January 5th, 2014

EFFECTS (1980) ** ½

Joe (Day of the Dead) Pilato stars as a cameraman/special effects artist who is working on a low budget movie in Pittsburgh. He has to deal with some asshole crew members (among them, Tom Savani) and an unlikeable director (John Harrison, director of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie), but finds friendship with a cute gaffer (Susan Chapek). One night after some casual drug use, the director shows Joe what he believes to be a snuff film, and it visibly upsets him. The next day, Joe reports to work and…

It’s pretty hard to discuss Effects without having to spoil the ending. So if you don’t want to the movie spoiled for you, back out now. Are you still with me? Okay.

I really enjoyed Effects up to a point. I loved how director Dusty Nelson got you wrapped up in the minutia of low budget filmmaking. Having been on a few film sets before, a lot of what I saw rang true. In fact, once the “plot” involving snuff films kicks in (about an hour into the movie), it actually kinda ruins everything.

Yes, Pilato finds himself in the middle of snuff movie makers. And yes, he turns out to be the unwitting star of the picture. This reveal could’ve worked, but the way Nelson handles it is clumsy and the chase scene throughout the woods runs on way too long. Plus, the final stinger ends things too abruptly and concludes the movie on an awkward note.

However, Pilato is the reason to see it. His performance is miles removed from his legendary turn in Day of the Dead. He’s quiet and timid in this film, and is quite winning as an everyday schmo who’s just trying to get a film in the can. And while the end sequences don’t really work, Pilato is nevertheless very good in them.

AKA: Death’s Director. AKA: The Manipulator.