388 Arletta Avenue

Director:  Randall Cole

Notable Cast: Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner, Devon Sawa

Rating: UR

Review:  A horror movie doesn’t have to be good in order to strike fear.  Sometimes the worst horror movies can be terrifying, even crafted with a thin plot or unrealistic motives.  388 Arletta Avenue falls into said category, a creepily boring entry into both the home invasion genre and first person camera genre.  The audience is given our creeper’s point of view as he sets up hidden cameras around his victim’s house, and from there the cameras take over to observe a cat and mouse type game between psycho and husband.  But watching the prep work wasn’t all that exciting, as we play peeping Tom and listen to heavy breathing from our apparently asthmatic foe.  Not to mention for anyone who has seen ATM, the same lunatic may as well have fled Canada and graduated to family torture instead of small time booths.  Hooded man, no clear reasoning, ending scene featuring the killer plotting his next attack?  Check, check, check.  388 Arletta Avenue attempts to be seedy psychological horror, as our villain literally toys with the family for fun, but characters respond so irrationally it’s a struggle trying not to scream dectective advice.  That said, how can you not be shaken just thinking about a crazed mad man walking about your house with full freedoms while you sleep or go out?  Paranormal Activity had the same lasting effect on me, fearing what it is we cannot see.  Still, 388 Arletta Avenue plays the slow burn card too far and rarely jolts excitement for more than mere seconds, preventing a truly horrifying home-grown experience.  Hide yo kids, Hide yo wife…wait, no, just don’t be an idiot and reveal your hidden spare key to the public.  Seriously?  The flower-pot hanging in your front entrance?  The whole “hiding in plain sight” thing doesn’t work every time…

Young couple James (Stahl) and Amy (Kirshner) reside in a normal suburb at their quaint home addressed 388 Arletta Avenue.  Little do they know a mysterious stalker has started observing them from afar, studying their habits until a way into the house is revealed.  From here, the stalker sets up a series of cameras throughout the house, giving him visuals on all main rooms.  After a fight one night, James comes home from work to find his wife gone and a vague note left behind.  Convinced wrongdoings are afoot, James becomes obsessed with his “missing” wife and finds clues scattered intermittently throughout the day which only push him farther over the edge.  But with no evidence, James is left alone to search for Amy and uncover her true whereabouts.  We know Amy has been abducted based on the stalker’s initial point of view, but unfortunately James does not have the same information.  Persuading police and family members that Amy is in danger will be Jame’s biggest task, but don’t think our stalker hasn’t already taken every detail into consideration…

Alarm clock camera?  Alright, come on, how oblivious do you have to be…

Personally the character of James was the most infuriating aspect of 388 Arletta Avenue, as he played every single part of this plot wrong (as he should to keep the film moving).  Instead of working with his lover’s sister, he rushes her out of the house and acts aggressive towards a woman just wanting to know where her own sister ran off too.  An innocent man has nothing to hide and these actions only made James seem guilty…something obvious he should have noted.  James’ actions keep repeating these conspicuous roots, holding our hand down an obvious path.  Not to mention his persona was insurmountably off-putting, providing an almost anti-hero for us to not root for.  Yes of course you want to see Amy live and maybe some wishing James die, but part of me hated James so much I didn’t really care if he saved her.  His actions were ill-advised and selfish, nothing he did made logical sense for the situation,  random clues were never brought to other people’s attention that could have cleared his name, and he honestly tortured himself more than the stalker even tormented him.  I get the whole punishing a man for taking something special for granted, and watching with enjoyment as he squirms to salvage what he once has.  A life lesson to be learned by all and a hard truth to be swallowed by James: I get the overarching theme.  But to unlock such emotions, a character must at least be presented worthy of redemption to at least encourage our motivation to keep following his journey.  James does not, as he clumsily plays his stalker’s game.

On the plus side though, 388 Arletta Avenue presents some spine tingling cinema verite type suspense.  Watching the stalker stand motionless over James and Amy as they slumber with a false sense of safety sends chills instantaneously.  Or quick cuts of the stalker walking stealthily past a camera as James has his backed turned.  THAT is the stuff that gets me going.  C’mon, everyone has a story where they’re laying their basement and for no reason something falls in the dark, scary adjoining room causing them to bolt directly upstairs and lock the door….err…I mean go investigate the sound like a manly man!  Whatever.  Either way, Cole’s film utilizes such fears and does so with at least a spattering of manageable first person camera use.  But aside from those brief moments, much of the atmosphere is wasted.

Sorry 388 Arletta Avenue, home invasions never felt so drawn out.  And staged.  And emotionless.  Cole’s genre addition ends up tiresome and un-inventive, being another bland “horror” viewing.  What should be sick and twisted only had a handful of memorable scenes, and showcases a forced horror script lacking any remotely realistic flow.  Nick Stahl stars as an unbelievably awful excuse for a man who we follow with little interest as he accuses random people of hiding his missing wife, and ignores any type of help except the cops who he gets angry with.  The only thing Stahl’s character does right is implicate himself, falling directly into the stalker’s hand.  Despite being terrified of the scenario, 388 Arletta Avenue is nothing but a gimmick first person flick.  Just keep your door locked and Cole’s feature wil never, ever get in.  Safety first kids.

Final Rating: 4.5 awful love songs out of 10

Yeah, no thank you!  Guess who’s locking every door in his house from now on.


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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