Review Date: October 15, 2011
Released by: Celebrity Video Distribution
Release date: 6/16/2009
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Okay aspiring filmmakers, your lesson for today is how to get distribution for your movie by hiring a known actor in a small role. Yes, yes, I know, you find the idea of having to do that annoying, perhaps even insulting. But the reality is that there is an enormous glut of product out there and one of the easiest ways to get it out there is to have a name on the cover that is recognizable to people up and down the distribution chain, from managers at home video companies to product buyers at chains like Best Buy. Although this is less important to some film genres - horror and softcore in particular come to mind Ė many filmmakers find that the difference between getting crappy distribution or no distribution at all comes down to whether or not they have some reasonably famous name in the credits. Iíve seen good films, films that were in some cases very good, go without distribution because they lacked such a cast member, and Iíve seen films that werenít quite so good get out into the market in some form because they did have such a person in their cast. The director of todayís reviewed film didnít do much right when he made it, but he did have the foresight to put one of the lesser Baldwin brothers in his cast, in a villainous role that likely took no more than a few days to shoot. His presence adds very little to the overall quality of Iíll Be There With You
, but itís probably one of the only reasons that his film is even available to review on DVD.
Aki (Akihiro Kitamura
) is a Japanese man living in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Annie (Adarsha Benjamin
). Although he loves her, he is also very unsure of whether he wants to be with her for the rest of his life, a decision that he will have to make shortly, since his visa is almost expired and he will soon have to go back to Japan unless he decides to marry her and get a green card. As the film opens, Aki and Annie are planning on taking a weekend vacation to a ranch outside San Diego. Tagging along on this trip are their friends John (Christopher Estes
), Yabu (Daisuke Yabuchi
), Steven (Chris Mirosevic
) and Jill (Elisabeth Donaldson
). The ranch is owned by a friend of Akiís named Constantine (Daniel Baldwin
), an older man who seems to have a strange and somewhat sinister attraction to Jill.
The first night at the ranch, Aki, Stephen and Yabu decide to drive into the city to check out a local night club and meet up with some other friends of theirs, leaving Jill, Annie, John and Constantine alone together. Naturally all hell starts to break loose after they leave, with Constantine raping Jill and John similarly forcing himself on Annie. The two girls fight off their attackers and barricade themselves inside one of the ranchís buildings, but the assailants are still waiting for them outside. Meanwhile, at the night club, Aki has caught the attention of an attractive woman named Kirsten (Michelle Lawrence
). He goes home with her, leaving Yabu, Steven and their other friends to go back to the ranch by themselves.
On the way back to the ranch they stop to help some stranded motorists, who turn out to be escaped patients from a local mental institution. Their leader has religious delusions and believes that by killing people he is serving a higher purpose that will get him and his compatriots into heaven. They kill the surplus friend characters and take Steven and Yabu hostage, forcing them to drive them to the ranch so they will have a place to hide. With these psychos en route, and with the mad Constantine and John at the ranch terrorizing the women, the only hope for our protagonists seems to be Aki, who might yet be able to save the day if he doesnít get too busy having sex with Kirsten...
Iíll Be There With You
was written and directed by its star, Akihiro Kitamura, a Japanese immigrant who achieved a measure of visibility after appearing in The Human Centipede
in 2009. This is his second feature as a director, and perhaps the most interesting thing about it Ė and perhaps its biggest flaw Ė is that as a film it does not fit into any one particular genre. Yes itís a horror movie, yet itís also a drama, a love story, a crime tale and a philosophical take on love and relationships. It borrows from many other movies, yet in the end it is unlike anything else Iíve ever seen before. So while it is unique, it is also obvious that Kitamura did not even know what his own movie was supposed to be about, and as a result Iíll Be There With You
is a difficult film to sit through.
This is a movie where the entire cast Ė save for one minor supporting character Ė is dead by the end of the picture. No, Iím not spoiling anything for you by telling you that. Kitamura spoils it himself when his opening scene shows Constantineís ranch crawling with police, examining a line of dead bodies, dead bodies which are helpfully identified by pop-up captions which let you know exactly which dead character youíre looking at. Depending on how you look at it, this is either an incredibly ballsy or an incredibly dumb move on the directorís part, and my vote goes for dumb. Because Iíll Be There With You
does not belong to any one genre, there are no genre conventions that have to be obeyed or subverted, which would lend an element of unpredictability to the events that we are seeing, if not for the fact that we already know that all the main characters are going to die. That there are some surprises that come with their deaths is irrelevant, because so many of the characters are unlikeable and unsympathetic to begin with, the audience has absolutely no reason to become attached to them, or to feel anything for them when they meet their fates. The fact that Aki so willingly cheats on his girlfriend after relatively little temptation sours us on him and his plight, and when he dies at the end weíre not sad, weíre saying good riddance.
After losing my interest in the opening ten minutes, the film briefly regained it when the escaped mental patients began converging on the ranch where Constantine was at that moment terrorizing the female characters. The promise of three homicidal, religious fanatic mental patients squaring off against Daniel Baldwinís sexually deviant character is an idea that drips with 42nd Street brilliance. Like Frankenstein meeting the wolf man (or, for that matter, the space monster), for a brief moment it seems that fate is conspiring to bring two powerful forces together for an epic confrontation, and had this movie been made by Al Adamson or Cirio H. Santiago in the 1970ís, thatís probably what would have happened. But again, not fitting into any one genre means the expectations of any one genre are voided, and alas, the interaction between Constantine and mental patients is brief and entirely unmemorable. Neither Constantine nor the patients have big enough roles to even be considered proper villains, even though both do some pretty nasty and vile things with their brief appearances.
Movies like Iíll Be There With You
are always tricky to write about. Iíve gotten a number of these titles as screeners, and Iím understandably wary whenever a new one shows up. I never know what Iím going to get when I pop the disc into my player. Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise, sometimes I get utter trash. But most of the time I seem to get movies that, in the end, Iím utterly indifferent to, which is exactly what my final reaction to this one was. Itís not good, but itís not so terrible that it is either funny or unwatchable. But Akihiro Kitamura just doesnít know what his own movie is supposed to be about, and he shouldnít have expected his audience to be able to figure it out for him.
Iíll Be There With You
is presented in a progressive scan 1.85:1 transfer that is not enhanced for 16x9 displays. The quality on display here is extremely lacking for a recent movie, even a low budget one. Colors are decent, with acceptable flesh tones and deep, dark blacks, but the non-anamorphic image otherwise looks flat, soft and dull. Motion and compression artifacts can be seen frequently and, even though the majority of the production was shot on film, it generally has an ugly video-like sheen to it.
The audio on this release isnít anything special, either. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is a mix of English and Japanese, and is not easy to listen to thanks to clumsy sound mixing that renders everything either too loud or too quiet. Music overwhelms dialogue, and dialogue changes from clear and intelligible to muffled or overly quiet from scene to scene, and sometimes even within scenes (in one early scene at the party, the volume level on Annieís dialogue keeps shifting, sounding loud in shots where the camera is pointed at her and quiet in shots where the camera is on other actors). Both Akihiro Kitamura and Daisuke Yabuchi have thick Japanese accents, and thanks to the mixing their dialogue is almost incomprehensible at times.
The Japanese dialogue features burned-in English subtitles that are too small and light to be easily read.
Only two extras are included. The first is a thirty-six minute making-of featurette, shot on a low quality consumer-grade video camera. Less of an actual documentary and more of a random collection of behind-the-scenes footage, this featurette wears out its welcome very quickly. There is no narrative structure to it, and while some of the footage is interesting, it runs on for far, far too long, and badly needed a professional editor to pare it down. Ten minutes of something like this is fine, but when it runs on for more than a half an hour itís simply boring.
A seven minute still gallery is also included, and like the making-of featurette, it also is far too long.
Iíll Be There With You
is a messy, missed opportunity of a movie, one that offers very little in the way of scares, suspense, story or drama. This release from Celebrity Video Distribution does this marginal production no favors, with barely adequate audio and video quality and weak supplements. This disc and this movie are both to be avoided.
Movie Ė C-
Image Quality Ė C-
Sound Ė C-
Supplements Ė C
- Running Time Ė 1 hour 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- Chapter Stops
- 1 Disc
- English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo
- Burned-in English subtitles
- ďMaking-ofĒ featurette
- Stills gallery