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Film Review: Needlestick (2017)

SYNOPSIS:

A young doctor returns to the hospital of his brilliant mentor. Unfortunately, his former teacher is now insane. The doctor focuses less on medicine and more on rekindling a former romance. The evil physician has created a cure for aging and in his quest to protect it, he unbounds a monster with mommy issues and a desire to kill. Two things that go hand in hand.

REVIEW:

Director: Steven Karageanes
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Harry Lennix, Michael Traynor

With a title that makes you say, “Wait, what did you just call me?” Needlestick is a top-to-bottom mess of a film, with the bad movie trifecta of bad acting, bland set pieces, and a lackluster execution of ideas. First time feature length director/writer, Karageanes is painfully misguided in framing a compelling scene. Spending just as much time, if not more, with the social lives of the generally unlikable hospital staff as he does with the mad scientist. There’s a broad lack of maturity that bleeds through the chemistry-free romance scenes and into the rest of the film. For example, a doctor exclaims, “Gross!” at the idea of having to do mouth-to-mouth on a dying girl. When at long last it does turn into a film loosely resembling the horror genre, it’s utter confusion.

As a thinking, breathing, human-being, it is soul crushing and frankly embarrassing to watch actors deliver what would be dialogue welcome in a 70’s porn. Michael Traynor does his best with what’s been written. Fans of horror will know him as Nicholas from the Walking Dead, the guy who everyone thought got Glenn killed until Glenn really got killed. He’s surrounded by such low quality character actors that any performance or delivery he gives is drowning in a sea of poor casting choices. Lance Henriksen also makes a cash grab as the mad scientist who when his cure for aging is compromised, unleashes a giant murderous errand boy and locks down the hospital. He over commits to the point of broad comedy. A notable highlight of his rampant decent into Alzheimer’s is a scene of writing and rehearsing a Nobel Prize Speech to himself.

I know that this movie is about a doctor taking a hospital hostage because it’s in the provided synopsis. If I had to figure it out from the film itself, I’m not sure I would have been able to. All exposition is done incredibly quickly, often not more than a single line of dialogue will establish whole character motivations. A dancer who attempted suicide has a more flushed out backstory than anyone else. She even enjoys two dance sequences, for reasons that escape a sane mind.

There’s an aging cure that makes you a big invincible zombie monster. That much I’m sure of. Chiefly because there’s a big invincible zombie monster killing people who’s been injected with the cure. I know that Henriksen needs bodies to experiment on, so he sends the monster to get them, but his behemoth has been killing them instead, like a true rapscallion. I also know that there’s a bomb that blows up the hospital, with a painfully rushed explanation. Sort of the cinematic equivalent of telling a one night stand they now have chlamydia while running out of their place half-dressed.  The CGI bomb going off is so atrocious it makes SyFy originals such as Dinoshark and Mega Python vs Elderly Greek Woman look like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Aside from effects that would cause Stan Winston to rise from the dead only to shot himself in the head, there is the looming question of where the other patients are during all of this mayhem.

Before watching the movie, and I pray I’ve dissuaded you from that foolish action, but before you do, think of the title. Why is this movie called Needlestick? Is it because it’s very close to a childish dirty word? No, the movie isn’t that self aware. Throughout the movie a whole bunch of people get stuck with needles. It’s not a smart movie, or a fun movie, it’s barely more than a soap opera, and above all, it has a stupid name.

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