Monday, 24 September 2018

HOLLOW BODY review

Out now on VOD is the story of washed up rock star Jimmy Kleen (David Arquette), coming out of retirement for one more shot at glory with guitarist Scott (Ryan Donowho) and singer Rachel (Allie Gonino) as a new frontwoman for his band. She's beautiful, talented and electrifying on stage, but it may also be her who's leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.



It's hard to pin down exactly what's wrong with Hollow Body, but let's start with the ridiculous set up. Following a bout of crippling stage fright at the first gig for Jimmy's new band, shy, introverted lead singer Rachel and her mother get struck by lightning when leaving the venue. When Rachel survives, she returns to the band a new woman, finding her inner rock goddess to the delight of audiences and potential record executives. But something weird is going on at their venues, with reports of heart attacks happening to people who've been in contact with Rachel and charred corpses piling up.

As well as starring as Jimmy, Arquette also acts as narrator, giving his lines all the gusto Harrison Ford did when he was contractually obliged to provide the voiceover for the original version of Blade Runner. He's possibly going for jaded LA aloofness, but he seems uninterested in trying to add shape to this very strange film. He's much better in person (although he's not the easiest sell as a burnt out rock star, even with the grey hairs he's gained since his role in the Scream franchise) and Jimmy is the central character in the film, but the decision to not put Rachel as the central figure seems like an odd choice, particularly as it only seems to be to maintain a sense of mystery around her and preserve the reveal you know is coming an hour before it does. When the twist that isn't a twist gets revealed as the film enters the final act, you'll be left scratching your head trying to work out why the characters took so long to figure it out, even if it doesn't make a lick of sense.

As Rachel, Allie Gonino makes for an appealing front woman, but post accident the film never really reconciles her character and Gonino isn't given the opportunities to add anything more than surface rock chick cliches. Ryan Donowho's Scott suffers similarly from a lack of development, despite being  given a wife and child and conflict with his feelings for Rachel. There's some chemistry between them, even after her total persona overhaul, but to be truly compelling their story needed more... electricity.

It's also worth noting that the promotional art overstates Luke Wilson's involvement by some degree. He may share equal billing and half the artwork with Arquette, but it's really more of an extended cameo appearance. As the record company mogul who is the key to the band getting signed his role may be quite important, but he's on screen for what must equate to less than five minutes when added together.

It's a Jennifer's Body-esque body horror, but doesn't lean far enough into that aspect of the story to be satisfying. As Rachel becomes a glowy-eyed serial killer I was hoping the story was finally about to find its edge. Rachel could easily have become a bad-ass rock chick looking for retribution and to redress the balance against the men that have objectified and taken advantage of her in the music business, but that commentary is absent or just doesn't land, with her acts of violence instead done self-servingly and without any clear reason.

On the plus side, the band performances and songs are surprisingly decent, and I get the feeling that the film is a lot lower on the budget scale than it would first appear; but in terms of basic storytelling the secret behind the twist should also have a bigger impact on the film than it does, and the whole narrative concludes with a fizzle rather than a bang. There may be a spark of a good idea in there somewhere but ultimately Hollow Body lives up to its name.

Verdict
2/5


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