[box cover]

Wicked

Wicked is one mixed-up movie. The 1998 chiller can't decide if it's a campy horror flick, a stylish thriller, or a parody of itself a la Scream. If any of its three personalities were any good, that might be okay, but as it is, it's a schizophrenic flick that should be strait-jacketed and locked away in solitary where it can't do anyone any harm. Current flavor-of-the-month Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance, 10 Things I Hate About You) stars, which is probably why this movie — never theatrically released outside of Sundance — arrived on home video in August 2001. Stiles plays Ellie Christianson, an intense, quick-tempered teenager with an unnatural affection for her milquetoast father, Ben (William R. Moses, in a whatever-happened-to-him? role). To give Stiles credit, she vamps her way through the film fairly convincingly — it's not her fault that her character is a one-note weirdo with an Electra/June Cleaver complex. When Ellie's shrill, philandering mom, Karen (Chelsea Field), gets bludgeoned to death, the movie tries to keep you guessing as to who did the deed, but one glance at the DVD keep-case and promotional write-up gives that away (yup, Ellie did it), so the film isn't much of a mystery — or all that thrilling. The parody and camp enter the picture in the form of Detective Boland (Michael Parks), a suspicious, chain-smoking tough guy who decides scuzzy neighbor Lawson (Patrick Muldoon) is the guilty party because he was having an affair with Karen. Boland is so ridiculously dogged and hard-boiled that it's impossible to take him seriously. You'd like to think that all that was intentional, but given the tone of the rest of the movie, it's pretty doubtful. The one thing Wicked has going for it is its stylized art direction; the Christiansons' stark suburban neighborhood is scarier and more desolate than most haunted houses. Columbia TriStar's DVD is a nice showcase for that aspect of the film — the digitally mastered anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong and true to the movie's palette of bright primary colors. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (also digitally mastered) are good, too; subtitle options include English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. The disc doesn't offer much in the way of special features — just filmographies for Stiles, Muldoon, and director Michael Steinberg and trailers for Wicked and other Columbia movies — but that's not unexpected for this kind of release. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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