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Stop Requested (2013)
Tonight's Short Presentation

STOP REQUESTED (2013)

Starring: Lorraine Montez, Rodrigo De Medeiros, Tony Doupe’, Evelyn Bruce, Julianne Christie

Written By: Ben Andrews, Ben James, Lorraine Montez, VJ Orduna Directed By: Ben Andrews

See It Here: (Making Festival Runs)


The Story

Jess (Lorraine Montez) is a woman whom the water cooler gossips might politely whisper “has issues.”  She pops pills on a regular basis to keep the visions away, but that doesn’t prevent said visions from waking her up at 3am and presenting her with a strange woman getting ecstatic in her shower anyway.  Nor do the pills keep every mirror she sees from cracking, or keep the local psychics from giving her unsolicited advice, or keep that creepy guy from showing up at the train station all the time.  And what’s with the sky?  Is she going mad?  Is it real?  Is she real?  Will someone just quit with the riddles and give her a straight answer already?


The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

BLEU.

People love it, people hate it; people have no idea how to explain it.


Pairs Well With...

LOST ANGEL MERLOT.

Flavorful.  Thoughtful.  Anything else it might potentially transform into is not for me to say.


“I’m only a reflection.  I’m only a reflection.  I’m only a reflection.”


Watching Stop Requested makes me feel nostalgic for 1999.

Why?  Because in anticipation of the Then-Impending Year 2000 Apocalypse That Didn’t End Up Happening (not to be confused with the Recently-Impending Year 2012 Apocalypse  That Didn’t End Up Happening), multiplexes were loaded with movies based on religious, metaphysical, and (go figure) potentially apocalyptic themes.  Some were straightforward; some required the audience to think.

The freshly minted Stop Requested stands well with the ones that required the audience to think.

It does not stand anywhere near the ones that made complete sense on the first pass.  Or the second.  Or perhaps even ever.  I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, mind.  A definitively answered set of questions rarely provokes as many thoughts as a gaggle of unanswered ones.  What I am saying is that if you need straight lines, fully connected dots, and neatly sewn endings to consider a story satisfying, Stop Requested won’t be pulling into your station anytime soon.

I think it would lose a lot if it did, really.  As for the rest of the class… is everyone ready to get metaphyctional?

Even for those happy to ride the Art House Train through the twilight zone, Stop Requested can prove to be a challenge.  This is a matter of audience mindset and prejudices that any potential viewers bring in even before the word “go,” combined with the hybrid approach that the creative team has chosen to take with regard to the story.  For example, some people only like to travel through Cinema of the Weird so far; they expect to be rewarded with a straight answer at the end that ties all of the oddity that has come before together in a neat little package.  (Consider The Sixth Sense beginner level there, and Lynch’s Mulholland Drive the advanced class. Yes, the latter does make perfect sense if you try.)  For others, the endless riddle is the way to go, where one can put together pieces in several ways to come up with a line that works but the Big Question doesn’t actually get answered in a forthright fashion.  (Call this one “Twin Peaks.”)  Stop Requested is designed to make neither one of these standard-issue camps happy.  Instead, it goes its own way, and as with so much art that goes off the normal wires, whether or not that works is entirely a matter of personal preference.

For me, it lands squarely in the category of “things that make you go hmm.”

The first 80% of the film, give or take, is a Mutter Museum of Jess’s creepy, haunted life.  One vignette does not necessarily follow or even quite gel with the next, and for the kind of tale being told here, I think it works.  The bizarre imbalance helps to put the viewer inside Jess’s head (she can’t make heads or tails of it all, either), and it’s presented in a compelling enough fashion to make the audience want to figure it out.  Not that there’s a snowball’s chance of success, mind, for even if one manages to make the stretch to where it’s all going, it still doesn’t come together in a straight line.  Not on the first, second, or third pass, anyway.

As a fan of “Twin Peaks,” I’m good with that.  I also love the funky camera angles, the creepy music with the old school doom vibe, and the dark/muted palette.  (The briefly retouched sky is a bit much, but I’m okay with it.)  I love the bookstore sequence.  (Are bookstore sequences ever bad?)  I like the details that one only catches on the second try or later.

Is it perfect?  No.  Even liking the off-balance, doesn’t-all-gel feel of things, I do think some of it (the office) could have been cut without taking away from anything.  There are a few points along the way that feel like a hard sell.  (A show tune; the off-kilter sage carrying it just a half a beat too far.)  But overall?  It works.  I like the experiment.  I like the performances.  I love the directorial style.  (This film wouldn’t be nearly as interesting shot in straight-up fashion or without the atmospherics.)

So why, then, is Stop Requested in the “things that make [me] go hmm” category?

That would involve the final 20% of the story.

It starts with a flashback that plays through a much brighter palette than anything that comes before, and progresses to a CG visual effect back in the ‘present’ that is the very definition of the no-win scenario.  There’s no way the scene that the story called for could have been accomplished without the effect, but it is so obvious that it threatens to take the audience right out of the story that Stop Requested has heretofore worked so very, very hard to build-

-and then the movie itself carries out the threat by completely switching gears.

Maybe it kills the intangibles of the atmosphere; maybe it doesn’t.  (I say they’re softened, but the direction keeps them alive.)  The tangible part of things propped up by the story as presented aloud, however… yeah, that’s gone.  Suddenly, the beans are spilled, and names are named.  (Even when they’re not; there’s some cleverness afoot in ways I won’t spoil.)  More than half of everything that’s happened before the climax seems if not irrelevant then perhaps just nonsense.  (I’m sure it isn’t, of course, but.)  This is why no one’s happy: for some, there won’t be enough answers revealed here, for others, too many, spoiling the tricks.

For me, it spoils the tricks.  I don’t mind getting answers, but in a movie like this, I’d have preferred that the style had stayed consistent instead of reaching what feels like a point of “Oh, look at the time! Better wrap!”  While the viewer is left to fill in the blank of the most important name involved, it’s spelled out in so much unspoken neon that someone might as well have said it.  (Again, cleverness there, but still.)  I’d rather, if I’m going be provided an answer here, be led a little less far up the path before being left to my own intellectual devices.

And yet, spoiled though the tricks may be, spoiled the entire movie is not.  As noted before, I like the experiment.  I like the performances.  I really like the direction.  I don’t need to like how the big answer is revealed or even what that answer is to appreciate the fact the someone tried to ask the question in a way that not only doesn’t fit the mainstream mold; it doesn’t even fit the standard “weird” mold.  And whether I or you or anyone walks away from Stop Requested feeling completely satisfied, there’s one thing I guarantee we’re all doing: thinking about it for a long time afterward.  If that’s not the definition of a successful film and if that’s not an artistic statement well accomplished, what is?

Bottom line, I’ve seen Ben Andrews do a lot of work in front of a camera.  After having a look at Stop Requested, I want to see more of what he can do behind it.  I think you will, too.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2013


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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