Haunted Honeymoon

Film Review: Livestock (2009)

SYNOPSIS:

A mysterious cult has decided to take a new direction in giving Victor, a hard working trusted member, a promotion. However, his cruel minded disciples have decided to take action of their own. Growing tired of their monotonous plans, they begin to take their malevolent acts one step further. In a world seemingly far removed from Victor’s, two young girls, Annabel and Tina, are trying to make changes in their own lives. Annabel prepares for a second date with Jerry, a man she met online, while Tina keeps focused on an important meeting that is sure to open up new doors in her life. Soon these two worlds collide as Annabel and Tina find themselves deep within the belly of the beast, and the long, dark history of a secret organization is revealed.

REVIEW:

Studies have found that approximately one in every three relationships begin online. That’s a rather jarring statistic, coupled with the speed at which the internet has blossomed in its short existence. At this rate, we could reach a time in the foreseeable future when the amount of relationships that start online eclipses those that are not. And while it’s great that the pool of potential mates has expanded with the popularity of internet dating, there also comes an inherent question of safety.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of online predators. It has become something of an urban legend, but the threat is real. Unsurprisingly, this fear has become the subject of a number of movies. At this point, the story of internet dating gone wrong has been fairly played out.

I bring this up because it would have been very easy for Livestock scribes Christopher Di Nunzio (who also directs) and Melanie Kotoch to write yet another hackneyed internet predator film. Instead, they managed to do something interesting with the plot device. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the script had a couple more tricks up its sleeve as well.

As the film opens, we meet Victor Corsi (Fiore Leo). Despite his stature, Corsi is clearly nervous as he waits in the back seat of a black car. Edgar Ozera (Robert Hines, who looks like a creepier, husky version of John Malkovich) soon joins him to discuss business. It seems that Edgar is a superior in a mob known as The Pack, and Victor is being promoted for his good work and loyalty.

The key word is “seems.” While the movie begins like a Quentin Tarantino-inspired gangster movie – including his penchant for long, dialogue-heavy scenes, only much more arduous – it is later revealed that the mysterious Pack is actually a cult of sorts. Another twist is encountered when the group turns out to be made up of bloodsucking vampires; a refreshingly subtle take on the creatures.

Livestock certainly deserves credit for originality. We get a nice splash of horror wrapped in a dark drama with a crime motif. But the vampire gang is not the only focal point of the film. Remember the online dating aspect I mentioned? Annabel (Johanna Gorton) is pursuing a relationship with Anthony (Michael Reardon), a man she met on the internet. Anthony’s sly demeanor makes him a red herring briefly, until the two are attacked by The Pack. There is yet another subplot involving Annabel’s friends. Unbeknownst to the characters, they are all intertwined.

With all of this going on, you may expect a long movie. In fact, Livestock runs a scant hour and fifteen minutes. It’s even more brief if you factor in the credits and shorter still if a heavy-handed editor were to remove the copious filler. There are many extraneous, drawn out sequences that do nothing to advance the plot nor to develop the characters. Kotoch edited the film, and having also co-written the script, it was likely difficult to cut footage from her perspective.

Although the picture is short, it is a slow burner. Its biggest problem, however, is that the ending offers very little payoff. The entire duration is spent building up to something that should be at least sizable, but it instead just seems to trail off at the end. In addition to the pacing, the film falls victim to the pitfalls of many low budget, independent productions, including inexperienced actors, poor lighting, a cheap score and other such amateur mistakes.

Livestock shows potential and ambition for Di Nunzio as a filmmaker, but it was not fully harnessed this time around. Its originality and twists are admirable, but the final product fails to deliver on any other level. With more time, a re-write of the script and a bigger budget, the movie could be great; as it stands, however, it falls short.

Livestock (2009)

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