• Taking a pretty great Kiroshi Kurosawa horror film and making it not so great
• Trying to pass off crumbling bits of Romania as Columbus, Ohio
• Stranding Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell in the middle of it all
Defenders: Director Jim Sonzero, makeup effects artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Tone of commentary: Alternately prickly and self-congratulatory. When Sonzero and Tunnicliffe aren't explaining why a scene works, they point out all the limitations that keep it from being even better than it already is.
What went wrong: One word: Romania. For Sonzero and Tunnicliffe, filming in the former Soviet Bloc nation provides an excuse for their film's every shortcoming. Why don't the cars look like the kind you'd see on an America street? Romania. Why is every inch of every dorm room covered in band posters? They needed to look less Romanian. Sonzero also comments on the difficulty of translating Kurosawa's film into a product for the American multiplexes, saying "In the original film, there really wasn't much of a plot. It was just kind of an idea. And about loneliness. And about themes. And kind of random."
Comments on the cast: A director and makeup effects supervisor couldn't ask for a better cast, particularly Bell. "Every word that comes out of her mouth she thinks about," Sonzero says. It's almost as if that was her job.
Inevitable dash of pretension: Both men are proud of their handiwork. "This is probably the scariest scene in the film," Sonzero says of a not-all-that-scary scene. "And probably the scariest scene I've seen in a long time in a horror film." Even the generally genial Tunnicliffe gets in on the act, defending the not-screened-for-critics film: "For all those critics out there who do have opinions I say, 'Why don't you go and make a fucking film and we'll watch it and see what we think of it?'" Ah, the classic, if-you're-so-smart, why-don't-you-try-it defense.
Commentary in a nutshell:
Tunnicliffe: People just watching think, "Oh, a truck, how hard could that be?"
Sonzero: In Romania… Just getting the thing running… Roll camera, the truck would die. Roll camera, the truck would die. One time it caught on fire while we were trying to start it."