Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 70 minutes
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It sucks to be “trapped in a lair of sin” under the psychic control of a female drug peddler and porn lord, especially when you’re the one forced to do most of the peddling and on-camera performances. While sitting around his nasty apartment drinking beer, Dave (D.J. Vivona) gets a surprise visit from his dead brother Trent (Jason Allen Wolfe) who hands him a DVD and then miraculously disappears. Dave quickly calls his sister Karla (Rachel Lewis) and her girlfriend Zenna (Amanda Booth), to let them know about the postmortem visit. Dave then proceeds to watch the DVD, which is where things begin to get a little confusing. The disc contains footage of Beth (Eli DeGeer), who is crying and talking about Trent’s last days on earth. A great deal of the film’s story is then delivered through what appears to be flashback sequences, though there isn’t any clear differentiation between the flashbacks and Beth’s interview segments (which, in addition to scenes from the present, are constantly cut back to). The transitions, unfortunately, don’t clear up any of the confusion.
According to Beth’s DVD presentation, Trent met up with an unsavory individual named Tracey who, through some special mind-controlling power, was able to lure him into her evil world of drugs, porn and bad computer generated video effects. Once fully under her influence, Tracey routinely sends Trent and Beth (who is also under the irresistible spell) out to make narcotic deliveries or pick-ups and the forced live sex web casts also take up a great deal of their time. To illustrate the varied debauched activity, the film features a number of fast paced, MTV-style (circa 1991) montage sequences featuring the three co-workers using heroin and having sex.
At some point in all of the mayhem, Trent and Beth manage to fall in love, which makes Tracey very jealous and angry. Trent and Beth make plans to escape, but, surprise, before they have a chance to break free, Trent is sent on another drug run. He is gone for an extended amount of time and Beth begins to inquire of his whereabouts. Tracey informs her that he is dead, the two have words and, adding wife-beater to her charming list of character traits, Tracey smacks Beth around. Beth then runs off to the bathroom where she stares at herself in the mirror for and extended period of time and then decides to climb into the empty bathtub with a gun and shoot herself in the head, leaving a disgusting mess. Trent, who really wasn’t dead, returns home to find the punch line to Tracey’s hilarious joke. Trent proceeds to have a melt down and, of course, a violent altercation with Tracey.
Back to the present and Dave’s foul apartment; as the DVD comes to an end, the TV makes a very loud and annoying screeching sound that sends Dave into a horrible fit. He manages to unplug the TV just in time for the arrival of Karla and Zenna (who has been having a bad premonition about the state of things). Despite being unplugged, the TV flicks back on as circumstances continue to become increasingly troubling and show the way to a surprise ending of sorts.
“China White Serpentine” is director Eric Stanze’s 5th ultra-low budget, feature film. His resume includes the cult classics “Scrapbook” and “I Spit On Your Corpse, I Piss On Your Grave”. For slasher fans “China White Serpentine” does include some gore, but probably not enough to keep hard-core devotee’s happy. The main problem with the film seems to be that the line between the past and present (and the different delivery of the two), just isn’t clear. Perhaps this is the point, but ultimately the blur isn’t interesting, unique or advantageous, just confusing. The pacing is often either too slow or too quick, but rarely is it accurate. Production value is low and there are a vast number of nauseating hand-held shots, but the film is admittedly a B-movie and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Most importantly the script is fairly strong, especially considering a lot of the crappy scrap that Hollywood throws millions at every year. Influences from “The Ring”, “The Blair Witch Project” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (to name a few), seem obvious, but not overblown. The film would be stronger if it were stripped of a great number of cheesy, out-dated video effects. The editors should leave such devices for freshman film students and wedding videographer’s side projects. The acting is surprisingly good; especially from and DeGeer and Wolfe. Taken as a whole “China White Syndrome” is a significantly flawed, but soundly based film that features some solid performances.
Posted on November 15, 2004 in Reviews by Rachel Morgan
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