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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Socket
Socket
TLA Releasing // Unrated // March 25, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted April 22, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"Energy is pure order. Your brain produces electricity and now it craves more...what's wrong with increasing your body's capacity for order?" - Craig Murphy

The Movie
The best way to enjoy Socket may be to create a drinking game out of it. Any time you see a montage, gulp a Blow Job (the shot, silly! The one with cream...Bailey's Irish cream, that is). You'll be doing it often, because believe me: There are hordes of rapid-fire, spliced-image montages here, including the very first scene. That's when doctor Bill Matthews (Derek Long) is on the operating table after becoming a human lightning rod. With nerve damage to his four extremities, it's likely he'll never perform surgery again.

But handsome intern Craig Murphy (Matthew Montgomery) suddenly shows an interest in Matthews, giving him a new calling: He invites the doc to a support club of people who have all survived a FOX nature show I must have missed, When Lightning Attacks!. Matthews soon realizes that his body is a current, and contact with similar victims--and with wall sockets and an array of electrically charged items--results in a euphoric state, like a sex-and-drugs high. Despite the warnings of now-boyfriend Murphy that with great power comes great responsibility (Spider-Man, is that you?), Matthews slowly slips from reality: he constantly craves a fix; he performs surgery on the entire group, giving them built-in wrist plugs and sockets; and he even resorts to a murderous rampage on slimy homeless people and hookers...he's kinda like a cross between Dr. Frankenstein and the Toxic Avenger. And any time Matthews plugs into somebody, he gets--you guessed it!--a montage of their lives and his own experiences.

Channeling Videodrome

This is a low-budget effort that hits upon some cool ideas but just can't execute them in a way that sells the material in the manner it requires. It hints at some drug and sex addict parallels, but doesn't do too much with the connection (beyond an apparent color scheme that is supposed to be a metaphor for addiction). And the socket/prong idea could have been used to more comedic effect with even stronger sex themes--with this extreme story, that might have been the right route to take (if you're gonna go for it, just go for it!). The frantic image editing during the electrically charged scenes is clearly a technique used to try and create special effects out of a small budget, but I can only take so much of it--including all those shots of TV screen fuzz--before I want to shove my own finger in an outlet. Think Videodrome and Poltergeist times 100, and you get the idea.

Don't try this at home...

But the biggest problem I had here was the acting--it just didn't gel with the film's intent. Matthews comes across like a poor man's Patrick Warburton (who I love): tall and hairy, deep monotone voice...but he doesn't have any comedic instincts here, and can't convincingly handle the scenes where the doc goes crazy. And while Montgomery (best known for his work in the gay-themed love story Gone, But Not Forgotten) has a handsome presence, he seems to be bored a lot, just reciting dialogue--which can be said for a lot of people in the film, especially the support group. Words are spoken, but there's no feeling or belief behind them, no variance in delivery, no inflection, zero emotion. I almost felt like I wandered into a 1940s screwball comedy--like His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell's rapid-fire delivery--only without the funny. And good acting. And solid direction. So when a hooker recites the line, "Jesus, whatever happened to class?" when Matthews wants to do the deed right away sans a car ride, it's not as funny as it looks in print.

Ouch!

And then there's Dr. Emily Anderson (Alexandra Billings) and Olivia (Allie Rivenbark), the lesbian lover of Matthews' friend Carol (Rasool J'Han). These two must have taken acting classes from the same school: speak the lines loud, fast and angry. They seem to be in a huge rush to get through the script, as if every line was written in all caps with exclamation points: "STEP-FAG IS MORE LIKE IT!" (Remember that Will Ferrell SNL character with the voice modulation syndrome disorder?) Only J'Han is able to escape the sea of mundane performances, speaking and acting with somewhat convincing, remotely normal delivery.

It's all clearly meant to be campy and crazy, and some of the images are a hoot for those willing to buy into it: the group having a circle jerk around a generator (okay, not a circle jerk, more like a circle shock), the boyfriends plugging into each other (and the wall) in a bathroom, Matthews shoving a fork into an outlet for a quick fix. And every time the doc plugs into a socket, guess what we see? Montage! Shocking, huh? (tee hee...get it?!) If you have the soundtrack to Team America: World Police handy, just play track 9 repeatedly while watching this, and you may have more fun.

Sock-et to me!

The DVD

Video:
Presented in an anamorphic 1.78 widescreen transfer, the visual quality is all over the map. If you watch the behind-the-scenes feature and listen to the commentary, the crew talks about how that was intentional: As Bill slips further into his electricity spiral, more greens and blues are meant to take over, giving a colder feel that supposedly enhances his mentality. Other characters are supposed to be portrayed in more natural, neutral lighting with less contrast, representing the "normal world." I get the intent, but in truth it's all a mess. Scenes look vastly different, like three different cameras and techniques were used, with no logical artistic intent backing the changes up. Because Bill appears in scenes with everyone else, it just doesn't make any sense why some scenes opt for one technique and some for another. Some scenes are so soft and washed out, while others are heavily over-saturated. And many scenes are drowning in darkness and lack any definition, with any dark color becoming a deep black.

Audio:
You get two options: 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 track sounds like it's 2.0--there is very little use of the rear channels (a thunderstorm is all in the front), with electric shock sounds creeping into the back speakers on very few occasion. In addition, many scenes have a weak dialogue track, sounding distant and separated from the image, as if they were filmed in a vacuum and added on later.

Extras:
I feel bad for not liking the movie enough, because it's clear everyone involved was having fun and they all seem like pretty cool people. That becomes clear in "Plugging In: The Making of Socket", a behind-the-scenes feature (34:00) that contains rehearsal footage and interviews with the cast and crew. Writer/director Sean Abley talks about his influences and vision, and there's a fun vibe to it all. Many of them have worked together before, and it's like a bunch of friends laughing and having a good time, cracking jokes along the way. There's some entertaining stories (they shot the nude scenes all on the first day), and more laughs than you'll probably get from the film.

Equally amusing is the commentary (feature length, with some breaks) featuring Abley, producer/production designer Doug Prinzivalli and actors Derek Long, Matthew Montgomery and Bridgette Wright (who plays another support group member, and whose "flying asbestos" comment made me laugh...watch the first support group scene and you'll know what she means). You might have more fun watching the movie with the commentary on: Abley has an engaging voice and tells some entertaining stories, like the direction he gave to Montgomery on how to act when he first sees Long's wrist socket: "React like you're seeing the biggest cock you've ever seen!" Abley--who shot part of the film at a location famous for porn shoots--also describes that he originally wrote his role (a support group member) for "RuPaul as a boy." (Damn that small budget!)

Also included are the film's trailer and four more TLA releasing trailers, as well as a photo gallery.

Final Thoughts:
It's clear everyone had fun making this film, a campy sci-fi story about an electrically charged man getting a jolt by connecting with wall sockets and fellow victims of lightning attacks by using his own surgically implanted wrist plugs. But the camp factor weighs thin, potentially interesting parallels are sidestepped and most of the actors just seem bored. It's an idea that could have worked if it were more extreme and just went for broke; as it stands, it might be fun if you're in the right mood, so it's a mild rental recommendation for a few of you out there. But most would be advised to Skip it.

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