Going Postal
Vanguard // Unrated // $19.95 // August 26, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted October 18, 2003
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Movie: Fans of independent movies, particularly low budget independent movies, know that you're never quite sure of what you'll get when you go to see one of them. Some of these movies display a myriad of talent on the technical levels as well as the acting and other creative aspects while most display the limitations of using "no names" in such positions. For the most part, such movies require the viewer to accept various technical limitations and are, to be generous, an acquired taste. With this in mind, today's review is about a so-called black comedy, Going Postal (AKA: Postal Worker).

The movie is a very dark look at a small town post office that is full of crazy workers. As the DVD cover puts it: "A time bomb is ticking in a small regional postal facility and his name is Oren Starks (Brad Garrett). Oren fits the profile of a new breed of killers workers who crack under pressure their brains short circuit and the paranoid delusions begin. Going Postal begins as famed psychologist Dr. Nicolas Brink (Richard Portnow) launches his controversial research study, attempting to create a "psychological vaccine" to defuse these human time bombs, which seem to be going postal at an alarming rate. What is revealed is that almost everyone at this post office is on the brink of insanity. A perverse love triangle involving Oren, Harry Cash (Rob Roy Fitzgerald), and sexy survivor of another postal shoot-out Tammy Skye (Grace Cavanaugh) is about to explode. Postmaster Calhoun (William Long Jr.) is driving the staff nuts by constantly micro-monitoring their bathroom breaks. Something has got to give and it is not the timely delivery of U.S. mail."

Oren starts off as the lead focal point of the movie, and viewers are led to think he's the crazy of the show, until the others are shown to be a bit better at concealing their mental deficiencies. Oren is definitely a nutcase but Harry is just as bad. When the chips were down, Harry was more likely to start shooting than anyone and his rages were fueled by the amorous advances of Tammy (who got off on postal employees who kill-the higher the body count, the more hot she became). This is about as black a comedy as you'll find these days and it'll keep you guessing as to who'll be the one to fire the first shot.

Okay, the technical matters were fair, director Jackson having made a number of small documentaries over the years, and didn't really hurt the show that much. He took some chances with how he composed shots, what he added, and even with his fluid style of writing (he admitted to changing the movie as he filmed it, in order to see if he could make it better). Some of the time, those chances paid off while other times, I came to the conclusion that a bit of judicious editing along with some major re-writes might have gone a long way to making this more than a niche film. It was a niche film in the sense that most people aren't going to appreciate the humor any more than the stereotypes presented with even those who enjoy random violence with the attending gore thinking the writer was a bit in need of psychological help. Is it any wonder that most of the people involved in making the film avoid the director, given some of his comments in the making of feature? (he racked a round in his shotgun when unhappy about the editor's progress, demanded to see Grace's chest, and a host of other things)

This is a tough one to rate since I'm sure it will appeal to a handful of people out there, for all its limitations. While the primary social commentary here was about how crazy people, postal employees in particular, are these days, I think a lot is said about relationships between men & women as well as psychologists with their "save the world attitudes". I'll be generous and give this one a rating of Rent It but be forewarned, it's one of those movies that most people will hate.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The movie was made for a half a million dollars (the director's still paying it off) and looks it with a variety of minor problems but aside from grain and a soft focus at times, it wasn't bad looking. The colors weren't always accurate and there were some artifacts but if you like twisted movies, you'll be willing to overlook these flaws.

Sound: The sound was presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English. I believe it was originally filmed in stereo 2.0 but later remastered in the enhanced format. There was very little separation between the channels (and even that might've been my imagination and some of them were very hollow but not the worst I've heard of late. The music was like the kind you hear on student films (i.e.: public domain) in that it wasn't bad but didn't add much to the content of the film.

Extras: The best extra was a half hour interview, interspersed with clips from the movie, with the director/producer/writer of the movie, Jeffrey Jackson. In it, he describes background information about the movie, including how it nearly bankrupted him, where the premise came from, and even why it didn't receive broader acclaim (it came out about the time the Columbine shootings took place and even film festivals wouldn't touch it). The other extra was the trailer.

Final Thoughts: I'd be lying if I said I didn't find some parts of the movie interesting. That said, I don't think it fully realized its potential in many areas and for all its gory parts, the underlying themes were sound, if skewed. Check this one out if you think black comedy revolving around postal employees going crazy is something you'd like to see. Aside from the stereotypes the director relied on far too often, his faults were about even with his vision, however dark.

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