Early in iMurders, the film cuts to Seamus St. Martin (Academy Award-nominee Charles Durning) and Janet Ling (Miranda Kwok, in one one of the movie's worst performances) sitting in a room together, drinking tea. Ling is tapping her feet on the floor (six taps in groups of three, or 6-6-6), and Martin asks why, with Janet explaining that it doesn't have anything to do with her mother. The problem with this scene is that I have just summed up the entirety of both the scene and its context in the film. You, the reader, no doubt are unsure of who Seamus St. Martin is and his relationship to Janet, but other than a single shot earlier in the movie of Janet logging onto a chat room with different characters, this is all the information there is up to that point. Eventually we learn that he is her psychologist, but during those scenes, the movie introduces more confusing details, like a lesbian affair that Janet keeps flashing back to, and it still doesn't explain who these people are in the necessary way for the audience to care about them. You may know that I, for instance, review movies, but that really doesn't tell you anything about me, does it? Ultimately, all of Seamus and Janet's scenes together are two people we don't know or care about, in a room together talking about something we don't understand, for no apparent reason. Such obscurity then turns out to be the name of the game: we learn more things at a faster pace about, say, Lindsay Jefferies (Gabrielle Anwar) and Robert Delgado (Billy Dee Williams), a former model and a lawyer, respectively, but the information is introduced in the same jarring fashion, and we still don't relate to either one of them. Other characters like Kelly Winters (Shannon Ivey), "Richard" (a name not credited to anyone on IMDb) and a janitor (Rodney Laney) either have extensive screen time for no apparent reason or are seemingly important yet vaguely defined.
These issues sum up the double-edged sword to being an auteur: there aren't any sounding boards, worried executives or test audiences, just one or two people trying to steer a group of people towards their specific vision, which sounds good but can come back to haunt these kinds of projects. iMurders was co-written and directed by guy named Robbie Bryan, and while I'm sure he understands his movie, he's clearly never considered that other people won't. The film flows like it was never read through or rewritten after the first draft, introducing new characters and taking abrupt twists and turns that still feel distinctly like late-night lightning-bolt bursts of supposed inspiration.
The story involves a killer tracking down and brutally murdering a group of close friends who log onto the awkwardly named "facespace" (please, writers, come up with your own brand names) to chat every evening. It's extremely hard to explain, since I barely understand it, but each month Mark Sanders (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) usually hosts some sort of game or challenge for the group, the point (maybe) being to be guess the title of a movie Mark is "picking" (for some reason), and each day, a member is eliminated if they accidentally use a secret code-word that Mark chooses (I think). The purpose of this elaborate, convoluted setup is so that none of the chat room users becomes panicked or startled when one less user logs on each consecutive day, but the technique doesn't make any dramatic sense: if nobody is worried about being murdered, what exactly motivates the plot? If nobody is concerned about their impending doom, then none of them have a chance to act or start trying to solve the mystery of why someone would be out to kill them in the first place, and theoretically, the killer should just...win, right?
I guess Bryan realized this too, because FBI Agents Washington (Tony Todd) and Lori Romano (Brooke Lewis, giving the movie's second-worst performance) suddenly materialize (just like everyone else in this movie), hot on the trail of this serial killer. This raises another question: if the chat room residents haven't picked up on the pattern that connects their deaths, how could the FBI agents have possibly stumbled on it? Oh, right, the same way Romano manages to determine, regardless of the surroundings, that a partially open sliding closet door is an obvious sign that someone was there, or the same way these agents (and the killer, for that matter) are capable of not only figuring out people's real names, but exact locations based on their chatroom accounts: pure screenwriting magic.
Our heroine, I guess, is Sandra Wilson (Terri Colombino), the everywoman of the chat room. She's got her eye on her neighbor, retired cop Joe Romano (Frank Grillo), and is quickly bonding with her landlord, Christine Jensen (Joanne Baron). I'll give the film (or specifically Colombino) a little credit: Sandra's one of the only fleshed-out characters in the movie, and her friendship with Christine is actually kind of nice. Sandra's relationship with Joe would also be nice, except the script is filled with inadvertent, bad-writing mood swings: it only takes five seconds for Sandra to get angry and decide that Joe must be cheating when she walks in on Joe and Lori (also Joe's sister) talking in Joe's apartment, but the very next scene she's back to normal, with a throwaway line about Joe "clearing things up" with a note he left. The couple's first date comes out of nowhere after their first conversation ends awkwardly, and their relationship scales the each intimacy level at a breakneck pace, even for the movies.
iMurders quickly proves to be unsaveable, but even at its worst, some stylish direction or entertaining splatter could have taken the sting out of the viewing experience. Sadly, Bryan isn't any good at that either, stacking on the horrible camerawork and irritating flash-cuts like crazy (during any gory moments, he literally uses flashbulbs to accentuate each one-second cut). Immediately after the discovering that shocking open closet door, the agents exit the apartment, running down the stairs frantically and yelling at each other while Bryan swings the camera around wildly and racks focus left and right in a desperate attempt to create dramatics, but the sudden surge in emotions doesn't make any sense. I understand that the characters have "realized" the killer was there and may have only recently left, but once they're downstairs and back outside, they just end up standing in the street, deciding the culprit has left the state. Real detectives would have calmly considered their options and taken decisive action instead of running around for no reason, but, once again, there's nothing "real" in iMurders except real ineptitude.
As the insulting cherry on top of a terrible cake, iMurders builds to an ending that requires not so much suspension of disbelief than for disbelief to be strapped to a rocket and shot into space. Poorly directed, awkwardly written and basically confusing, it does what it's supposed to in a backwards way, providing a perfect summation of the rest of the movie. If anyone reading this is trying to make an independent feature, then I respect your drive, but do yourself a favor: show it to a completely objective viewer as soon as possible. An outside perspective may make all the difference in the world.
The DVD, Video and Audio
I was sent a screener in a paper sleeve, so I can't definitively comment on the packaging or A/V quality of this release. The film should be presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the screener, at least, was accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 English and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Like the feature presentation, an alternate ending (1:04) doesn't make much sense. The most interesting thing about it is how it sounds like they used music from Friday the 13th as a temp track (series composer Harry Manfredini wrote the final score for iMurders).
A terribly congratulatory Q&A with Cast and Crew (20:11) is basically a making-of featurette where everyone talks about how clever and exciting iMurders is, which is kind of embarrassing. Most of the group's jokes about their involvement in the movie -- Colombino actually says she doesn't understand the script -- sound like incredibly good reasons to have passed on the chance to make the movie.
A theatrical trailer (1:41) rounds out the extras.
I can tell you the exact line of dialogue during which my limited patience with iMurders ran out: "Someone this freaky-clean doesn't leave a closet door open like this." Co-writer/director Robbie Bryan has made a film that wastes the talent of several recognizable character actors in service of a plot that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, even if you take the awful, confusing direction and editing out of the equation. Skip it at all costs; updating facebook for a couple hours would be a much better use of your spare time.
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