Film Review: Shattered Lives (2009)

SYNOPSIS:

Years after killing her mother when her two clown dolls advised it as a solution to her stress over keeping her mother’s (Lucia Sullivan) infidelity from her father (Jeff Zukowski), schizophrenic teen Rachel (Christina Rosenberg) has another break in the wake of a tragedy in this psychological thriller. After her beloved dad dies in a car accident, Rachel’s clowns once again come to life for her and lead her down a tragic, bloody path.

REVIEW:

Shattered Lives does 2 things to ya at once. It quickly changes your perspective on what the film entails. From the opener scene we are plunge into a bloodbath of chaos that has an unknown masked killer storming the house and driving its axe into everything that moves. For a minute, I thought this might be a “Strangers” kind of film or a run of the mill slasher journey.

Then, just as quickly we change gears into a drama that has the network “Lifetime” written all over it. To lay out the setup…. frustrated housewife Jennie (Lucia Sullivan) feels trapped in her marriage. We assume that the couple has had a long run of arguments and disappointment as it’s already at the breaking point stage. Her husband John (Jeffrey Zukowski) is a caring family man who does well for himself but often works late hours.

The daughter Rachel , spends alot of her time playing with dolls and fabricating a make believe reality for herself. It doesn’t help that Jennie is an unattentive parent who blames her daughter for taking all the attention away from her. This notion leads to an affair which is hardly kept secret from Rachel. As Rachel plays, Jennie entertains a lover and even brings him into there house for affairs. A former relation from Jennie’s past begins to set the idea into motion that Jennie is trapped in a loveless marriage that leaves her emotionally unsatisfied.

John, the husband tries to make things work but falls short in his attempts. His role as a father has been #1 priority for him so he feels compelled to give his daughter all the attention leaving little left over for his wife. To deal with the issues of a potential family breakup and unhappy marriage, young Rachel begins to spiral into a close relationship with her toys. Though when 2 of her Jester/ Harlequin toys actually come to life, she feels no other option but to listen to theircommands and act upon theirwishes.

Now at this point the film takes a different turn. These creepy jesters pop intot he film like something out of a Renaissance nightmare. Both of them midgets that talk in riddles and are intent on doing damage almost feel as if they could slip into a Clive Barker film and feel right at home. They appear to Rachel nightly giving her advice, threatening her if she doesn’t comply and intertwining that with childish games and purpose. Quite possibly the eeriest midget jesters I’ve seen on screen are something straight out of nightmares that work extremely effectively to offset the buildup drama that we’ve come into this far.

Rachel is instructed to murder her mother and cuts to present-day-Rachel who is an adult now. After a fatal car crash she is informed that her father has died, leaving her alone from the only real person she’s ever received love from. What follows is what some would say is the film coming full circle.

The reviews so far on this one have been luke warm at best. My guess is the drama aspect moves too slow for horror fans. Though being a lover of creepy jester clowns, it scored big points for its surreal moments. Take those away and you really have a bore of film but I loved the weird premise and needed inclusion. Directed and written by Carl Lindbergh, the film has or maybe “had” potential.

What was lacking was a strong third act. Adult Rachel played by Christina Rosenberg was a great choice as she looked alot like the product of her actor parents. Though her role was downplayed and left me feeling that the film was missing this 3rd act. Maybe it was the quick resolve or hole left in the story ….I wasn’t sure but it could have been tightened up alot more, with more emphasis on the emotional states and maybe an edited down version of the drama states. Its a hard call as you feel that certain things had to be there but the what ultimately fails in this film is providing a solid core of delivering more to horror audiences.

I think by the time most audience reach the conclusion they will walk away disappointed. Still those creepy jesters were the highlight that drove the middle action. Shattered lives wasn’t a bad film by any means, it just wasn’t a great film either. Carl Lindbergh previously directed Shadows of the Dead a film I’m still inclined to check out. I think Carl has vision and will surprise us down the road. He may be one to watch out in the future when he’s refined that vision and hit the nail on the head.

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