to watch. I do feel the above review, and many on this site, try to over analyse films intended just as a form of entertainment. for me, a good reviewer is someone who can also look at a film in relation to the target audience it was made for, and reach a balanced review. Sadly I don't think the above is

pollydolly

2 years ago
If you're going to bar comments here about Anton's constant role as readers' editor, commenter in chief and head teacher, you might at least confirm that he's speaking for the magazine.

Anton Bitel

2 years ago
Don't know what you mean by 'bar comments'. Sometimes comments automatically fail to post if they include certain key words - some obviously porn-related, others very innocuous sounding, one even the title of a Scorsese film - whose common feature is that are also often employed by spammers. This has happened to several of my posts, and can be frustrating. Try rephrasing the comment, and it will probably post.
I'm not 'speaking for the magazine' in any capacity (although I do write for it sometimes). I like talking film (and film criticism), and I like LWLies, so I often contribute to this forum (which is public, right?). I have absolutely zero editorial input into LWLies, or indeed into these comments sections. I don't edit readers, and indeed have no power to do so - I just engage in the general discourse. You know, just as you're doing too... Adam (who commented above) *is* a LWLies editor, as his handle implies. Hope this is clear.

pollydolly

2 years ago
Anton, my point, apparently lost in cyberspace, was that you make an effort to pop up whenever anyone breathes a word of criticism about a LWLies review, and start going on about the reviewer's integrity and credentials. Which is pointless, since:

1) Welcome to the internet. Comment threads become bad tempered and turn into ad hominem attacks. It happens. LWLies has started to make a point of running reviews written with a view towards stimulating an argument. Sticking your head round the door to pipe up for another writer, when those writers themselves rarely do, just looks like either the actions of the site's Letters Editor, or speechifying from someone with an opinion on everything. Especially since...

2) You are a writer for this magazine already. That might not be a big enough deal to be called a conflict of interest, but does mean that your views on the quality of the writers employed here are inappropriate. Can't we just take them as read? You have other places to make your opinions about the state of film reviewing known to the public, why do it in these threads? If Martyn wants to comment on those topics and relate them to his own work, I'd be interested; your opinion of others' opinions of his opinion, not so much.

3) Unfortunately you've already shown that you can be just as much of a troll as those you admonish:
(which, since a hyperlink here apparently breaks the system, refers to your comment in the WE review made in response to Kreega Bondoola) Which rules out any high ground for you, I would have thought.

Samuel Sterer

2 years ago
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Anton Bitel

2 years ago
LWLies is not a hivemind. If you are a regular reader of the comments section, you'll know that I often express my strong disagreement with the reviews published here. I do *try* not to get personal about the reviewers, mind. That comes less from any personal allegiance than from common courtesy.

1) thanks for the welcome, and back at you. I'm well versed in the conduct of comment threads. Burglary, murder, folk dancing - these things happen too, but that doesn't make them right. And yes, in fact I do come here to express my opinion (although more usually on film and film criticism than on 'everything'). In this thread I'm responding to what are (imo) misreadings and misguided generalisations from other contributors. Then they, if they like, respond in turn. It's how discourse works, and what forums are for.

2) There is no conflict of interest, any more than there is if I go on Twitter, or whatever. All views are my own, this is a public forum - and it is hardly as though I fail to disclose my identity. Often you get one or several critics engaging in dialogue (and arguing) in the comments section, as well of course as people attached to the production of the film in question (do you regard that as a conflict of interest?), and so-called 'ordinary filmgoers'. The editors sometimes pitch in too. It is part of what *can* make the discussions lively and interesting. Of course, if you're not interested, you don't have to read.

3) I haven't used the word 'troll' in this thread, that's your word. The comment to which you refer (in the W.E. thread) was, in its entirety, 'interchangaeble lol' - two words in length, the first word a direct quote. Far from being ad hominem, it was entirely ad verbum - and also expressly a joke ('lol'), adverting the apparent interchangeability of letters in the word 'interchangaeble'. If you call that trolling, then I'm guilty as charged - but that is not what I understand trolling to be.

pollydolly

2 years ago
As I think was fairly clear, I'm specifically talking about those instances when you step in to comment on another reviewer's piece, especially when their critical skills are being questioned. When the original reviewers choose not to speak up, and those of us questioning what's been written suddenly find ourselves dealing instead with you steaming in with praise for a reviewer who's given work by the same publisher who gives you work - that's when LWLies feels exactly like a hivemind.

I can respect that basically you do have an opinion on everything raised on this site and a need to get it out, but don't be so disingenuous as to suggest that you're not fully content with how aggressive and possessive that is, when it comes from someone who already has a byline and a portfolio here. The fact that you're not above two-word snarks over typos in the process speaks for itself.

Anton Bitel

2 years ago
Like you say, it's the Internet.
You know as well as I do what happens when the original reviewers do choose to speak up against blanket aggressions ("why did you bother reviewing?"), vague sarcasms ("greatly looking forward to your first feature, Martyn, what with you knowing so much and all... "), or insinuating generalisations ("I do feel there are too many self appointed "film critics" in the market that set up free to view blogs and swagger around as if their views really count"), as opposed to constructive criticisms. It would be disingenuous to suggest that comments like these suggest much care for, or interest in, what Martyn might have to say in defense of himself. They do not really invite defense.
If your neat hivemind theory were true, then how would you account for the *many* tiimes that I have disagreed with critics' views published on this website? Note: disagreed with critics' views, not questioned their very purpose and career choice, or asserted that "they'd be history very soon!", on the basis of one review. That's a significant difference. I don't believe that I have actually expressed praise for Martyn in this thread - I have merely stated that he is an 'established film critic' (which he is); that he should not, as a commissioned reviewer here (which again he is), be described as 'self-appointed'; and that he broadly does what critics do. I've 'steamed in' here not to praise Martyn, but to express disagreement with some comments. That's, you know, what one does on discussion threads. You're doing it too.
*Any* engagement in open discourse might be described as 'aggressive and possessive' - everyone here is, albeit to a small degree, stamping out their discursive territory on a public platform. But your suggestion that this is somehow more true of someone with a byline overlooks the fact that you, along with anyone else who addresses me directly, have the distinct advantage of possessing my real name. I don't know who any of you are (unless you spurn pseudonyms); I can't trawl through your bios for the sort of irrelevant detail that I often find being thrown back at me in on-line discussions (all journalists experience this); and while you may (indeed you obviously do) perceive me to have a conflict of interest just in writing on this thread, I am in no position to know whether any of you has (e.g.) a close connection to the film under discussion.
But, you know, it's the Internet...

Matt Bochenski

2 years ago
Hi everyone

Just a quick comment on this discussion. We absolutely don't commission reviews 'with a view towards stimulating an argument'. We might occasionally run blog posts that do that, but then that's what blogs are for (in part).

Our reviewers are never given any instructions about the tone of their review beyond the requirement to try and say something original and intelligent. The phrase 'Honest & Merciful' has always been our mandate. Trying to stimulate an argument would be dishonest and unfair. So I 100 percent reject that take on our reviews.

We do, however, tend to encourage our writers not to post on their own reviews as I think it's very difficult to do that in a dignified way without it descending into an argument. Where there are substantive points to be addressed, fine. But to be honest, I don't see too many substantive points being raised about this review. 'You obviously didn't like it' is hardly the basis for a nuanced discussion.

Other than that, as you were...

Matt Bochenski

2 years ago
'Honest & Merciful'

Oops. You know what I mean.

pollydolly

2 years ago
Matt, thank you for clarifying that. I agree that internet comment threads can easily become undignified, and I wasn't suggesting that Anton should stop commenting while the stupid ones should be encouraged to continue; more that they're both part of the same problem. But I appreciate that site owners have a different perspective.

Anton, since I've thrown none of the background-based insults you describe, and since I'll state that I have no connection to these particular films, why not continue as if the playing field is level until I abuse the privilege? My anonymity here is because you are clearly more than capable of out-arguing, out-debating, and outmaneuvering pretty much anyone who posts here, which I'm sure includes me, and I believe that you put some stock in having the last word in any argument you choose to enter, which will surely be the case here too. I believe that such individuals dislike being questioned beyond a certain point, and don't intend to put my real name in the firing line.

"It's the internet" is a horrible, bogus argument, long since abused to death by internet commenters like LexG and unworthy of anyone more sensible than him, which is everyone.

Anton Bitel

2 years ago
Given that the whole thrust of your criticism (as I understand it) is wrapped up in my being a sometime contributor to LWLies, you *are* actually throwing my background at me, in a way that would be impossible if I used a pseudonym. I'm not (at all!) suggesting that it is wrong for you to do this - after all, I'm the one who put my identity on the line - but you do see that I am at a disadvantage in this regard. I very much get the impression that, if I were using a pseudonym and concealing my identity as a critic, you would have no objection to the *substance* of my comments - or at least not enough of a problem to have made a contribution yourself in response.

In any case, I do not doubt that you (specifically) do not have a connection to the film in question - indeed, you (specifically) have not as yet commented on the film. You've only commented on me. Which is fine. I haven't commented on the film either. Basically the contributions from both of us have been responses to previous comments, and a discussion of on-line conduct. My point about pseudonyms was that no-one can ever know what conflicts of interest *might* be concealed behind pseudonymous contributions. That is not the same as saying there *are* actual conflicts of interest. I don't care whether other people use pseudonyms or not - but I don't like being lambasted for potential (although non-existent here, imo) conflicts of interest when I was in fact the only one in this discussion who had made a declaration of such potential conflicts. Now you have too. Good for you. I am curious, though, why you single me out for potential conflict, and not the two magazine editors who have also contributed to this discussion. Don't your arguments (arguments that I do not personally accept) apply to them too?

You have also insulted me (mildly, I concede, and I *really* don't mind) since your opening post. You have accused me of being a 'troll' (a rather grave accusation against a regular, and I hope largely courteous, participant in online conversations), citing as evidence for this supposed trolldom words (two of them, directed entirely ad verbum) that were hardly proportionate with the charge. You then downgraded 'troll' to an accusation of 'two-word snarks'. I can live with being called snarky, and no doubt am at times - but your opening post above is snark of more than merely two words, and rather ad hominem, wouldn't you say?

You ended: "'It's the internet' is a horrible, bogus argument, long since abused to death by internet commenters like LexG and unworthy of anyone more sensible than him, which is everyone."
I broadly agree (although I haven't a clue who LexG is). But I wasn't presenting an 'argument' when I said 'It's the internet', but rather registering resigned despair (as should be clear from everything else that I have said). I assume you were doing much the same when you said: "Welcome to the internet. Comment threads become bad tempered and turn into ad hominem attacks. It happens." So when I then wrote 'It's the Internet', I was only picking up and rolling with your own words and idea (and not at all with your 'horrible, bogus argument').

We're all, as you put it, 'part of the same problem', although I'd prefer to say rather that we're all engaged in the same conversation. But, again, that is what forums are for. It's not about insisting upon having the last word in any argument - I just respond to comments that I consider unfair. You have done the same. But I think that this discussion has gone on long enough for me, so I'll leave the last word to you (and *promise* not to rejoin). And while I could hardly say I've *loved* this argumenet, I do appreciate both the sincerity and (if I may say so) the articulacy of your posts, have taken them entirely seriously, and have thought very carefully about everything that you have said. I *really* do hope that I am not perceived to be a troll.

ken

2 years ago
I think you *need* to get *out* more, Anton

Winchester Summers

2 years ago
I'm curious to see this film since I heard about it. I take the review via Little White Lies as a good constructive piece. If anything the review is a good way of going into the film because whereas before I was hyping myself up to a point, now I feel less hyped and will be able to watch with fresh eyes. Going into a film with high expectations means I have often been let down.

I prefer going in with less expectations as it means even if the film is not that good I haven't incorporated those high standards. That being said I did enjoy reading the review as it provided some fresh insight. I'm rather new to this site but keep up the good work LWW, I will be checking out more reviews via this site.
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