Suspended Animation Movie Review

Here's a weird little item. Somewhere between a nighttime soap opera and an EC Horror comic book is Suspended Animation. Hollywood animator Tom Kempton (Alex McArthur) is accosted by some psychopathic women on a snowmobile trip, and given some Misery-style torture by the old crones (played by Laura Esterman and Sage Allen, making for a pair of spooky sisters). Those who think they might have fallen into a B-version of Stephen King's popular novel might not enjoy the opening third, which is as familiar as Kathy Bates's mallet. But they're advised to stick with it. Suspended Animation isn't content to play itself out as a ham-fisted rip-off. (Those who plan on seeing the movie should know that the whacked-out twists in the narrative are pretty much the entire pleasure of Suspended Animation, and are advised to check out of this review now.)

Still here? I thought so. Suspended Animation quickly dispenses with the kidnapped author premise, as Tom's friends sweep in for a daring rescue and a bloody snowmobile chase quickly follows. Just as I predicted the opening of the movie as a pale rip-off of Misery, I now thought it was going to be a girl hunter version of Deliverance. Not so. Again, Suspended Animation jets through this section with economy and an appropriate level of menace. Unlike most low budget thrillers that dawdle their way through 90 minutes, Suspended Animation briskly covers that territory in less than half of its entire running time (a surprisingly fast two hours).

Tom survives, though he's not exactly on an even keel. He can't get his capture out of his mind, despite the fact that the evil sisters were left for dead. He plans a cathartic animation show to work out his trauma, and for his subject he selects one of their long lost daughters. Madness and psycho-drama ensues, involving a serial killing child, a hidden body, a back-from-the-dead killer, and other jack-in-the-box tropes of the genre. Suspended Animation drifts from thriller to horror to mystery to melodrama in fell swoops, even as the dialogue feels like so much deadweight and the directorial approach (from Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971) filmmaker John D. Hancock) is functional at best, hack at worst.

Suspended Animation is a cheap funhouse ride, but it's more inventively gross than the why-bother remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more moment-to-moment funny in its endearing corniness than Scary Movie 3's self-congratulatory flatulence. Gotta love that leering shot of a boy popping a back pimple, though -- moments like that will make the hardest heart squeal. Suspended Animation is cheap and disposable trash, but it's fun trash. As Pauline Kael said in one of her more lucid moments, most cinema is trash, and if we can't appreciate good trash why even bother going to the movies?

Cast & Crew

Director : John D. Hancock

Producer : John D. Hancock, Robert J. Hiler


Comments

Suspended Animation Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2001

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