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Columbia/Tri-Star // R // September 7, 2004
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 22, 2004 | E-mail the Author
The Canadian-lensed genre jumble Decoys is set at St. John's College in New Brunswick, home to booze-guzzling freshmen, the Ice Queen pageant, and, he types with an audible gasp, a sorority of blonde sexual predators from the Belt of Orion! Luke (Corey Sevier) is instantly smitten when he stumbles upon Lilly (Stefanie von Pfetten) and her cousin Constance (Kim Poirier) while doing laundry. After heading to their room for a quasi-well-intentioned good deed, he discovers that they're really tentacled creatures from the far-flung reaches of space. He tries to turn to his friends for help -- virginal horndog Roger (Elias Toufexis) and his fawning Cronenberg-fan galpal Alex (Meghan Ory, who is, of course, significantly more attractive than any of the other eyecandy in the movie, though convention demands that Luke be oblivious to her crushing). Roger gets involved with Constance, unaware that the aliens' bizarre mating ritual involves plunging a tentacle down their victims' throats and invariably deep-freezing 'em from the inside-out. Luke is pegged as a suspect in one of the murders and, in the face of all logic, is determined to expose the secret of these intergalactic serial killers. With the doting Alex and a considerably older ex...what? police officer (Nicole Eggert) in tow, the increasingly unhinged Luke steps his efforts from webcam voyeurism to all-out par-broiling.

I could prattle on about some of the excruciatingly bad dialogue, the inconsistent acting, a total cheat of an epilogue, or the fact, Nicole Eggert is completely unrecognizable nowadays, but that's not what bugged me the most about Decoys. Like a lot of horror-comedies, or sci-fi-comedies, or some combination of genres separated by dashes, Decoys' biggest flaw is that it doesn't go far enough in any one direction. There are some pretty good gags scattered throughout -- the lower extremities of one victim are frozen stiff (zing!), a girl with braces is slugged in the face, Luke wakes up to Roger, um, relieving a little tension -- but those sorts of obvious stabs at humor are sparse. Decoys plays it pretty tongue-in-cheek throughout, but it rarely seems to try to get the laughs that sort of approach would suggest. Most of the characters are flat and occasionally grating, and the worst offenders are a detective who tormentingly overuses the nickname "puppy" and a DJ with so much mad flava that he constantly has a set of headphones slung around his neck as he spouts off hip-hop slang that sounds about as authentic as an Aaron Carter CD. I guess the presence of a few annoying characters are in keeping with the horror label, though the lack of gore or any moderately suspenseful sequences...not so much. I mean, I get that this isn't intended to be a gruesome splatter flick, but I guess I've been spoiled by movies like Dead Alive, Evil Dead 2, and Idle Hands that more deftly integrated viscera in with the comedy. There's also a sexual tinge lifted from Canadian expatriate Natasha Henstridge's film debut in Species. That too seems kind of restrained -- there are a couple of boobies, a bare bottom, and some vodka-fueled girl-on-girl action -- but it's all kinda PG-13 to me aside from some of Roger's reactions during his lavatory lovin'. Decoys incorporates elements of comedy, horror, sci-fi, and late night Cinemax, but it doesn't take advantage of any of those genres effectively enough to amount to much. I really liked Decoys when it went spastic, particularly Luke's climactic flame-throwing assault on the Pi Alpha Omega house, which includes a line of dialogue so indescribably brilliant that I felt obligated to record it and play it over and over again. If Decoys were an hour and a half of moments like that, this would be an embarrassingly, gushingly positive review, but unfortunately... apparently a sequel is already in the pipeline, and maybe Matthew Hastings and company will nail it the second time around.

Video: As flawed as Decoys the movie may be, its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation on DVD is damn near perfect. It's sharp, detailed, and free of any noticeable blemishes. The palette is colorful when given the opportunity, and detail holds up remarkably well even in the most dimly-lit sequences. No visible compression artifacts, no significant background noise, no ringing around edges, and its high-definition video origins mean no specks or flecks. Really, there's nothing for me to waste entire paragraphs nitpicking. Very nicely done. Oh, I feel obligated to note that even though the movie was shot on HD video, it has a very film-like appearance and doesn't look like some DV-cam cheapie. The quality of both the cinematography and special effects further punch up the production values.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, encoded at a bitrate of 448Kbps, is pretty straightforward. The surrounds are primarily used to reinforce the score and the soundtrack, with some chittering popping up in the brief kill sequences alongside some scattered use with microphones and police cruisers skidding onto the scene. There's not much going on in the lower frequencies either. Dialogue comes through pretty well, though some of the shouted dialogue sounded a little bit edgy. It's an okay mix, but it sounds more like it was geared towards stereo than six discrete channels. The disc also includes both closed captions and English subtitles.

Supplements: "Decoys: Behind the Scenes" (21:25) was shot for cable as kind of a promotional tool, so there are a bunch of lengthy clips from the movie and extended descriptions of the plot and various characters. In between its promotional obligations, the featurette notes how the project came together, the process of casting throughout Canada, and the mix of special effects and visual effects. The Canadian release apparently includes additional supplements like deleted scenes and an extended outtake reel, but those didn't make the trip stateside. Nope, the only other extras on this disc are a bunch of previews, including clips for Asylum of the Damned, Boa vs. Python, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, Hellboy, Kaena: The Prophecy, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, and Everquest II.

Conclusion: Decoys tries to juggle a bunch of different genres but never manages to master any of 'em. Though there are some bits I liked -- the almost sympathetic nature of the aliens and Luke's not-so-sympathetic retaliation, f'r instance -- but the end result is a squarely okay movie that's too flawed to really recommend. Rent it if you wanna see it.
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