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Bob Doto [Film Festival 11.26.09] movie review horror thriller romance vampires

Year: 2009
Directors: James Spanos
Writers: James Spanos
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 5 out of 10

I had high hopes for Jim Spanos’ MAIDENHEAD. The trailer was great. The poster was eerily quaint. The lead, Martin, (played by AJ Bowen) was in The Signal, a film that gets a lot of good press around here. I thought this was going to be a done deal, since, to me everything about MAIDENHEAD is amazing, wonderful, and engaging. Everything, that is, except for the film itself.

MAIDENHEAD is a mopey lounge music backed tale of a sorry daddy’s boy who drains pints of blood from conked out virgins in order to satiate the cravings of his bed-ridden vampiric father. Sound’s crazy, right? Sure, but in the end this wacky wild zany storyline isn’t enough to keep the film from being straight up boring. I mean, like, I-was-falling-asleep boring.

I hate to judge a film’s qualities against my ability to stay awake. Any number of factors could play into my mental state when I go see a film. I could have stayed up late the night before. Maybe I downed a whole pizza before I arrived. But the truth is, I’ve sat through some long ass nothin’ doin’ genre bending experiments and had an easier time staying engaged. Hell, I could relate to Stan Brakhage’s inkblots more intimately than to the characters in MAIDENHEAD.

For instance, when Martin is busy being clumsily suave in order to pick up fresh meat for daddy, I’m thinking: why is his suit so nice? It’s nicer than any suit I own. He must have style, right? You don’t just get style, you earn it. If you’ve earned it, than why are you still wrapped up like a baby-baby in your dad’s biz? It just doesn’t add up. A nice suit and tie (with cool hair and sunglasses) means you’ve ventured out into the world. You’ve seen things. If that’s you, then why are you in this predicament? Too much work for me to figure out.

Then there’s Meredith, the uber-nerdish first woman we’re introduced to. I mean…her character is a caricature of other characters from other movies that contain nerdish characters that I already didn’t care about. She’s about four times removed from a character I didn’t want to meet in the first case. So when she dresses up all sexy to win the love of the man she unknowingly let drain her body of blood you’ve already lost me. I don’t care what happens to the two of them, or if she finds out what’s really going on.

The fact is you can’t just rely on a gnarly plotline to carry a film. You’ve got to build something, destroy something, unpack something, or even do nothing something, but you can’t just opt out and give in. You’ve got to commit once you start. If you’ve got characters, develop them. If you’ve got a deadpan lead, lets make him human. You don’t have do it in some traditional way, but you have to do something with what you’ve got, otherwise your characters just end up being talking heads like everyone else.

The thing about characters you could care less about is that it’s like the awfulness of being stuck within the vortex of a one-sided cell phone conversation. You don’t care about the person’s story, and yet you keep being told more and more about it. it seems to never end. MAIDENHEAD seemed to never end while the characters acted more like stand-ins set up only to give the geometry of the shots depth.

The shots, however, were pretty stunning. Sunny blown out Christian lawns sparkle in this film and are matched only by the handling of vampire dad’s voice, the sound of which can only be described as a twisted underwater barge hull amplified backwards through the throat of a disemboweled lion. It was troubling and even more disturbing to have to experience over and over again.

Aside from that, however, nothin’ much doin’.

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

"vampire dad’s voice, the sound of which can only bedescribed as a twisted underwater barge hull amplified backwards through the throat of a disemboweled lion."

That sounds like some intense sound design.


Bob Doto (12 years ago) Reply

Yeah. It was intense.


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

i love this review. epic. and the suit cost 29 dollars. from target. never responded to a review before, but in the spirit of fairness, i'll say that Martin was putting on a costume that he mistakenly believed made him appear normal. clearly put him apart, because he's a misanthrope, and has no idea how to operate in society.
though i should also say that being called boring is quite possibly the highest compliment you could pay to an actor. i'll take it all day. cheers, mate!
a.j. bowen


Bob Doto (12 years ago) Reply

"and the suit cost 29 dollars. from target."

Says quite a bit about Target, I suppose. Irregardless, the suit was used in a self-aware manner. The way it fit. The intentional (if subconscious) tight-knot of the tie. I used to be a mod and ride a Lambretta. I know the difference between when someone knows how to wear a suit and when someone is awkwardly trying to fit in. You, my friend, (or your stylist) know how to way a suit. That's a good thing.

"that Martin was putting on a costume that he mistakenly believed made him appear normal. clearly put him apart"

Setting aside a discussion about what Martin was doing, since it's impossible to determine in any really air-tight way, I'd say Martin's supposed appropriated look wasn't a mistake, since it worked quite nicely for him. He was able to achieve his weekly goal/quota. Whether it allowed him to be normal or stand out, his task was get-done-able. It worked.

"being called boring is quite possibly the highest compliment you could pay to an actor."

Compliment or not, that clearly wasn't directed at you or the actors in general. It was directed at the piece as a whole. Not the most astute review, but an honest one.

Bob Doto


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

hey man, I'm a big boy-honestly didn't mind your opinion. I always appreciate honesty. just dug what you had to say. win some, lose some. regardless, cheers to you, and yours. happy holidays man.


Bob Doto (12 years ago) Reply

Ok cool. I asked like five people: Is he being pissy? We reread and reread and couldn't tell, so I threw something back somewhere in the measured middle.

All the best!

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