Otis (2008)

Otis is a satirical take on the recent horror-porn phenomenon. It’s not a perfect film but it does work pretty well as a parody of this latest slew of Hostel and Saw-esque exploitative movies.

Otis is an overweight pizza delivery man who lives in his brothers shadow and uses his spare time to kidnap young girls and create a fantasy world in which they’re his girlfriend and he’s the high school football stud. Having killed, sometimes accidentally, a couple of the girls in the past, the police are on his trail but are so inept that they haven’t come close to finding him yet. One day, delivering pizza to the Lawson household, Otis becomes infatuated with daughter Riley and promptly kidnaps her. Back at his home, he watches her via multiple cameras set up in a basement and booby traps the room to prevent her from escaping, occasionally letting her out on a chain to participate in his twisted daydream.

Riley’s parents (Daniel Stern and Ileana Douglas); a sitcom family in an unfamiliarly harsh world, in the company of the ridiculously arrogant and useless Agent Hotchkiss (Jere Burns), receive regular phone calls from Otis who taunts them. When Riley uses her smarts and manages to flee from Otis’ squalid basement, she lets her parents and younger brother know where her kidnapper lives and they decide to take the law into their own hands.

Otis has a respectable cast, all of whom put their hearts into the project and make the characters their own, including newcomer Bostin Christopher as the titular nut-job. They’re ably assisted by Ashley Johnson as the object of his deranged affection and Dance Of The Dead’s Jared Kusnitz as her thoroughly obnoxious brother, not to mention Kevin Pollack as Otis’ overbearing older sibling.

The script is amusing and irreverent and does a wonderful job at poking fun of the plethora of torture-for-tortures-sake films that have emerged in the last decade. There is little in the way of gore, until the final third of the movie but when there is, it’s both hilarious and horrifying.

Although it might not look like it on the surface, there seems to have been an incredible attention to detail paid. To give one example, every time Otis delivers a pizza the total arrives at $19.84 in what is obviously a clever Orwellian reference. It is never derivative, instead managing to be a fresh, genuinely and affectionately satirical film, without hint of ripoff or any contempt for the genre that it’s parodying.

The soundtrack is made up of cheesy but evocative 80’s classics that help the viewer fall down the rabbit-hole and into Otis’s dream world in which he’s the popular kid intent on taking his unwilling ‘high school sweetheart’ to the ‘prom’. Flock Of Seagulls and The B-52’s might not be on everyone’s list of ideal soundtrack songs but they are great within the confines of Otis’ psychosis.

Otis is not a film that will appeal to everyone, it won’t make you jump, or scare you at all in fact, but it might make you laugh and it might make you flinch. It’s a solid movie stemmed from a solid idea and for anyone becoming tired of the increasingly laboured gore-porn output, you might just find this to be a refreshingly alternative spin on a heavily saturated and overly familiar sub-genre.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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