Friday, October 5, 2012

Ripper 2: Letter From Within (2004)

I knew I was in for a real treat when the opening credits to Ripper 2: Letter From Within included not only two writers for the screenplay, and a third contributing the story, but also this curious credit: "Additional Screenplay by Pat Bermel."  Additional screenplay? They had another script lying around? 

"Hey, we're going to make a bad movie. It took three of us to write it."
"Really? Because I have a script too."
"You do? Is it bad?"
"It's absolutely awful."
"Well, okay, we'll shoot some of that too."
"You will? Thanks."
"Sure. After all, there are a lot of holes in our script, and a lot of stuff that doesn't make any sense or matter. So we're happy to throw your screenplay into the mix."
"Should we check to make sure the stories, or at least the genres are alike?"
"Don't be silly. And in fact, we have two directors on this project, so one of them can be shooting your script, and one can shoot ours, and we'll leave it to the editor to make sense of it all."
"Wow, you must have hired a really phenomenal editor."
Anyway, that's the conversation I was imagining as I watched Ripper 2: Letter From Within, which definitely has a place on my list of the worst movies ever made.  Offhand, I'd say it's probably number three or four on that list. Let me explain...

It opens with a girl who in voice over introduces herself as Jack the Ripper.  Then we go to Molly in an office of an institution, talking with the administrator or head doctor or someone in charge. He tells her they've tried everything (everything being shock treatment and medication), but nothing has worked. He's heard of some new experimental treatment in Europe where they're conducting clinical trials. He stresses that this likely includes procedures that would never be accepted in the United States. He also says that everything would be in her head, that it wouldn't be real.  So she signs the paper and goes.

I'm sure you're thinking what I was thinking: If it's all in her head, then is this just going to be a dream movie?  The answer, and this will save you ninety minutes of your life, is Yes.

So they operate on her head, and she finds herself in some room in the late 1800s. Dr. Weisser (Richard Bremmer), the director of this experimental program, is seated in the room with her. He tells her, "Welcome to your subconscious, Molly."  He tells her she's in an inherited memory, whatever that means. She knows it's not real, but runs away anyway.  And then wakes up in the clinic.  And we get the obligatory introductions of the other patients, such as Erich, whose affliction is being an incredibly dull guitarist. Erich says, "We're all outcasts here. Lara's a pyromaniac. Julia has masochistic tendencies. And Sally, as far as I can tell, anger management issues." Yes, that's a taste of the amazing dialogue produced by that incredible team of writers.

Sally dies in her dream, and dies in reality as well.  (Of course, it's not reality, because nothing really happens in this movie.)  So the doctor takes the patients on a tour of Prague. (Field trips always cheer me up after the death of a friend.) There is a long sequence in an S&M club that has nothing to do with anything, but is the only thing I like in the entire film.  Well, that is to say, there are brief moments in this sequence that I enjoy (like the two chicks riding a masked guy and whipping him).  Perhaps this sequence comes from that additional screenplay ("Oh, yours is a horror script? Mine is fetish film").  But then some mysterious killer chases one of the patients around in the club.  Who cares?  It goes on and on and on.  Some of the the female extras are sexy. But of course none of it is real. Yawn. (By the way, the back of the DVD case tells us the killer is Jack the Ripper. But this film has absolutely nothing to do with the Jack the Ripper story.)

So in the dream, the patients go to the laboratory computers to try to find a way out. Does that make any sense?  No.  So we have shots of them seated at computer terminals, just typing away.  What a boring dream.  This is like watching a fucking holodeck episode from Star Trek.  Except that Star Trek had some decent actors.  The actor who plays Molly is like a dull version of Misty Mundae, the porn star.  If your acting chops and emotional range are less than that of a porn star, you are in serious trouble.  The rest of the cast is worse. (Though these actors really can't be held entirely responsible for their performances in this one.)

Molly is the main character, but the movie spends huge chunks of time away from her, even in the last twenty-five minutes of the film. Maybe these other scenes are from that additional script. Who knows? It doesn't matter, because again nothing actually happens in this film.  The movie ends with Molly waking up in the chair in the office of her original institution. She had imagined the entire thing.  Seriously. The movie ends with her saying the line, "None of it was real." She says it twice. Basically the filmmakers are saying, "Fuck you, audience." And they say it twice.

If you ever have the opportunity to meet any of the writers or directors of this film, you owe it to the film-going community to beat the living shit out of them.  Here are their names: Jonas Quastel (screenwriter, story writer, director), John Sheppard (screenwriter), Evan Tyler (story writer), Pat Bermel (additional screenplay writer), Lloyd Simandl (director, producer).

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