Friday, August 27, 2010

New on Blu: Dorian Gray

| by Allan Stackhouse |

I can't seem to pick any winners this week. Dorian Gray is another remade for modern audiences film whose story doesn't stand the test of time. Maybe in 1890, the story seemed fresh and shocking but today it is antiquated and boring. I chose to rent this and Repo Men and unfortunately neither could hold my interest.

Even if you enjoy period pieces, which I do not, I do not think you will enjoy this film. And if you're just interested in watching Ben Barnes for two hours, there isn't enough story to enjoy him in. The decay of Dorian's youth and character has no visual or narrative appeal. So this guy can't age, so f*cking what? The constant dialogue, which was not at all interesting, felt like I was watching the recording of a play. Conversation after conversation takes place over pretentious this and pretentious that.

The film attempts to break up the dialogue by over-sexualizing Dorian's character, one change to modernize the film. That doesn't aid the film in making it more interesting; if anything, it provides a momentary distraction to the fact that nothing is actually happening. The ambiguity of Dorian's sexuality might appear interesting on paper but it is not on film, especially for today's audiences. So he's making out with a guy, big deal. The orgy scenes make this nothing more than a stuffy soft core porn.

The curse on Dorian is far too ambiguous to establish itself as the main conflict of the film. That Lord Henry Watton inadvertently sold Dorian's soul while having a simple conversation with him is not believable in the least. This was one key opportunity for the screenwriter to give flesh to the key event that sets up the rest of the film. I'm sure it's a stretch in the book and for no one, in over one hundred years, to be able to flesh out this particular event that is supposed to set the pace for the rest of the film is absolutely ridiculous. For something like that to just slip through the cracks after rewrite after rewrite is incredibly frustrating.

The special effects in this film were abhorrent. The fake blood looked like red water. Call me an expert on blood but obviously fake blood is pathetic. It is the one thing in a film that can communicate horror and violence to the viewer and for it to look so awful is so substandard, especially today. I can walk to any Halloween store and buy a bottle of fake blood or I could just order some online.

I suppose one of the film's redeeming qualities is Ben Barnes' physical acting. When Dorian first arrives in London, Ben's shoulders are hunched forward, conveying his shyness and hesitancy to meet these interesting strangers. His body language is less noticeable in the scenes after Dorian sells his soul, relying on nudity to fill the gap left by the lack of story. Regarding the other elements in this film, the cinematography looked very direct-to-dvdish. The costumes were decent and the interior lighting could have used a lot of work.

After seeing this, I honestly don't know if gothic horror can work for today's audiences. If Dorian is an example of one that is supposed to work, I'd bet that it's over for gothic horror. My taste in horror doesn't sway to Jason or Freddy but I certainly did not find this film enjoyable in any respect. Perhaps it's fit for sixth graders learning about gothic horror but it is definitely not fit for wide audiences.

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