Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent of Atrocities-Day 7: Otis (2008)

You could be forgiven for having passed up (or never having heard of) this straight to DVD horror comedy, but after reading this post, you will be expected to hunt down a copy of your own, give it a place of honor on your DVD shelf, then buy extra copies for your 9 closest friends. You'd be a fool not to.

Otis is the story of a 40-year old pizza delivery boy who is obsessed with going on the perfect prom date. To that end, he regularly kidnaps high school girls, keeps them locked up in his basement, and forces them to role-play his dream date: Kim. If they don't play along, they get punished. If they do play along, well, we don't exactly find out. But there's a long trail of bodies left behind.

The premise is pretty sick, and Bostin Christopher is beyond creepy in the title role. But it's not creepiness that makes this movie a winner, it's the abyss-black humor. When Otis abducts Riley Lawson (Ashley Johnson), her family finds out where he lives and goes after him.

Illeana Douglas gives the film's standout performance as Riley's mother, whose thirst for revenge tops Otis in depravity. But she doesn't play it as demented, but more matter-of-fact. Sure she's mad as hell and out for blood, but she's always in control.

Her husband (Daniel Stern), on the other hand, is freaking right the fuck out. The two play off each other like the old pros that they are, with Stern a histrionic ball of panic and Douglas a calm, focused psychopath. Add to the mix and overly enthusiastic son, and you've got the hands-down funniest graphic torture scene of all time.

"I've already smashed him in the face with a shovel. I... I hot-wired his rectum!"

And believe me, the scene is brutal. But any discomfort you feel just feeds into your laughter at the dialogue. I don't want to spoil too much of the fun, but here's the best line in the whole movie: "I thought your dad could cut his fingers and toes off and we could blend them into a smoothie and make him drink it." Now imagine that line delivered with a proud smile from Illeana Douglas. Okay, whatever you just imagined wasn't half as funny as her delivery.

Aside from being disturbing, gory, and hilarious, the cool thing about Otis is that despite being the Big Bad, Otis is constantly being outsmarted and manipulated by the girls he abducts. For a movie where women are assaulted and used as playthings by an overgrown manchild, Otis is surprisingly feminist. Riley survives by her wits, manipulating Otis to her advantage and (MINOR SPOILER) manages to escape without anyone's help. She's a final girl on par with Nancy Thompson.

As a character, Otis is equal parts menacing and pathetic. He dons his brother's old football uniform and makes Riley dress as a cheerleader, cheering just for him. Leading up to prom night, he takes her on a series of dates, one involving garden gnomes.

And just look at the dance scene from Otis's dream prom.

Despite her dread at the prospect of certain post-prom activities (read as all-but-certain rape), Riley can hardly suppress a laugh at Otis's expense.

 As a villain, Otis is a fully-formed character rather than a faceless thrill killer. You never come to like the guy, but you can understand him on some level. Then when Riley's ideal suburban family unleashes their domestic variety of Hell, Otis suddenly doesn't look so bad.

In closing, go forth and pick up your copy of Otis, abduct a date, and blend up some smoothies for your garden gnomes. It'll be more fun than the prom.

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