Acolytes (2008)

Acolytes is slow, confused and poorly acted. Although it has a very interesting concept, it is so poorly executed it comes across as shoddy and amateurish. Disappointing stuff.

Acolytes starts with a half-naked girl, in the woods, disorientated, lost. She finds a butterfly. Then a car hits her in the face. This is Tanya Lee, a missing local girl. And so it begins…

The story focuses on a trio of rebellious school-skipping teenagers Mark, James and Chasely. Mark and James are victims of Gary Parker, a Nazi-tattooed local psychopath, who did something horrific to the two boys in the past. Avoiding Parker however they can, Mark accidentally witnesses a man dumping a body in the woods. Digging her up, what we expect to be the corpse of Tanya Lee turns out to be a total stranger, and James, Chasely and Mark decide to hunt down her killer. However, their purpose for finding the murderer is not to capture him, but to blackmail him… into killing Gary Parker.

In the hands of a more experienced crew and actors, this could’ve been a smart, sharp classic, but is instead meandering, confusing, boring and unbelievable. The acting is horribly under par, especially from the younger leads, who can’t cope with a swift interaction of dialogue, coming across as stilted and unnatural throughout, and the script really doesn’t help them at all.

The three teenagers are vastly idiotic, their actions utterly foolish and with no real discernable motive. They are also tragically unlikable. James is a complete bastard while Mark is a pathetic little geeky moron whose obsession with James’ girlfriend Chasely is embarrassing. Oddly, your sympathies lie more with Gary Parker, which is utterly absurd considering what he is. He is the only character who feels believable, and it seems horribly out of place in a film so laced with confusing actions, motives and dialogue.

Acolytes is undisciplined and angering – the trio find a murdered corpse and tell no one about finding it – and don’t explain why for half an hour! Once the plot finally provides some answers, however, and you realize they intend to blackmail the murderer for their own nefarious purposes, it makes a little more sense. Yet the film does not twist itself in the mystery it pretends to hide behind – throwing out huge revelations like they’re confetti. This hiding of facts and truth works in some films, but in Acolytes it’s incredibly, incredibly boring, going nowhere and taking a very long time to arrive at nothing.

The direction is perfunctory, the soundtrack predictably trashy, and at one point I wondered if you could suddenly gain epilepsy as a nightmare sequence was so light-flashingly fantastical it hurt to watch.

There are decent bits throughout Acolytes – the junk yard fight, the car taking a beating, the Norwegian hitchhiker scene – but these are so few and far between that it doesn’t make it worth slicing through the surrounding dullness to reach.

Essentially, Acolytes is boring. It significantly lacks pace, the acting is uncompelling, the plotting is confusing. Occasionally there are quality moments, but overall it is incredibly dull. The concept is excellent, but the execution is distinctly unrewarding. Acolytes is tragically disappointing.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

2 Comments on “Acolytes”

  1. admin says:

    I enjoyed this a lot. But then again, I like airey fairy, arty farty type flicks and this felt like it was trying to join those sort of ranks. I disagree about the acting, I thought it was pretty solid throughout and feel the comment about the teenagers being idiotic was a bit unfair. Teenagers ARE idiotic, a quick skim of the news (or a cursory glance at what constitutes teen programming) tells you that :)

    It might be that I’m biased by my love for Michael Dorman though. He’s usually pretty good (when not required to do an American accent anyway).

    Oh, and Chasely’s a stupid name.

  2. admin says:

    Having just watched this a second time in a week, I have to disagree with you even further. I think the direction was quite good, some shots were really inventive and some of the cinematography was awesome. I’d have to give it a 6 or a 7 out of 10.

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