Thursday, October 16, 2008


You want stiff odds? How about making it past the fifteen-minute mark of this noisome shot-on-video pseudo-comedy without ejecting the DVD in disgust. This 2004 feature from director Caleb Allen is the cinematic equivalent of a blaring car alarm that won't shut off. As stupid as it is obnoxious, STIFF ODDS is an enticing as a trip to a crowded Wal-Mart on a busy weekend.

Any movie that kicks off with a three-minute static two-shot of nimrod buddies blathering is going to be trouble, and STIFF ODDS lives up to its promise. Not much about the movie is clear--something about the Grim Reaper reviving three zombies to help settle a gambling debt--because the movie flits about like a depraved hyperactive child, hoping that if it moves frantically enough it'll be mistaken for a real story. This dumb, dumb, dumb film falls prey to the ever-present DIY pitfall of setting WAY too much of the movie in unending, boring conversation, though the alternative is hardly better; replacing genuine action with juvenile flailing and comedy with asinine behavior, it quickly becomes an exhausting experience. (Allen tries livening things up with cheap, "trippy" special effects, but abandons this technique early on--the only irritating thing he gives up.) Considering the out-putting soundtrack of grating music and sound effects, such as a baby crying, I wonder if Allen was deliberately making an annoying film, and if so, why?

Performances consist of actors out-screeching each other, so we'll ignore them, but Gabe Strachota stands out as a fairly creepy, red-skinned Reaper (so what if he's something out of Marilyn Manson's wet dreams, at least he's not your standard Hooded Dude with a Scythe); with better execution or a different film he might've worked, but he's as shrill and piercing as the rest of the cast.

I'd rather have a couple of casino goons work on my kneecaps than subject myself to STIFF ODDS again.

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