Tuesday, September 04, 2007


After reading so many positive things about Jim Hemphill's BAD REPUTATION and having it recommended to me by multiple friends, I was ready for the second coming of rape-revenge cinema. Despite a couple of spot-on performances and an inspired script, the film itself I think suffers from a split personality crisis. What is being sold as a sexy, bloody thriller is more like a Lifetime television movie with moments of harsh violence and amateur gore effects. Angelique Hennessy is excellent in the lead role as Michelle, a withdrawn high school girl who becomes the object of adolescent cruelty and torment when she's branded a "slut" by the popular girls after being brutally assaulted at a party by their jock boyfriends. Hemphill and crew do a fine job of setting up a very realistic scenario and making the viewer really feel horrible for Michelle, it's when they decide to throw in graphically detailed moments of exploitation in the rape and subsequent revenge that things really go south for me. Thematically and tonally speaking, BAD REPUTATION would have worked so much better had they either not tried to make it like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (victim returns as a sexpot to lure the guilty to their deaths) and instead kept the realistically dramatic feel that the film's first act pulls off so successfully. By the time Michelle decapitates a classmate at a Halloween party, the movie is just impossible to take seriously due to the corny way each of her tormentors meets his or her demise, nearly ruining a well-acted and intense closing scene. To put it simply: I wish the filmmakers would have chosen either the exploitation route or the afterschool special route, not such an off-balance mix of both.


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