A romantic weekend turns horrific and sadistic when Sadie discovers her boyfriend is having an affair with her best friend.
There is something almost fascinating about a complete cinematic misfire. Sure, anyone under the sun can create an awful movie with a Coinstar budget and borrowed camera in Mom and Dad’s garage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, expensive Hollywood releases so often place quantity above quality that the ratio of junk to gems runs just as high (if not higher) as that of bargain-basement releases. The entire price tag of an offering such as “Midget Zombie Takeover” wouldn’t cover one stick of makeup on the set of “I, Frankenstein,” yet both movies are equally difficult to sit through without contemplating self-mutilation.
The latest from “Leprechaun” director Mark Jones, “Scorned” manages the nearly impossible feat of doing just about everything wrong it possibly can. Though not present during filming, I have a sneaking suspicion even the catering was a bland, tasteless chore to choke down. Attempting a slick, mean-spirited tone much in the same vein as John McNaughton’s “Wild Things” (which worked marvelously) or Peter Berg’s “Very Bad Things” (which did not), “Scorned” succeeds only in being nihilistic, repetitive melodrama . A strong cast and, well, Jones for what that’s worth behind the camera cannot save this from being one of the worst films I’ve seen this young year.
Things begin on a promising note after a series of naughty texts are displayed, as philanderer Kevin (Billy Zane) awakens tied to a chair, pepper-sprayed and sporting a log-inflicted head contusion. Rewinding to earlier in the evening, we learn what landed him in this predicament and why girlfriend Sadie (AnnaLynne McCord of the “Dallas” and “90210” reboots) has him bound. It seems he had been fooling around with her best bud Jennifer, portrayed by Viva Bianca from “Spartacus: War of the Damned.” This doesn’t jive with Sadie, who lures her pal to Kevin’s vacation home with revenge in mind for the two of them.
Once Jennifer arrives and is promptly restrained, “Scorned” settles into ugly, soft-core torture p*rn mode. An impromptu haircut and bathing to give the viewer a gander at Bianca’s lovely assets leads to an uncomfortable scene of forced cunnilingus, performed under threat of Jennifer’s lapdog Bootsie cooking in a microwave. Are we having fun yet? Sadie prepares the couple tacos for a dinner on the deck, and the action remains (or, more specifically, stagnates) there for much of the duration.
“Scorned” would bear all the dubious markings of a comedic failure were it not for the overwrought flashbacks detailing Sadie’s childhood, from her involvement in the death of her younger sister to the following years spent institutionalized. Once the preposterous demand to take any of this seriously is made apparent, Sadie dials up the cruelty to straight barbarism, often incorporating her experiences at the hands of doctors in her “lessons” for the two. The first arrives in the form of her makeshift electroshock therapy, which consists of basically electrocuting them with a battery charger. This is as subtle and pleasant as the movie gets once the true nastiness begins, as we are invited to delight in hands crushed in a vice, a hobbling accompanied by an unnecessary “Misery” explanation, impromptu dental surgery and yet another go-around with electricity, this time applied to Kevin’s eyes. You know, super-fun stuff.
A kindly neighbor arrives to deliver homemade chili and establish that there are indeed others within close enough proximity to hear the deafening screams of pain occurring right in the open air. The lone subplot entails an escaped serial killer from the nearby prison, portrayed by Doug Drucker clearly for his facial tattoos and not any discernible talent on camera. Such is the curse of a thespian with a mug full of ink, I suppose. Even this welcome departure from the repellent focal point exists only to add to the stink once the two elements converge later. In all honesty, I really hoped the convict had shown up and murdered them all from the moment of his introduction, so any other character arc didn’t stand a chance to be less than disappointing.
As far as the performances are concerned, the brunt of chagrined head-shaking belongs squarely in Mr. Zane’s general direction, though in his defense he was given very little to do as Kevin outside of two emotions: drugged and pained. That aside, it’s hard to stomach The Collector of “Demon Knight” stuck in such a thankless role. I’ll play the optimist and assume it isn’t a matter of finances, but he dug the thought of getting down and dirty with two hotties young enough to be his daughters. Not one of the three leads falters in interpretation, but it matters naught when neither sympathy nor even a rat’s ass can be conjured for any of them.
When a director’s primary claims to fame are both the original “Leprechaun” and its most blatant knock-off (“Rumpelstiltskin”), expectations needn’t run too high. Jones’ display of craft here would class up any Lifetime Original, and warrants no artistic blame. That honor goes to his script. Co-authored by “House of Bad” actress Sadie Katz, it must read like a twisted drinking game of one-upmanship. Akin to having a roomful of the inebriated take turns adding to an increasingly vulgar story, this blather was better left at the bottom of an empty bottle.
“Scorned” is a heartless wreck.