Back in the old days of exploitation, it was called ballyhoo. Today, we'd call it hype - or blatantly false advertising. Whatever the label, it's like those lame campaign posters everyone made in high school - you know the ones: big indelible marker lettering screaming "Free Sex"...and then the tiny postscript underneath which usually read "now that I've got your attention, vote for Biff Henderson." It's like screaming "FIRE" in a crowded theater with a camera crew waiting outside to capture the chaos, or promising a two headed alien freak when all your sideshow really has is some cobbled together medical oddity. Playing cinematic carnival barker is therefore nothing new. Everyone from Kroger Babb to Dr. Uwe Boll has used provocation and sensationalism to drive ticket sales. So why should indie maverick Shane Ryan be any different. This is the man who's responsible for the sickening Amateur Porn Star Killer franchise, after all. With Warning!!! Pedophile Released, however, he's hit a new low - and not in the way you're probably imagining.
A 12 year old girl is questioned by the police about an incident with an 18 year old boy. She claims it was all innocent and loving. They don't believe her. He is arrested, charged with a heinous crime, and sent to prison. Several years later, she is a lost and lonely young woman, practically homeless and selling herself just to scrape by. He is a recently released convict haunted by what he had to do in prison just to survive. As they drift back into each other's life, we learn the truth about their earlier tryst. It really did seem to be much ado about nothing. Sadly, the stigma attached to the incident leaves both of them scarred, bitter, and disconnected from the world.
Let's deal with the obvious issues right up front - Warning!!! Pedophile Released is not some kind of crude indie kiddie porn. It's not a sex film - in fact, the only action of that kind 'offered' is R-rated and inferred. True, the movie does open with a gang rape, but it's handled in what some might consider a rather tasteful manner. Along the way, co-writer/director/actor Shane Ryan gives us glimpses of skin (co-writer actress Kai Lanette like to freshen-up, topless, in truck stop bathrooms and campground showers) and one scene of outright carnality. In said sequence, XXX actress Joanna Angel barely gets her line readings out as she sits on the John buck naked. That's right - much of her dialogue is delivered on the throne before she gets up for a full frontal throw down with her inmate bum of a brother. It's a weird moment, something seemingly tossed in to give Angel fans and those who slogged through Warning!!! Pedophile Released something scintillating and worth their time.
That's because the vast majority of this movie - say 76% - is nothing more than Lanette and Ryan walking around their various found locations looking depressed and melancholy, various genres of indie rock quietly pulsating in the background. If music videos were meaning, Warning!!! Pedophile Released would be the most complicated and complex movie ever. This is not to say that Ryan doesn't shine in these sequences. Some of these montages look quite amazing, characters rendering real emotion while dilapidated buildings and Smalltown USA vistas pass by in the background. If he were making an audition tape for MTV2 or U, he'd be hired on the spot. But Ryan must believe this is the foundation for a new kind of drama, a narrative in which exposition and conversation are cast aside for yet another example of evocative shoe-gazing supporting a one person travelogue. We need more, frankly. We need to understand what is going on, not the private soundtrack inside each character's head.
Indeed, the lack of a legitimate plot will probably be the make or break point for most. Warning!!! Pedophile Released uses a confused, flashback/forward structure which sees proposed police interview footage cast along side the three-chord mini-movies. Every once in a while, Ms. Lanette or Mr. Ryan will stop and speak to someone. More times than not, the dialogue goes nowhere. This is particularly true of a weird last act clash between our convict and what we assume was his penitentiary lover. The man, creepy as any doughy diversion can be, constantly paws at Ryan as he delivers affirmations as inferred foreplay. Clearly, there was sexual abuse in the slammer, and the man even mentions it in an argument with his victim/gal pal. But Ryan never delivers the actual facts. Instead, it's all supposition and conjecture, us reading into the material what the filmmaker fails to disclose. Take out all the VJ fodder, tighten up the screenplay, and Warning!!! Pedophile Released might have worked. As it stands, it's a noble, if often nonsensical, disappointment.
Presented by Cinema Epoch in a DVD in name only edition, the combination color and black and white footage is decent, if not definitive. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer does have to contend with Ryan's frequent post-production trickery, like messing with the focus or the intensity of the image's colors. Still, considering the budget and the often lo-fi elements employed, the picture looks pretty good. If you expect something slick or professional, look elsewhere.
Thankfully, the Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix is marvelous, delivering the diverse soundtrack with almost crystal clarity. Sure, there are times when the dialogue gets lost in the ambient noise picked up by the camcorder's internal microphone, and after the 12th or 13th post-millennial pout fest, you do grow tired of the tunes. Still, from a pure production value point of view, this is definitely not some hoary old home movie.
The disc provided to DVD Talk did not have a standard menu. The DVD played immediately upon insertion and a couple of trailers (for Amateur Porn Star Killer 1 and 2) were offered before the movie itself began. There was no way to skip these ads. The most you can do is fast forward through them. Otherwise, the DVD package lacks anything even closely resembling added content. Heck, it takes bare bones to new aggravating extremes.
Though the title suggests something that is thoroughly reprehensible, Warning!!! Pedophile Released is all bark and way too much mope rock bite. Unlike the Amateur Porn Star Killer movies which are more or less unwatchable, this attempted atmospheric exercise had lots of potential. It's the execution that questionable. For some, this will seem self-indulgent and incessantly dull. Others will champion it - wrongfully - as some manner of aimless outsider masterwork. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth, and thus a rating of Rent It is granted. This will give the curious a chance to check it out with making the major purchase decision, while those who are incensed by the label can experience Ryan's "vision" without dipping too deeply into their wallet. Like the hucksters of old, Warning!!! Pedophile Released promises much more than it ever wants to attempt. Perhaps we should feel lucky Shane Ryan pulled a bait and switch. A true representation of this title is almost inconceivable.