This would normally be a good time to acquaint everyone with Lindsay Lohan’s strange journey from spunky child star, to full blown comedic hottie, to trashy tramp. But such tales exhaust me, and this movie is exhausting enough on its own. If you’re interested in the full tragic tale, try Wikipedia, but suffice to say that she was arrested during the publicity tour for this flick, lending a certain overtone of sleaze to her first “sexy” role, which was already pretty sleazy to begin with.
This flick also followed a string of critical flops on her resume since becoming a leading lady — Herbie: Fully Loaded (in which her now famous bosoms were digitally reduced to spare children the hideous sight of cleavage), Just My Luck (a romantic comedy almost as absurd as I Know Who Killed Me), and Georgia Rule (in which she portrayed Jane Fonda’s granddaughter).
And so: this mess, which cost a mere $12 million, and yet didn’t even manage to gross $10 million worldwide in theatres
Ominous music plays under the view of a neon reflection slowly becoming less rippled in a body of water. A laconic male voice starts what I think might be a rap, but sounds more like a 15-year-old boy who started singing but forgot to sing, something about seeing a house inside a TV inside a head. It’s not important. What’s important is the shots of the neon sign, which belongs to one of those movie strip clubs with a gaudy neon rendition of a nekkid lady, the kind that hardly ever appear in real life, but grace every strip club in the Hollywood world since Porky’s.
Significantly, the stripper’s leg, which is supposed to blink from one position to another, merely appears and fades away. It’s blue. Blue, you see, is the Most Important Colorâ„¢ for the director. You could have a drinking game in which people take a shot whenever something significant is blue in the movie, but everyone in your house would be dead of alcohol poisoning by the twenty-minute mark, so if you decide to play that game, be sure to pin a note to everyone’s chest first that says “I Know What Killed Me.” It will make the police investigation ever so much easier.
Now, I’m prone to exaggeration, so you may not believe me about the drinking game and attempt it anyway. I’m serious. You could die. I will type (MIC) every time you’d have to drink, right here in this review, and you’ll see what a dangerous movie this is to drinking gamers’ health.
Flashing red dots accompany Lindsay Lohan’s name, and lo she appears at the parting of a curtain, already looking confused and scared and high on oxycontin. I think the red dots are supposed to be water droplets on the camera lens reflecting the light of the dance stage, which is a bit strange. Is it important that the camera got wet? How did it get wet? Did the director know it was wet? Was the crew playing with the camera in the sprinklers outside before the scene began, as they waited for Lohan to emerge from whatever coma she’d put herself into this time? It must have affected the camera’s operation, whatever it was, because the focus comes and goes in a dreary fashion, a trick, like many in this film, that comes across more as carelessness than artistry.
Lohan, in case you were wondering, is dressed in red lingerie with red Audrey Hepburn gloves on. (“I thought you said blue was the pervasive color!” Simmer down, parenthesis.) She makes her way to a pole and walks around it, tossing her hair. This is shown in slow motion, to accentuate the feeling of boredom and unsexiness—I mean, lust and sultriness. Yeah. That’s it.
We get obligatory shots of the unsmiling patrons (would you be happy if this was the ‘dancing’ you were treated to?), which also feature obligatory boobs from beheaded extras working the crowd. Apparently, this is the kind of strip club where the dancer on stage stays clothed, and the cocktail waitresses in the crowd wander about naked. Interesting business plan.
Actually, as Lohan continues to walk very slowly about in her nightie and occasionally squat down and stand up as if she can’t decide whether or not to poop, it’s worth having a brief discursion on this particular genus of movie strip club. Hollywood has a vehement love-hate relationship with strip joints: they love the opportunity to parade women’s bodies around with impunity, but hate the frank and sometimes unsexy fact of constant nudity.
In real strip clubs (in case you need the education), the outfits generally stay on for all of sixty seconds, and the dances are choreographed for maximum viewage of the important naughty bits, accompanied by lots of writhing and leg spreading. Meanwhile, the non-dancing strippers are usually sitting near the bar chatting with each other while wearing bikinis or less, or sliding across the laps of the various patrons.
In movie strip clubs, the dancers perform long and slow numbers in complicated lingerie, with perhaps a brief flourish of nudity at the end, and the choreography involves much hair tossing and walking up and down the runway, sort of like a Victoria’s Secret fashion show with bad lighting, but the strippers in the crowd are invariably topless and wandering about with drinks, as if the bus for a Las Vegas showgirl troupe broke down and all the dancers needed to make some extra cash to get it fixed.
The reason for this dichotomy between reality and fiction is simple: directors want to put their main actress on stage, and actresses, once they get big enough to be leads, generally (and rightly) frown upon the necessary physical exploitation involved in real strip club pole dancing. In many cases, the movie ‘strippers’ never strip at all, a fact which only “Planet Terror” has ever bothered to explain—Rose McGowan insists she’s a go-go dancer, not a stripper. In recent memory alone, we have Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Salma Hayek, and now Lindsay Lohan all portraying this special breed of non-stripping stripper. The movie patrons never seem to mind, of course, even though they’d be screaming bloody murder at a real place (or more likely, not there at all—who would go to these clubs?).
This all makes sense, of course, but has led to some strange notions of pole dancing in popular culture, to the point that pole dancing classes are now popular at fitness clubs, and young women who probably have never set foot inside a strip joint think of it more as a dancing technique than the gritty, exploitative act that it is.
But let’s get back to Lohan, who looks comically inept in this role. At one point, the slow and pathetic song cuts away to make room for some lame jazzy soundtrack, and as Lohan slides her hand down the pole for one of those squat manuevers, a trail of blood follows it, and weird Children of the Corn whispers can be heard. In case you think the blood is coming from Lohan, a fat drop of the stuff oozes down from the top of the pole, so I can only imagine that a barbarian invader has been freshly piked atop it, and that this particular strip joint is at the gates of a medieval city ruled by a ruthless and cold-hearted patrician.
We fade to a hallway in a high school. It’s tiled (MIC). Lohan’s voice takes over the soundtrack, and we are treated to an example of her character’s third-worst Informed Attribute: her writing. I’ll share some, and you’ll wonder how she could possibly have two worse Informed Attributes.
“She knew a trick. She knew how to turn herself into a movie, and watch things happen. Not to her, but to a girl who looked just like her. Was she the runaway, with everything she owned in a ratty old backpack? Or, was she watching a movie about a hitchhiking runaway on a lonely highway? A truck slowed, till the girl squinted in his headlights. But one good look at her, and the trucker couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She didn’t even have the strength to curse him as she choked on the dust of his spinning wheels.”
The end and brava, Miss Thing! That’s a masterpiece of description if I ever heard one.
Lohan is wearing glasses now, and a blue top (MIC). It’s impossible, from the look we get at the classroom and students, to determine if she is a senior in high school or underclassman in college, a problem that never quite resolves itself throughout the movie. The clues mostly point to high school, but everyone looks so old. The very next shot, panning across the campus, shows a large quad with footpaths, much more like a college. We hear piano playing, and the camera zooms in on the main character’s house, a mansion, naturally. A pickup truck (MIC) in incongruously parked outside. We hear, and then see, the gardener—a young man with an angry expression—snipping rose bushes. He’s the killer! No, wait, it’s the butler!
A stunt double is playing the piano inside, and after a few brief looks at the actual craft of playing piano, we cut to Lohan looking confused and bored and high on oxycontin. She glimpses out the window, where the gardener in a blue shirt (MIC) waves, and she smiles, er, coyly. This distraction is disastrous, however, as she suddenly loses her place and ceases playing. She turns to apologize to her piano teacher, who is standing behind her with his fist to his chin like the Thinker. He’s wearing tan, so obviously he’s not the killer.
He exposits both her name (Aubrey, uck) and the fact that the next young artist competition is coming up. This, I believe, is a competition for young artists. The best one gets a year’s supply of meat. He tells her to watch his right hand, which drifts to the keys with an artistic flair. He’s wearing a ring (MIC!!) that looks like it is made of candy and came out of a 25-cent vending machine in a little plastic bubble. He plays a ditty that involves no crossovers or movement from the octave, and then says to her, “You see how easy?” Well, yeah dude, that’s pretty much the definition of an easy phrase. Let’s see you one-hand some Mendhelsson before you get all arrogant about your great talent.
Aubrey begins a nervous speech about how she doesn’t want to play piano anymore, saying she wants to concentrate all of her efforts into writing. Since her previously-shown effort exemplified the vocabulary of a third-grader, this might be a wise choice. But the teacher is having none of it, telling us she has a gift—this becoming her fourth-most ridiculous Informed Attribute then, the top two are still to come—and that “you’ve already won the young artist competition. How much more validation do you need?” Wait, I thought the competition was still in the future. Does one have to win the young artists competition twice? Forget validation: how much more meat does she need?
Cut to the teacher driving away in a car (MIC) and then, for no reason, one of those hideous hairless cats comes prancing down a staircase. Its collar is blue (MIC). Aubrey says hi.
Once again, I’d like to point out that these MICs aren’t subtle. (Nor infrequent: that’s eight in the first five minutes, despite an extended “red” sequence at the strip joint.) It’s like the director sat down with the DP before shooting started and asked, “What can we do to slap the audience across the face every time something is blue? Is slapping enough? Perhaps we could accomplish the visual equivalent of an icepick to the temple? Is that possible?”
The soundtrack begins playing a tune by Architecture in Helsinki, which sounds very out of place both for its high quality and upbeat tempo. They’re one of my favorite bands, so allow me to wince. Can we add a musical corollary to the Embarrassed Actor roster? Aubrey is in her room—which is naturally in a well-appointed loft-type space, because rich movie kids always live in the bizarre corners of their tremendous houses.
As she types on her laptop (Jabootu only knows what horrors of fiction are going on there) the camera slides across a folder (MIC). She picks a yellow post-it note off the wall—it was among several—and places it on her desk, I guess because she’s nearsighted? And who writes like that? I know movies like to show all writers as crazed scatterbrains who cover their walls with sticky notes that can be moved around, but I’ve been a writer my whole life, I’ve worked and studied with writers, and I’ve never known anybody who employs this technique. It’s not like plots are modular, and you can just pluck scenes and shuffle them around at random. I can see how this scribbles-on-notes method of organizing sequence could come in handy in screenwriting, where the scenes are more open to back-and-forth cutting, but fiction doesn’t really work that way in my experience. A suspicion begins forming in my head that the screenwriter knows nothing about nothing.
“She always felt like half a person. Half a person with half a soul. Sometimes, if she dreamed hard enough, she could bring the two halves together.” (iPod, MIC) “She always woke to the same feelings of loneliness and loss.” At this point, we fade out of the terror that is Aubrey’s writing and into the back of her head, where it is very dark.
Back to the high school/college campus, where a giant fountain dominates the courtyard. A boy walks up to Aubrey with a rose, and damned if it’s not electric blue (MIC to the max). She asks where he found it, and he claims he just passed a place on the street where blue roses grow. The best part is, in close-up (and especially when it was on the big screen), the rose is obviously silk. Because it’s the law of symbols, she pricks her finger on it. Amazingly, her blood is red. The camera loses interest and pans away to a college-style noticeboard with bulletins on it.
We hear an awful scream, and then watch the by-now clichÃ© Flock of Reporters ascend a courthouse staircase while peppering questions at an old man with a beard. He looks like Santa, but they call him Sheriff, so let’s go with that. “Please,” he says. “We have one dead girl, and you people are talking about serial killers. You people astound me.” Yes, that is quite a leap. What’s the point of that exchange? Did the screenwriter just argue with himself about whether or not to make this the first murder of the screenplay, and forget to smooth that out? And who died?
Doesn’t matter. Back to the high college, where an impossibly young teacher is overseeing the dissection of worms (okay, it has to be high school, and freshman year at that). The students are all wearing medical gloves (MIC). Aubrey’s boy is looking through his microscope while she sits and does nothing. He runs his gloved hand up her thigh, but she stops him, saying, “Is that all I am to you? Just something to relax you before the game?”
A student asks if cutting a worm in half will make two worms. The teacher says that’s a myth. Well, sort of. Worms do regenerate their tails, so depending on where you make the cut, you’re like to end up with one live worm and one dead piece of worm. Kind of like how if you randomly chop up scenes you filmed, you’ll end up with one long slimy movie and one dead audience.
Boyfriend starts telling Aubrey that he’s falling in love with her, which surprises her a bit. As they argue, the teacher walks up and asks boyfriend to point out the female reproductive organs. Ooh, snap. But she’s not done yet, because when he does, she says those are the male reproductive organs. Double snap, dude. The class giggles. As the teacher walks off, Aubrey uses this chance to point out the obvious. Behind her are some cabinets (MIC).
A guy in a suit walks in and whispers in the teacher’s ear. Now we find out about the dead girl who’s the first victim of the serial killer who’s not yet a serial killer. She turns and tells the class, while standing next to an impressive stuffed owl. The first time I saw the movie, I thought that was quite a random detail—do science teachers routinely keep taxidermied animals around—especially since it was stuffed to look like it’s in mid-flight. After all, this is a movie that passes up no chance to imbue every object with symbolism. What’s with the owl? Oh, how little I knew. How blessedly little.
Cut to a guy in an empty courtroom typing up a recorded autopsy report into a computer program apparently called “Medical Report.” How about that? We shift to the coroner’s office (scrubs, MIC, sheet over dead body, MIC). The sheet is pulled back to reveal nothing too gory, just a young girl’s face, but the narration says her fingers were cut off while she was hopped up on amphetamines. The coroner surmises that the killer wanted her to feel the pain. Ooh. Evil.
Back to the mansion. Aubrey drives up in her convertible (MIC) while the gardener is throwing branches into a giant wood chipper. She adjusts her rear-view mirror to get a better look at the young hunk, and he obliges by pulling off his shirt and commencing to dance around to that rock and roll music today’s kids enjoy so much. He picks up a branch and begins to, well, stroke it. Aubrey gets out of her car and strikes an attitude of sassiness, allowing the camera to slowly pan up her outfit (MIC, MIC, MIC). They stare a while, then she turns away (to allow the camera a booty shot) and flips him off. He likes that. I Know Who Ogled Me!
Cut to a football game, where we learn two things right away: the school mascot (the owls!) and the school color (MIC). Hilariously, the announcer intones, “As you all know, Jennifer Toland’s body was found this week. Let’s all take a moment of silence.” The crowd obliges, and the announcer comes back with a hearty “now let’s get out there and win this one for Jennifer Toland!” The crowd goes wild. It’s so over-the-top that for a moment I thought the director was trying to make a parodic comment on the flighty nature of today’s high school/college sports fans. By the way, those football uniforms not only include blue jerseys (MIC), but blue pants (MIC). Quick, name a football team that has ever worn bright blue pants.
The director indulges in some “artistry” as the players clash on the field, using freeze frames and color shifts. There’s an awful lot of helmet-to-helmet contact, actually, which would rack up penalties in the NFL, much less the (I’m pretty sure now) high school level. Of course, we are watching a movie that knows nothing about nothing. For a moment, it all fades to black and white, and like the great Schindler’s List, only one color is allowed to remain on screen (MICs all around). Aubrey blows a sloppy slow motion kiss to her boyfriend, which will clearly only further confuse the poor sap. Oh yes, and she’s holding his rose (MIC). Fade to blue (MIC).
Now Aubrey’s walking down a busy downtown street with her girlfriends. A voice coming from who-knows-where intones that curfew for under-21 begins in an hour. Curfew? Martial law due to one murder? And under-21? Looking at the crowd again, and the level of celebration, maybe this IS college. Aubrey’s girlfriends make fun of her for not sleeping with her boyfriend (ah, youth), but she says, “I’ll be 30,000 miles away in January. I can’t afford to fall in love.”
Wha-huh? I think this is meant to signal she’s a senior in high school, but: a) school starts in January? B) 30,000 miles? Where’s she going, the University of Zanzibar? C) leaving town is an excuse NOT to have a casual relationship? The director does another one of those “accidentally go out of focus in slow motion” tricks that really add to my enjoyment of his story, then returns to Aubrey telling her friends about a story she read of a killer who pricks people in the back of the neck in movie theatres, killing them instantly. With the tension thus ratcheted up, a Spring-loaded Football Fan (MIC) pops up and shouts things like “yeah, number one” in their faces. Worst jump scare ever.
Aubrey thinks she sees her boyfriend, and runs into the crowd telling her friends she’ll meet them in front of the movie theater at 11:45 (wouldn’t that be after curfew?). She sees the gardener’s pickup truck (MIC) and hides behind a tree as he drives past, chugging a beer in full sight of the cops who are patrolling the crowd in force. Bright guy, that one. After he goes by, Aubrey wanders into the crowd, and disappears.
Cut to her friend standing in front of the theater, yelling her name down the deserted street like she’s a lost dog or something. The other friend keeps dialling her cell phone number. Yelling friend tries calling the boyfriend. They hear a ring, and run toward it, but it’s merely the boyfriend coming around the corner. The three have a conversation that somehow manages to combine a lack of any words and a lot of yelling. They run full speed to her car. Boyfriend puts his hands on it, and the alarm goes off. On the dashboard â€¦ is his rose (MIC).
Next thing we know, it’s a dark room, and Aubrey is tied to a table with a gag (MIC â€“ that’s right, a bright blue gag, people) in her mouth, moaning and clearly in distress. Hooray! Torture horror! I mean, everybody loves torture horror, right? It’s only the bestest happiest trend to ever come along and swallow up every half-assed “scary” movie along the cheapest, most exploitative lines possible. The best part is it doesn’t even require much creativity! Let’s go out and watch some torture porn for Jennifer Toland!
A dark figure flips on a medical light in her face, allowing her to make some more vaguely sexual, vaguely terrified grunts, just in case some sick bastards in the audience aren’t fully getting off on their Lindsay Lohan rape fantasy yet, and then the soon-to-be serial killer grabs her cheeks with two very, very, very MIC gloves. Are you scared of the color blue yet? No? Okay, well he pops a blue pill in her mouth (MIC, that ought to do it) and puts the gag back on. We get a loving shot of Lohan in her lacy blue top, writhing on the table and biting back screams, yelling no, as the killer retrieves a block of dry ice. Before we can see what joyous thing he will be doing with that, we fade to the rose garden (miraculously, the roses are actually red) at Aubrey’s mansion.
The cops have arrived. Aubrey’s dad (Neil McDonough, because Gary Sinise is smarter than this) is explaining how his daughter lives on the laptop because writing is her life. An FBI agent explains he needs to make a copy of the hard drive, and reaches over to retrieve while wearing â€¦ blue surgical gloves (MIC)! I Know Who Stole My Privacy! Santa sheriff is there, too, with no gloves on. The cop asks if there’s a chance Aubrey ran away. Daddy says no, but he says it â€¦ coldly. (But he’s not wearing anything blue, how could he be a suspect?)
Upstairs, in Aubrey’s bedroom, a female FBI agent, also wearing The Gloves (MIC), quizzes the mother (poor Julia Ormond) about her whereabouts when she so callously allowed her daughter to attend a football game without a chaperone. Mommy’s stroking the hairless cat. The cat has that damn collar on (MIC). There’s a long, uncomfortable silence that eats up nearly a minute of running time as Julia Ormond barely brings herself to utter a line of this terrible script.
Fade to flames, then shots of hooks and prosthetic limbs dangling from a ceiling. A monkey wrench is holding Aubrey’s right hand between two slabs of dry ice, turning her fingers, well, MIC. On a nearby table, there’s a hammer and some shards of blue (MIC) glass. The killer, still wearing The Gloves (MIC), loosens the wrench and peels the top slab of dry ice from Aubrey’s hand. A thick layer of skin sticks to the upper slab, and the soundtrack emphasizes the effect with a gnarly peeling sound. Are you entertained? No? Okay, then how about a close-up of the torn, pussing, gangrenous hand?
The killer pours a bright blue liquid (MIC) from a bright blue bottle (MIC) over the hand. It looks like watered down Aquafresh, but it must hurt, because Lohan does some Grade A squealing. Then the killer takes an arrowhead of blue glass (MIC) and shows it to her, eliciting yet more squeals, before proceeding to cut off her fingers. Yes, they show it. Lots of crunching and snapping noises, too. As if suddenly remembering he’s trying to be an artiste, and not just another in a long line of Saw ripoff artists, the director gives us a shot of a river of blood, mixed with the blue liquid (MIC), pouring into a hole in the table. Makes you think, eh?
Cut to shots of a search party combing a field interspliced with police doing one of those headshot diagrams you always see in mobster movies, only this time the photos are clothespinned to laundry lines and connected to each other with strings. This must be the FBI, because only they would have the budget to do it this really cool way and not just use a dry erase board like normal people. They’ve set up shop in a church. Because, I guess, nobody was using it for anything important, like, I don’t know, church services. Lots of splotches of MIC, in case we forgot that this movie was endorsed by Blue (ask for it by name). FBI Guy says out loud, to nobody in particular, that he hopes the investigation doesn’t interfere with bingo night. Ha ha! Zing! Because that’s what churches are for, get it?
Let’s get right back to Aubrey, no? Yep, still writhing. She tries to reach from some surgical tools on a nearby table. All of them are made of blue glass (MIC MIC MIC). She fails.
Cut to a random woman in a blue overcoat (MIC) crying as she talks about something inexplicable on a cell phone while driving a car. She has to swerve to avoid a fox (not sure what color it was) and comes to a stop in a ditch, where she notices a body-shaped depression in the brush. Then she sees the body. It’s Aubrey!
Dad’s cell phone comes to life (MIC) and the parents are informed that their daughter has been found. Next we’re at the hospital, where everything’s you-know-what (MIC) and Lohan lies on a table with a breathing tube down her throat. Apparently, she just woke up in the middle of surgery. An anaesthesiologist gets her back under, then grabs her face with his gloved (MIC) hands just like the killer did (dun dun duhnnnnn). An orthopedic saw is called for. We get a shot of it starting up. Looks like Aubrey’s not done getting limbs chopped off yet.
Next scene, she wakes up to see a nurse, who touches her with her gloved hands only to give us yet another look at some MIC (look, I know it’s tedious to mention all the blue, but try watching it), and tells her she’s safe now. Lohan has some very convincingly bloodshot eyes in this scene, if you know what I mean. After the nurse goes to get the doctor, Aubrey looks down to notice her right leg is gone from the knee down. She seems mildly disturbed. Hilariously, she pats herself all the way up, checking for other missing parts, and spends a good deal of time on her right breast. Yep, still there. Your career is â€¦ well, ‘safe’ might not be the right word. She does finally stumble upon the tiny fact that her right hand is also missing. We fade to red. Really! Didn’t see that coming, did you?
Back at Our Lady of the FBI, Santa Sheriff is saying the cops should answer some questions, but FBI Lady says it’s best to make everyone think Aubrey Fleming is still missing. Her partner, who’s probably still inwardly chuckling about his bingo bon mot, says everybody at the hospital has been threatened with obstruction of justice if they tell anyone, anywhere, that Aubrey’s still alive. Heh, yeah, that sounds totally legal.
FBI Lady starts running through plausible explanations. This is point at which I finally realized that ‘plausible’ and this movie exist in such different dimensions that an astrophysicist might be able to discover the origins of the universe by examining the gulf between them. The explanations are: #1, he was done with her (Santa Sheriff, “But he didn’t count on her will to live.”) to which FBI Guy replies that 17 to 18 days wasn’t nearly enough time for the killer to finish his task. I guess he cut the fingers off, sewed them back on, then cut them off again? Yeah, okay. #2, his mojo is punishment, but then when he’s done punishing, he tries to figure out how to make the victim die so he doesn’t have to be there. After this nearly rational thought, FBI Guy posits #3, “I think she escaped. It’s the only answer that makes sense to me.” You find a mutilated body by the side of a deserted road, and only plausible explanation is that she ran away?
Aubrey’s parents, wearing scrubs (MIC)—and by the way, daddy’s wearing color enhancing contact lenses (MIC)—and looking directly into the camera, lean in and attempt to speak to their recovering daughter. (I wonder: if they tell any relatives that their daughter is alive and well, is that obstruction of justice?) Aubrey looks freaked out, and asks, “Who is Aubrey? Who are you? Don’t touch me.” This soap opera moment is brought to you by Ziploc bags, because you know the food is sealed in fresh when you see the BLUE line.
Next we get Lohan sitting up in bed as a psychiatrist evaluates her. She tells him she’s not Aubrey Fleming, but Dakota Moss. “I know I may look a little like this Aubrey chick, or whatever her name isâ€¦.” Or whatever her name is? You’ve only heard it fifty times by now. Does Dakota have a short term memory problem? Is this the screenwriter’s idea of teenspeak? The psychiatrist grills her. She has the same birthday as Aubrey. She doesn’t have a social security number. She was raised by a crack addict. Her mom died six months ago. As she explains this, a flashback scene of Dakota Moss (you can tell because the hair is so black) visiting her mom’s apartment to find the fly-ridden corpse makes for another pleasant moment. Dakota takes a letter from her dead mother’s hand. It’s postmarked with the town Aubrey lives in. It has $11 in it.
All of a sudden, Dakota gets suspicious and wonders why he asked for her social. “You’re fuzz, aren’t you?” Uh, and with slang like that, you’re a beatnik, aren’t you? Turns out Dakota’s street smarts win the day, as the shrink confesses to working for the FBI. He says the killer’s other victim had identical damage done. She asks for proof, and gets a stack of photographs of a naked and dismembered Jennifer Toland dropped in her lap. Here you go, girl we think is having a psychotic personality breakdown, enjoy these graphic photographs of someone with the same traumatic issues you have, except she’s dead! Do you feel okay now? Am I the psychiatrist of the year yet?
Mom walks in with a comfort bag of stuff from home. My heart really bleeds for Ormond here, as she pulls out a teddy bear and makes a funny face and voice to introduce her daughter to Mr. Gervais as Dakota looks at her like she’s the world’s biggest idiot. Dakota once again, calmly and rationally, explains to another character that she’s not Aubrey, and once again, the script requires everyone around to totally ignore her. “You don’t remember sleeping with Mr. Gervais?” mom asks, and boy howdy is that a creepy question. She also pulls out the iPod (MIC) explaining that it helps people come out of comas. “Do I look like I’m in a fucking coma?” Dakota states. Loverly.
She also shares a picture that kind of almost looks like a picture Dakota remembers of herself on the beach growing up. The plot, uh, thickens? It’s then that mom notices the mangled body pictures and runs out to yell at FBI Lady for showing them to the poor post-operative and befuddled patient. They fight in a forced and badly improvised manner until FBI Lady lets out a whopper, telling the bereaved mother that her daughter is still not safe, and won’t be until the killer is behind bars. Classy! But I thought the world didn’t know Aubrey was alive under penalty of perjury and a jaywalking ticket.
Dakota is wheeled into a creepy room where FBI Guy and FBI Lady—rapidly revealing themselves to be the dumbest criminal investigators ever—by FBI Shrink, who isn’t very professional himself. They call her Dakota—which means they either checked out her story and found records of the dead mother, proving she’s not Aubrey, and they haven’t informed the parents that this is the wrong child, nor have they realized that this means there are three victims and one enormous coincidence at work, OR, they’re humoring her without believing her, and simply browbeating a mentally fragile person with memory dissociation and bizarre amnesia for details of a crime that few people would keep vividly banging around in their brains without exhibiting serious trauma. Dakota decides to spill the beans to these idiots.
She relates the story of her becoming an exotic dancer, which involves a near repeat of the opening montage, only this time, they bother to cut to another stripper who actually takes clothes off (and wears blue gloves, MIC). This eats up as many minutes of slow motion running time as it possibly can. At one point, Lohan grabs a patron’s cigarette and wipes it on her crotch before taking a drag and handing it back. When the non-stripping stripping scene is over, we see her walking to a bright blue bus stop (MIC), but she turns around every few steps as if she’s hearing something. Behind her, on the wall of the bus stop, is a stencil of a red owl! Hello, school mascot! Let’s win this bus ride for Jennifer Toland!
A creepy man in shadow is standing across the way. A car drives by, and he’s suddenly much closer. And I don’t mean, there’s a cut and he magically teleports off screen like Michael Myers. I mean, he literally and magically appears much closer. Just after this inexplicable jump, he appears on the other side of the bus stop glass, teleporting across the road. Dakota Moss is being stalked by Nightcrawler. The bus approaches, and as the bright lights shine through the window, she sees that creepy man has a blue (MIC) eye. She can’t explain much more than that to the FBI People.
FBI Guy’s having none of this. He stands and yells at her, saying she was given amphetamines to stay awake during the torture. “You had to have seen something.” Uh, what if she was blindfolded, Sherlock? What if she was in the midst of being friggin’ tortured and not really concentrating on clues for you and the Scooby gang, eh?
When Dakota is unresponsive, admitting that teleportation man might not have even been the serial killer (who’s still killed only one person), FBI Lady jumps in and yells at “Aubrey” to stop playing games and tell the truth. So it’s option B from earlier, then? They haven’t gone to check if there’s a dead crack addict from six months ago in the morgue records? They haven’t called the strip club to find out if there was a Dakota Moss employed there recently? They haven’t done a DNA test to match the parents? Or a brain scan to look for obvious head trauma?
Instead, they just jumped straight to the conclusion, with a licensed psychiatrist sitting right there, that this wimpy little teenaged girl woke up from a serious coma and, right from the first second, refused to acknowledge her parents or help the cops get the killer because it was an opportunity to play a game of “let’s pretend to be somebody else?” I wish I could say this is the Zabrieskie Point of this movie, but folks, it’s not even close.
Back to church, where an enormous team of investigators (remember, just one death so far) is pouring over taped testimonies of the parents and boyfriend and surveying their large collection of blue (MIC) gloves. FBI Shrink is there, staring at Lohan’s mug shot, as if that will explain the mess this movie’s in. The doc explains that there’s no hole in Dakota’s story, and no sign that she’s lying or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. FBI Guy: “You know what I think, doctor? I think we’re wasting our time. I think this kid is lying through her teeth.”
Let’s spend just another moment in FBI Guy’s head, shall we? At the very least, it allows me to not touch the pause button so this parade of lunacy can continue to insult the intelligence of western civilization, and indeed the entire tradition of human literature. FBI Guy is only sure of two things: #1 that Aubrey escaped the killer all by herself, only to fall asleep by the side of the road and accidentally slip into a coma. #2 that upon awakening, she thought it would be fun to pretend to be a stripper crack baby. This is going to be like Robot Monster, right? Where Aubrey wakes up and all the characters’ insane conclusions turn out to be the product of her infertile mind’s half-assed creative writing? Please?
The doc says no, she’s not lying, she’s â€¦ and then he uses a stylus to write the word ‘delusional’ across her face on the laptop screen. That would be the clinical term, I guess. Or maybe the terror that dare not speak its name. And where do I get one of these laptops I can write on?
FBI Lady jumps in and says she doesn’t think it’s that simple, that Aubrey’s deliberately withholding information. FBI Guy says maybe her imagination ran dry, but both his cohorts agree that Aubrey Fleming is not short on imagination. That’s the second-dumbest Informed Attribute for our main character. (Strap in, because number one is a doozy.) How do they know what kind of imagination Aubrey has? They read the crappy stories on her laptop? Does she have a history of telling tall tales? If so, why would that be a more logical conclusion than something factually provable, like the existence of Dakota Moss?
Anyway, FBI Lady’s big wind-up conclusion is that Aubrey/Dakota is holding back because whatever happened was so weird, even she doesn’t believe it. This turns out, sadly, to be correct. The truth is so stupid, I’m cringing even thinking about it.
Cut to dad watching TV, where a report that Aubrey’s been found is shown. Uh oh, somebody’s going to jail.
Then cut to Lohan, doing her moaning and whining thing again, having flashbacks of the torture. Only the color is seeped out (well, almost all the color, MIC) because it’s time for some art. A shot of a blue (MIC) glass blade penetrating her arm deeply enough to draw a spurt of blood. We pan out to see it’s Dakota in her hospital bed. As the soundtrack plays spider music (you know, plink plink plink stuff that always plays in horror movies when there are insects everywhere), we pan down to see an invisible force push into Dakota’s arm and draw blood, stigmata style. She wakes, screams, and wipes the blood all over herself.
Dad comes in to see what’s wrong, and rushes to her aid, but she yells to get off of her, smearing blood on him, too. As the FBI comes in and yells at the dad to get away from her, we fade into a shot of the killer grinding his blue (MIC) glass tools o’ death.
Cut to Aubrey, I mean Dakota, I mean Lohan, sitting in a wheelchair and staring at her amputated limbs. She seems â€¦ bored. Ho hum, no limbs for me. She takes a deep breath and practices saying, “I am Aubrey Fleming.” By the way, practicing saying things in mirrors is one of those movie tropes that drives me crazy. Am I the only one who needs to be pretty rip roaring drunk to talk to himself in a mirror? But movie people do it all the time. Usually when it’s a schlub giving himself a pep talk about getting the starlet in the other room to kiss him, but that’s not the only situation. It’s an all-purpose cop out, a way for characters to communicate what they’re thinking without the script or the actor having to do any work. Anyway, Dakota Lohan launches into a sarcastic rendition of her pretending to be Aubrey that’s mostly notable for being pretty dang slurred. Articulation, honey. It ain’t Shakespeare, but the least you can do is sound sober.
Luckily, the movie takes a left turn on loopy right â€¦ now, as a lab technician in a stylish mustard outfit (thank the flying spaghetti monster it’s not MIC) walks into the room and asks Dakota to say hello to her new state-of-the-art hand. And by state-of-the-art, he means ridiculously futuristic. This Terminator device plugs into an arm socket, making the same noise as a disposable camera recharging its flash. Even though it appears the sleeve was just â€¦ put on, like a knitted muff, instead of surgically attached, the hand plugs directly into her nerve endings to give Dakota perfect and immediate lifelike control over Robohand. Here’s the conversation, as I believe it happened inside writer Jeff Hammond’s mind.
“Oh, hello brain. Fancy seeing you here. You’re usually not around when I’m writing.”
“Yes, I know, but I thought I’d stop by to see how that new Lohan vehicle is going.”
“Okay, I guess, but I’m having trouble because her hand fell off, and I might want her to use it later in the plot.”
“Her hand fell off? How?”
“Uh, well, that’s a tough one, too. Any suggestions?”
“Um, no, I’m just a brain. But if you need her to have a hand, why not just Luke Skywalker it?”
“Awesome to the max! Thanks, brain!”
“No problem, Jeff. I’ll be in the other room, killing myself with cold and delicious beer.”
Dakota opines that the hand, which I reiterate she has immediate control over with no instruction necessary, is creepy. Mustard man says it’s beautiful, and that she can cover it with a flesh-colored dishwashing glove—I mean, highly advanced skin prosthetic, once it seems to be working.
We get an obligatory rehab shot of her trying out the new prosthetic leg, as well as a loving close-up on Robohand gripping the railing of the walk trainer. It makes little servo noises every time it moves, just like Johnny 5 in Short Circuit. Mustard man drops a serious plot point, saying that if the battery on her (presumably also state-of-the-art) leg dies, it will be like dragging around a large amount of weight. So plug that bad boy in next to your cell phone every night.
An artsy transition shows Dakotaubrey and Family being driven home in a police escort to avoid reporters. Since this takes place at night (in the rain, but no John Cusack in sight), it affords the director an opportunity to show flashing alternate red and blue (MIC) lights over everything. What does it mean? The interplay between good and evil? The transition from Dakota to Aubrey to Dakota? The tense nature of the high school football rivalry with the cross-town Trojans?
Dakotaubrey is shown to her attic room, and we get a good look at the spread of randomly posted sticky notes on the wall by her desk, which are loosely organized under the banners Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. There are only two sticky notes under Act Three, indicating that this hyper-careful planner has no idea where her story is going. Or perhaps the filmmaker just decided to make the screenwriter’s office the location for Aubrey’s bedroom, and we’re getting a rare glimpse at Jeff Hammond’s utter lack of organization and forethought at work.
“Aubrey chose the colors?” Dakota asks, obviously freaked out by the sheer amount of blue in this damn room. The parents nod, and yet another conversation in which they refuse to believe this is not their daughter, despite all evidence to the contrary, unfolds. The hairless cat scampers into the room, which the parents take as a signal that it’s really Aubrey (the cat likes you!), but Dakota slams the door on that one (“I don’t like cats”). Yes, liking this particular scrawny, emaciated, rust-colored beast is pretty much impossible. The cat at Lohan’s feet is kind of gross, too.
The next morning, blue rose boyfriend pulls up in a broken down car, and is hilariously stopped by an FBI cordon in front of the driveway. So in addition to taking over a church for a full-scale (if inept) investigation, the federal government, in conjunction with a squadron of local police officers in the background, has decided to expend considerable resources to provide Secret Service-like security for a family who wealth is obviously sufficient to procure private bodyguards, all in the name of catching a “serial” killer who has murdered precisely one victim? That’s right, baby. Justice: American style.
Blue rose boyfriend has brought with him an entire bouquet of freaking blue roses. (How do I hate thee? Let me MIC the ways.) He sits nervously at the piano as Dakota hobbles in on crutches—Roboarm attached, Roboleg missing—wearing a saucy red number. She says hello, and puts out Roboarm for a handshake, crushing boyfriend’s fragile grip. Not a joke. That actually happens.
Dakota’s cruelty continues, as she waves her half-leg around and mentions how she keeps forgetting to plug the leg in (as opposed to the arm, which runs on solar power, or possibly the ambient light of nearby blue objects), then tells boyfriend point blank that she’s not Aubrey, causing him to cry. Not a joke. That also actually happens.
Little Miss Manners says it twice. Angry and confused, the boyfriend kneels in front of her and kisses her, I suppose to find out the truth. They make out a bit, then Dakota bites his bottom lip, and for the second time in less than a minute, boyfriend says ‘ow’. Proving to be something of a masochist, he goes in for seconds. If he angles for a handjob from Roboarm, we’ll really know he’s kinky.
Mom walks in on the make out session, causing a bit of awkward glancing, but Dakota deftly diffuses the tension by announcing that she and Mr. Blue Rose are going upstairs. You see, she can behave that way in front of her mother, because it’s not really her mother. She asks ‘Susan’ to put the roses in water.
In the blue-lit (MIC) bedroom, some very cheap techno kicks in on the soundtrack while boyfriend looks at the plugged-in leg, which has a very Star Trek looking set of colored lights at the ankle which apparently blink and beep when it’s charging. Useful feature, that. Dakota holds up a condom and says there’s only one, so he should prolong his lovemaking to the extent possible. The boyfriend still seems nervous and weak, like he’ll say ‘ow’ or start crying at another moment’s notice, but he’s nonetheless game for a little Lick the Lohan.
We now get a sex scene that has created much comment for its ineptitude and tone deafness. The director decides to keep cutting back to mom in the kitchen, obviously able to hear every exertion, seemingly for comic effect, though all it does is really make Dakota seem like a bitch as a houseguest. The audio, aside from the really horrible techno, it poorly overlaid. In one scene, the two are clearly kissing full on the mouth, but the soundtrack is playing noises of the male actor moaning heavily in a way that would require an unrestricted mouth. Lohan goes up for a cowgirl ride, a la Basic Instinct, but keeps her bra on, which begins a fun game of Bela-Not-Bela, as the aforementioned bra appears and disappears depending on whether or not boobage would be visible in the shot. (To cut to the quick for any readers who are only slogging through this piece to find out if Lohan’s nipples ever grace the screen: no.)
In their post-coital bliss (though it looked more like a particularly fervent dry hump than anything to me), Dakota lights up a cigarette (and Moses said: “Let there be no clichÃ© unexplored!”) and boyfriend asks, “Aubrey, why are you doing this?” She once again pulls the I’m-a-slut-so-I-can’t-be-Aubrey card. Boyfriend decides (wisely, I suppose) to drop it, and asks instead how she got all cut up, which is actually the first perceptive question anyone has asked this Dakota chick since she showed up at the hospital. Think about it: instead of asking for the story of getting cut, all anyone—doctors, nurses, parents, psychiatrists, cops, FBI agents—could focus on was why this girl suddenly claimed she wasn’t Aubrey. Anyway, it’s probably for the best, because Dakota’s answer to the $100,000 question is, “I don’t know.”
We get a shower sequence that must be a flashback, although it isn’t obvious at first, and seems more like a continuity gaffe, since Lohan has two natural hands again. She suddenly gasps and looks at her hand, and her middle finger immediately turns black and splits open like a rotting banana. That’s what you get for flipping off paparazzi, I guess. Needless to say, this turn of events proves to be â€¦ mildly disturbing to Lohan.
Next, she’s at the strip club, with a long red glove covering the offending hand. She’s taking pills and liquor, and now it’s—oh god no, the third iteration of Lohan slowly not stripping in front of a bored audience. After a minute or two of this boring old routine, we get the blood on the pole shot again, and now it’s time for Lohan to remove the glove backstage, where we see that her finger condition has worsened to the point of it, well, falling off. She wraps it in a towel, then passes out.
Next is a charming peek into the lives of strippers backstage (at least, as they behave in the mind of the writer, who so far knows nothing about nothing), which again is meant to be comedic, but like the mother hearing her daughter humping bit, is too flat and depressing to elicit even the most minor of chuckles. Dakota claims to have cut her hand on a broken drink glass. When her boss asks how she’s going to get to the hospital, she replies, “Hospitals are for rich people.” Huh? Boss offers an extra towel. The proletariat stick together.
On the bus ride home, Dakota is dangling her four-fingered, towel-wrapped hand at her side, dripping blood all over the ground. She’s also smoking, which isn’t something Americans have been able to do on public buses for at least 10 years, but whatever. When a helpful fellow passenger suggests she hold the wounded limb above her heart, she complies, then prods him to ask what happened. But, like everyone else in this damn movie except for the crying and fragile blue rose boyfriend, he gives not two shits about a bleeding Lohan: “People get cut. That’s life.”
This segment is particularly jarring, because it seems to veer mildly back to the ham-handed social satire voice that was present during the football game with the moment of silence. These extended conversations with characters irrelevant to the story serve no purpose but to highlight the squalor of Dakota’s poverty, but it all means â€¦ what? No doubt the director and/or writer thought they were layering a brilliant bit of social commentary into their frothy torture porn flick, but the end result is so disjointed that it has all the depth of meaning of the incessant MIC that’s still pervading every damn scene, by the way, via the lighting, in case you thought you could stop drinking.
Back to the present day, where Dakota’s sharing this tall tale with Sire Rose of Bluemoor. He professes to believe her, but our charming young heroine points out that he’s only saying that because she had vaginal relations with him. Then she complains of pain in her missing foot, opining that phantom limb pain must prove the existence of ghosts, and then, “Maybe that’s why ghosts are so restless. There’s nothing left of what they were except for the pain.” Hey, that’s precisely the sort of half-baked, inane, pre-adolescent poetic thought that Aubrey used to have! Then she asks for his help.
Boyfriend is next seen running out to his car. Let’s pause to count the number of FBI agents and cops milling around in the Flemings’ driveway, shall we? Six! Five of them helpfully wearing navy blue jackets with yellow ‘FBI’ in big bold letters on the back. That ought to throw off the killer’s scent. Anyway, boyfriend tries to start his junker car up, but can’t, then rushes over to an agent and asks if he’s got a condom he could borrow. They laugh at him. He’s next seen speeding out of the garage in Aubrey’s blue convertible. His ruse complete, the agents let him through for his emergency rubber run.
He lets Dakota out of the trunk at the Toland’s house (“Let’s investigate this for Jennifer Toland!”), and she kisses him in gratitude and sends him on his way. The Roboleg, by the way, is apparently charged.
We see her sitting uncomfortably, silently, in the living room of the bereaved parents. Dad is at the piano (symbol!) which contains no fewer than three owl statues. That’s school pride for you â€¦ I think. Mom tries to pour a cup of tea, but misses, because grief really screws with your depth perception, or something. The mom yells at “Aubrey” for showing up all alive and stuff, and refusing to cooperate with the police, then stalks out of the room, which is kind of a believable moment in an unbelievable script, because if I was trying to figure out what happened to my tortured and murdered daughter, I’d be a little upset at the sheer ineptitude of everyone involved up to this point, too.
Dad remains, and asks what Dakota wants. She wants to see Jennifer’s room. Why? To look for clues? What was the point of this visit again? She needs to somehow prove that she’s not Aubrey (will there be clues for that in Jennifer Toland’s bedroom?) and find out why her limbs keep mysteriously falling off (does she expect to find a magic limb eraser in the closet?) and help catch a dangerous not-quite-serial killer (does she think there will be an appointment in Jennifer’s date book for a torture session?) â€¦ but, hey, IITS.
Jennifer’s room is blue (MIC) and full of owl statues (seriously, now, movie, cut it out). There are also lots of dolls, because dolls are creepy, at least according to the music cue that’s plinking in the background. Dad isn’t observing, by the way. He’s just letting this slutty not-friend of his dead daughter rummage around the shrine at will.
She opens a drawer and half-heartedly pushes some papers around, then closes it and stares straight ahead. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she notices something â€¦ bright blue (MIC). It’s a music trophy on the top of a vanity. For whatever reason, Dakota is drawn to this, and tries to reach it, but it’s just â€¦ too â€¦ far, when her not-mom comes bursting in the room and drags her away. Darn! So close to solving the mystery! That trophy was the final piece of the puzzle that would explain everything! (Laugh, but sadly, it turns out that it actually is.)
Aubrey’s parents give a her a stern lecture and complain about the lack of the police’s ability to keep their not-daughter grounded. I’d complain more about their lack of ability to catch the fiend, but whatever. Maybe this next scene, in which the CSI: Church team is back at work, will show our FBI heroes one step closer to unravelling the plot.
DNA tests came back. But before either one reads them, they turn to a more important clue from Aubrey’s computer: a short story Aubrey wrote titled, wait for it, “Dakota.” In it, she describes the very stripper crack baby that Dakota actually is! Now, they zoom in enough to give a clear look at the first three paragraphs of the story. Even though flashback Aubrey is narrating this, I think it would be a better service to the history of literature if I were to transcribe for you, right here, the opening of Aubrey Fleming’s opus, “Dakota.” And remember, the screenwriter wrote this. To be an example of a fiction prodigy. I hope you don’t mind if I intrude with a bit of editorial shock.
Feast thine eyes:
She knew a trick. She knew how to turn her life into a movie â€¦ and watch things happen. Not to her—But to a girl who looked just like her â€¦ was she the runaway with everything she owned in a ratty old backpack? Or was she watching a movie about a hitchhiking runaway on a lonely highway? [How is this a trick? And is she really confused about her state of being? Is the character meant to be literally schizophrenic?] A truck slowed till the girl squinted in his headlights. [She squinted in the trucker’s headlights? What, does he have laser beams coming out of his eyes?] But one good look at her and the trucker couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She didn’t even have the strength to curse him as she choked on the dust of his spinning wheels. [No description of what’s so fearsome about her. This is typically sloppy writing. But! She’s a prodigy!]
She had always felt like half a person—half a person with half a soul. [I suppose half a person with a full soul would get uncomfortable. Where would you put all that soul?] Sometimes if she dreamed hard enough [you can dream hard?], she could bring the two halves together [of her soul, or person?]. But she always woke to the same feelings of loneliness and loss. Her hands trembled with anticipation as she opened the folder containing the birth records. [On the side of the road?] Somewhere in the back of her mind, she’d been hoping shebiological mother would turn out to be, oh, Cameron Diaz or Gwen Stefani. [Because it’s a well known fact that both actresses had secret children at the age of 11. Jeebus.]
Instead, it was someone called Virginia Sue Moss. She wrote down the name and her real mother’s last known address. [On what? And where is she? I guess at the hospital now, but we seem to have phase shifted to another dimension where birth record folders float about and you have to jot down their contents on a napkin before they vanish.] But it was what she saw next that slammed into her gut like a celestial fist. [A celestial fist. Yes, that’s the weapon I’ve been searching for â€¦ now I know how to punch this screenwriter in the face.] She stared at the hospital records in disbelief â€¦ it couldn’t be true â€¦ But there it was in black and white. [I love the random capitals. Classy.] Not only did she have a mother she’d never met, she also had an identical twin.
But Virginia Sue Moss had left town with her twin sister almost 20 years ago. [Is that in the birth records? I thought there was just a last known address. And this would make Aubrey/Dakota 20 years old, at least! After finally settling on high school, she turns out to be college aged? And let’s go ahead and downgrade Cameron Diaz and Gwen Stefani’s miracle pregnancies to the age of 9.] How would she ever find her other half? [I don’t know, Google? You’ve got full names and social security numbers.] She knew only that she had to try. She had no choice. To be continued. [Why do I feel like this story concludes with “The end â€¦ Or is it?”]
As Aubrey reads this as if it were the work of Dylan Thomas, the camera zooms in on Jennifer Toland, listening intently with a smile on her face. So that explains that â€¦ er, wait, what are we explaining again?
FBI Lady decides immediately that this short story proves that Dakota is just another side of Aubrey’s personality. FBI Man avers that the DNA tests are identical. Now, because I have absolutely no faith in anyone who made this movie, I decided to do a 3-second Google search on whether or not identical twins have identical DNA. I found the following: “Thus, a DNA test can’t determine the difference between identical twins, while a simple fingerprint can.”
So, even though it turns out the writer got one fact right, the very sentence that proves it gives us the flaw in the FBI’s (cough) logic: they have different sassafrassin’ fingerprints! Lift an Aubrey print from the damn piano, print Dakota, compare, and move on with the part of the investigation that matters: who’s torturing young women and trying to murder them? The agents, instead, have the nerve to look all smug and happy, like they just cracked “the case” or whatever. Good thing they disappear like Lear’s Fool. It was nice knowing you, folks. Thanks for appearing in the movie up to now.
Here comes the final half hour, folks. You might want to fasten a seat belt, or take a stiff shot of whiskey, because it’s going to sting. Out of the darkness floats a muscle-bound guy in a white tank top. He drifts down from the ceiling to hover over Dakota sleeping in Aubrey’s bed. He’s glowing. He says, “Higher than your heart.” Oh, it’s random bus person! Welcome back to the movie, dude! Dakota wakes up and stares calmly at this bus angel guy. He takes off his shirt (that’s for you, ladies) to reveal a cheesy tattoo covering his sternum. It’s an anatomical rendering of a heart, with wings.
He holds his hands out like a country preacher and says, “Odd, even. Right, left. Rest, motion. Peace, war. Love, hate. Two halves to everything. Sometimes people get cut. Sometimes people get cut.” As he talks, the tattoo comes to life, the wings fluttering, the heart beating, and then a lump grows out of the dude’s right pectoral muscle, the skin bloodlessly tears, and a blue (MIC) eyeball stares out from just beside his nipple.
Dakota does the sit upright and pant thing that indicates a nightmare has just troubled her. I guess she was dreaming hard enough just then? Next we see her smoking a cigarette to soothe her nerves, and we get a nice close-up of the infamous sticky notes! Here’s what they say, so you can revel into the rare glimpse of a talented writer at work: “w/half a soul,” “watches things happen,” “dream hard enough,” “Bring two halves together,” “maybe a girl,” “loneliness.” So, even though this array is underneath a series of headings marked Act I, Act II, Act III, these aren’t even plot points! They’re just sentence fragments from the first three paragraphs of the story, aside from that hilarious “maybe a girl” one which only tantalizingly hints at the labor necessary for Aubrey to concoct a sentence, much less a whole story.
Seeing this display of genius, Dakota naturally gets curious and opens up Aubrey’s laptop. (The movie does actually explain that the FBI agents were looking at a copy of the hard drive, but I almost did a jig thinking the laptop was teleporting from scene to scene.) It needs a password. Dakota thinks deeply, then types ‘dakota’ and boom! She’s in! Time for some magic movie search engine time. She goes to Ask.com. Er, okay. Using her one human hand, she types in ‘bleeding wounds unexplained’ and clicks search.
Just for fun, I ran the same search on Ask.com. The top entries were Paranormal State from A&E, RightHealth.com (which says, helpfully, “Relax. Take a deep breath. We have the answers you seek.”), a story about the Vatican beatifying Mel Gibson’s stigmatic muse Anne Emmerich, and this movie.
In the movie, the top result is the wikipedia entry for stigmata. She engages in some hot browsing action, surfing to a non-religious stigmatics site. This brings up a crisp video of Art Bell saying, “Darker than the shadowy depths of the deepest ocean, more infinite than the starry universe, in three meagre pounds, all the knowledge that ever was, or ever will be. I’m Art Bell, and these are the [cue echo effect] mysteries of the mind.” Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, Art Bell is a syndicated overnight talk radio host who specializes in talking about paranormal, paranoiac, metaphysical bunkum geared for the suggestible insomniac. He features a regular army of insane callers, who entertain in that charming cable access vein of lunacy.
Bell’s most famous for being more freaked out than anybody in America about Y2K, a Ross Perot-style retirement in ’98 after vague threats were made to his family, and a series of increasingly annoying “retirements” since then, with the latest one in June of ’07 being the one that will supposedly stick. One hopes it was his cameo here that finally convinced him that his career was dead. At any rate, he’s quite possibly the least credible source of information in America. Let’s watch as he explains the science behind Dakota’s leprous limbs.
A cheesy “America’s Most Wanted” style recreation tells the tale of Joseph and Jacob Kay, identical twins. When Jacob was gunned down by the mob in 1944, Joseph bled to death the same night from a puncture wound where the bullet had pierced his brother. For what it’s worth, I couldn’t find any reference to this story on the internet. I assume the screenwriter made it up.
The bedroom door opens, and Dakota’s slams closed the laptop. Mom takes the cigarette and chastises her, before taking a puff herself. They chuckle. Aw, bonding. Mom reaches out to touch her forehead, but she withdraws. Dakota shares the theory that she’s Aubrey’s identical twin. “Hospitals make mistakes. We could have been separated at birth.”
Mom’s response is, “It’s like a bad dream, honey. Someday you’re going to wake up and realize that.” Then she takes her downstairs and shows her the videotape of the ultrasound. Question: were hospitals technologically equipped to dole out such tapes when Aubrey/Dakota was in the womb in 1986? I know such things are all the rage now, but considering that ultrasounds weren’t even de rigeur at hospitals until the early ’80s (when digital scans were of sufficient resolution thanks to advances in microchips), and that modern high resolution images (like the one on the TV screen here) weren’t even possible until the mid-’90s, I think this little plot point is a wee bit â€¦ stupid.
Besides, wouldn’t a simple ‘no’ suffice here? Surely, the woman would know if she had twins or not. From what I understand, there’s a certain amount of pain involved in pumping out a baby. Mom goes on to explain in vivid detail how she fell during her eighth month, and had to be confined to bed for the final six weeks of the pregnancy. How she remembers the baby becoming very still in her belly. How she willed the baby to kick, and it would. How the birth was terrifying, and she only got a glimpse of the child before taking it away and then it was touch and go. “I’m not trying to prove you wrong,” she says. “I’m just trying to help you see.” By the way, dad is standing in the background all shadowy and creepy this whole time. So, having established that Aubrey leaping into a split personality is the only logical conclusion, it’s time for the movie to contort as much as possible to pull out something stupid.
Next scene, Aubrey is in her room, on a chair, desperately trying to reach â€¦ a blue (MIC) trophy! If there’s one thing I learned from this movie, it’s that trophies should ideally be stored within reach. Before she can pull it down and solve the mystery, she hears an owl hoot. In the bedroom mirror, Aubrey’s face appears in a cheesy effect right out of Snow White. She appears to be wearing the same wedding dress Sean Connery used in Zardoz. The movie shows Aubrey kneeling, and a man in a blue ski mask (MIC) smacks her across the face with a baseball bat. As he does this, Dakota falls off the chair with a grunt and collapses to the ground. Her nose is bleeding. Owls are hooting outside. The mirror is still playing the psychic movie of Aubrey being dragged into an open grave.
Now it shows an owl, looking directly out. The owl looks to the side at the bouquet of blue (MIC) roses boyfriend brought, and they wilt. Petals float slowly, artistically to the ground, then drift into the mirror, where they settle in a stream bed. (Let’s all take a moment to rub our eyes and scratch our heads.) The score, by the way, has become very old-fashioned sounding during this sequence, and even rips off a handful of measures, note for note, from Radioland Murders. We watch the blue petals drift downstream as an owl hoots. What the hell is going on?
Cut to daddy in his office, nursing a stiff drink. (I’m right there with you, pardner.) Dakota, fully recovered from her supernatural television watching and psychic baseball bat beating, bursts in and says, “I know what you did, Daniel. Susan’s baby died in the incubator and you bought a baby from the crackhead down the hall, who had one to spare.” He tries to deny it, but she asserts that she saw the New Salem postmarks on the envelopes from her mother’s death parlor. She says, righteously, “One hits the jackpot, the other gets stuck with Virginia Sue Moss.” Et voila, non?
Daddy cops to it, and goes for ice. Dakota holds up Robohand and says, “She lost this one first. So did I.” We get a bloody flashback scene of Dakota trying to reattach her finger. The antiseptic she pours on her stump is bright blue (MIC). What the hell? She sews the gangrenous finger back into place. It’s not fun to watch, but then, with this flick, that’s par for the course. When she wakes up in the flashback, she’s covered in blood.
Then we get a shot of a trucker ignoring her hitchhiking effort (but no dust to choke on, as it takes place on pavement), and a recap of Dakota being found, just in case we forgot what happened an hour ago amidst all the tomfoolery. Anyway, Dakota makes a passionate entreaty to Daddy that everything happening to Aubrey is happening to her, therefore Aubrey must still be alive.
“I can’t risk losing you.”
“You’re pathetic. Go fuck yourself.”
For whatever reason, when I saw this in the theatre, this line garnered the biggest laugh. Maybe it’s Lohan’s wide-eyed delivery, as if she’s really talking to the producer. Or maybe it’s just a release from the sheer insanity of what’s happening. Anyway, Dakota goes walking outside, presumably to find another bedroom to ransack for clues. We get a shot of Blue Hood (MIC) putting Aubrey in a casket with a (sigh) blue stained glass lid (MIC) as (sigh) an owl watches. Not only is the coffin made entirely of ornate blue stained glass, but it has the pattern of a blue rose on top (MIC, puke). Where does this killer find the time?
As Aubrey walks, her Roboleg starts beeping, so I guess it’s low on batteries. Damn thing has less up time than my iPod. She wanders into a gated graveyard as, somewhere nearby I presume, killer man digs a grave for Aubrey. Cut to Dakota standing over the grave of Aubrey Fleming, which has blue roses on it (MIC), crying. Lightning crashes, and the name on the tombstone changes from Aubrey’s to Jennifer Toland’s. (Let’s make this hallucination for Jennifer Toland!) The grave puts her year of birth as 1988, so now we’re all 19? Reaching over, Dakota discovers a blue (MIC) ribbon marked “Y.A. 2001” â€¦ finally the clue that puts it all together! On the back it reads, “Blue ribbons are for winners. Never settle for the red. Rest in peace, Douglas.”
Cut to an owl taking off. A riverbed. The ribbon. And, are you ready to be hit over the head? A split screen shot of Dakota in a red filter and buried Aubrey in a blue one! They say, at the same time, “Blue ribbons are for winners, never settle for the red.” GET IT? GET IT???? A heap of dirt falls on Aubrey’s coffin. An owl watches. Dakota’s eyes get big. And hand reaches out and taps her on her shoulder and â€¦ it’s Daddy.
“I know who killed me.” Lightning crash. No shit.
She hands daddy the ribbon, and suddenly he understands everything, which is awesome, because I still don’t. As they drive off, daddy briefly brings up calling the police but Dakota makes the wise assertion that there’s no time (to place a cell phone call?) and he agrees. As a voice whispers “there’s not enough air” Dakota starts hyperventilating. Because, you see, whatever happens to Aubrey happens to her. Sort of. I began to wonder at this point if Dakota has been crapping her pants her whole life, since her every bodily function is controlled by Aubrey. Luckily, for the convenience of the screenwriter, this danger simply disappears after a while. I suppose Aubrey managed to stick a straw up through the dirt, or something. And if Aubrey’s still passed out, should Dakota be, too?
Daddy stops and says, “I should have believed you from the start.” Yeah, I mean, who wouldn’t? Now that they’ve bonded, he grabs a tire iron from the trunk and they advance in the dark upon an innocuous looking suburban house. He sneaks up to the front door, which has a predominantly blue (MIC) stained glass window, and peers inside. Back in the car, Dakota has a series of retarded Super 8 flashbacks—the beach, a disco ball, walking on stage to “strip,” Aubrey getting whacked, the finger being sliced off, the infamous shower scene, and the two little beach girls sitting in the sand just screaming away. For some reason, this convinces Dakota to join her dad in the house.
The stained glass pattern on the door? Blue (MIC) roses.
By instinct, or default, or IITS, Dakota wanders to a side entry that leads to the cellar. She accidentally knocks a paint can down the stairs with Roboleg, and panics, slamming the door shut and cringing in the corner. Through a curtain, we see a blue (MIC) face (?) peering out. At this point, I would have not batted an eye if the killer turned out to be the entire Blue Man troupe. Would explain a lot, really. A Convenient Possumâ„¢ makes a noise nearby, taking the heat off Dakota.
Seeing her opportunity, she once again enters the stairway and clambers down the wooden stairs. She sees a little blue (MIC) glass hatchet lying on the ground in a puddle of blood. She picks it up, proving that she’s played enough D&D to know that when you find a weapon, you always add it to your rucksack, even if you aren’t equipped with the proper weapon class skill. This one’s probably +1 against anything red. She opens a door, and immediately an arm thrusts out at her. It’s wearing a blue glove (MIC). She uses her Robohand to pin the arm in place while she saws at the wrist with the hatchet. Yep, she hacks it clean off. The killer, understandably, retreats.
Listening to the sounds of him stumbling around and screaming, she waits until he’s gone, then goes into the room. Suspended from the ceiling are literally hundreds of artificial arms, legs, and hands. This is meant to be creepy, but in case that doesn’t come across, the soundtrack brings in a voice going ‘oooooooooo.’ Upstairs, killer is smashing stuff and screaming. Dakota comes upon the centerpiece of the lair: a bucket of blood and the torture table. A tarp is covering a body. She pulls it back to reveal Daddy, lying there quite peacefully, as if he tired of looking for the killer and settled in for a wee nap.
She shakes him awake, and he barely opens his eyes. “Aubrey,” he says. Dakota decides to play along for once and answers in the affirmative. “I’m sorry.” Muerto. Congratulations, killer man. You’ve now, at the 94 minute mark, officially become a multiple murder, if not quite a serial killer. By the way, standing ominously, silently, and stupidly right behind Dakota? (MIC)
He helpfully waits for her to turn slowly around and then do a spin attack with the hatchet. He yanks the sleeve off the Roboarm then slaps her across the face with it like a rubber glove gauntlet. Dakota goes down. (Does Aubrey feel that, too?) Then, for no reason, he grabs his severed wrist and yells a war cry. His face is covered with a blue (MIC) stocking, by the way. Cut to a shot of his hand sitting in a bowl of ice upstairs. On that hand, and prepare yourself for this one, is the very same ring the piano teacher wears! (MIC)
At this revelation, the soundtrack kicks in with piano music, and we pan across a discarded blue glove (MIC) and blue baseball hat (MIC) and blue coat (MIC). Piano teacher is at his bench, in a blue shirt (MIC), banging away with his remaining hand. He is deeply upset at this turn of events. Downstairs, Dakota awakes to find herself tied up in the torture chamber. She struggles, as you do.
Piano teacher takes his hand out of the ice upstairs, and for a second I think we’re going to get another gripping scene of home sewing action, but he just loses his cool and tosses the thing aside. Dakota spots one of his patented blue (MIC) torture tools, and wriggles over to it. Piano man has some more freak out action upstairs, then calmly descends the staircase. He’s ready to exact a final revenge on Dakota, taking the time to kiss a few dangling limbs along the way.
“Why did you come back?” he asks. He’s holding a ceremonial blue glass knife (MIC) and wondering out loud how she unburied herself (though not how she changed her clothes, procured two state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs, and discovered his whereabouts). Just as he’s about to stab, Dakota rolls away—she wasn’t really tied up anymore! What a twist!—and takes him out with a well timed trip from Roboleg. She finds a knife (MIC), and stabs him in the penis. Then, with his mouth hanging awkwardly agape, the neck. Somehow, he still has time to stagger around and ponder the humanity of it all, before collapsing, an artificial leg in each arm. Fade to white.
Dakota’s hauling herself through the graveyard with a shovel, just wandering about until inspiration tells her where to dig, I guess. An owl hoots, and behold! Inspiration! She wanders over to where an owl is sitting perfectly still on a tree branch, and starts digging. Thanks, school mascot! A reprisal of the purloined score really makes my skin rankle. Yes, the composer Joel McNeely wrote it himself, but it still smacks of intellectual laziness to borrow your own cue verbatim. Then again, I would have thrown in the towel on this flick, too.
Anyway, after digging up the grave in record time for a girl who supposedly is suffocating, Dakota makes her Robohand into a mighty Robofist, then smashes the glass lid of the coffin. Instead of injuring Aubrey, the barely shattered glass disappears to reveal her veiled face gasping for breath. Aubrey lifts the veil and stares into her twin sister’s eyes for the first time. Next thing we know, they’re lying on the ground together (just like in Parent Trap!) and the camera pulls away to reveal the fateful petal-strewn stream. It’s over.
Sadly, the DVD doesn’t include a commentary track (though it does threaten the viewer with “alternate opening,” “alternate ending,” and the shudder-inducing link to “extended strip dance” (six minutes of pure non-stripping stripping action). Oh, and bloopers, which prove to be singularly humorless. This would be an excellent opportunity for a commentary, because without it, I really have no idea what anybody involved in this was thinking. It’s obvious why the movie was greenlit—horror/skin flicks are a tried and true rite of passage for young starlets looking to get more grown up roles while still cashing in on their youthful appearance. But what sort of sick contrivance led to that plot?
First, it should be noted that the phrase “I know who killed me” should actually be “I know who attempted to kill my twin sister and failed.” Second, why even introduce police—much less the full-force FBI investigation—when, with just one girl gone missing, it could easily have been written without cops altogether? Aubrey could have discovered the body of Jennifer Toland, been apprehended at that moment, the parents could start to panic that two girls are missing, then Dakota shows up all bloody and whatnot, and the suspicion lies on her, that she snapped and killed Jennifer while under the guise of this alternate personality. There: every character has a recognizable motivation now, instantly. Third, the whole business of the mistaken identity could have been so easily cleared up, with primitive means such as fingerprinting and phone calling, that it stretches the mystery of that angle to an acute snapping point.
Jeff Hammond must have spent more time working on Aubrey’s short story than this movie’s plot, because he clearly painted himself into a corner that only an unexplained mystical bus angel, a magic mirror, and a parliament of owls could solve. Even basic facts—the main character’s age, for starters—are left so vague that it’s clear Hammond never even spent a moment pondering them. The baby switch? Daddy’s blond and mommy’s a brunette. Lohan’s a freckle-faced redhead. The killer’s motivation? Aubrey was quitting, but the message on the ribbon at Jennifer’s grave indicates that she was still plugging away at the piano dream, with no evidence to the contrary ever raised. The FBI investigation? Despite an entire war room and ridiculously high tech resources at their disposal, nobody ever found a single clue that both girls’ piano teacher was constructing an elaborate torture chamber in his suburban basement using the highly uncommon supplies of blue stained glass, prosthetic limbs, and large quantities of dry ice. The twins’ psychic link? Don’t even get me started how that remained dormant for so long. The mysteries and clues are so lame, it’s shocking that the writer didn’t pull a Robot Monster and make it all just a dream, or, given the set up, all an elaborate story Aubrey wrote. (Checking the alternate ending on the DVD, sure enough, that was indeed the plan! It’s just Aubrey tapping away at her computer, smiling.)
This movie is Hammond’s sole screen credit. It would not surprise me in the least if it remains so forever.
As for director Chris Sivertson, good God man, there were 93 separate and egregious instances of the color electric blue in this movie. That’s nearly one a minute! The red, when it appeared, was similarly heavy handed. The color symbolism in this flick had all the subtlety of an elephant taking a dump on your living room couch. This is only the second movie he’s directed all by himself (the first being 2005’s The Lost), and he’s probably only notable for being a co-director on the remake of The Toolbox Murders. His resume indicates a taste for camp and horror, which makes this turn at dazzling pretentiousness all the more confusing. It smacks of something a director who’s “slumming” it in horror might try, except that the execution is so lame, it’s clear that this was Sivertson’s first attempt at doing anything with an artistic flair. As they say in the land of macro meme, FAIL.