#321 -- Otis (2008)

Director: Tony Krantz
Rating: 4.5/ 5

When I first heard about this movie, I knew it was something that I would love. Or at least, I hoped it would be something I loved. I knew it was about some guy who was abducting girls and keeping them locked up in his basement. It's a very dark subject, but the movie looked silly. In a good way, of course. It wasn't anything like I expected it to be, though. Where I expected a bumbling idiot stumbling his way through abduction after abduction, I got a disturbing and tragic tale that added a few laughs in for good measure.

So, the basic story is fairly simple. There's a guy named Otis, who keeps abducting pretty blonde teenagers and keeping them chained up in some room inside his home. Her name was Riley, but he called her Kim, as he did with all the other girls. He acted like a football player, dressed her up in a cheerleader's uniform, and told her that they would be going to prom together. If she didn't play along with his little "game," she would be blinded and burned by a bunch of light bulbs over her bed, or he would just come in and punch her in the face. The other girls were dumb; Riley was not. She learned, quite quickly, that if she wanted to survive, she'd have to play along.

That's some pretty disturbing stuff. Girls, put yourself in that position. Would you be able to play along with Otis, pretend to be his girlfriend and go along with his prom charade? Or you would do everything physically possible to get yourself out of the situation? A lot of the girls seemed to go with the latter, which is understandable due to stress and fear. But which is worse? To drive yourself crazy with the reality of the situation, or to let yourself succumb to the monster with the smallest amount of hope that you'd come out of it alive? There was no guarantee that Otis wouldn't kill her anyways, but she acted out his will and became someone that she wasn't in order to appease him. I think that, after so much of this, some girls would probably wish for death. If Otis didn't kill her, and she kept playing along, would he let her go free once prom was over? No, certainly not. He'd risk exposure; and he wouldn't let her get away, the one who obliged him and made him happy. He would keep her there, a prisoner of his desires until he was either caught or killed, or both. That could be a long time. Even though it is a fairly silly movie (though not nearly as silly as I thought it was going to be), it does have a grim atmosphere, and the things taking place are very real and very dark.

The entire movie wasn't spent in that basement with "Kim" and Otis. The last half of the movie was spent watching Riley's parents break down, and their search for revenge on the monster who harmed their little girl. I think it goes to show that you can only push people so far until they break, and no matter how much of a monster you (or they) might think you are, they'll return with a savageness in their hearts that you will not be able to destroy. The family was so devastated by Riley's disappearance that they were not only heartbroken and worried sick, but they were absolutely infuriated. Once they discovered the identity of the madman, they'd stop at nothing to see that he was stopped. Prison was too good for him. They fucked it up, which was where the comedy popped up. But that rage was still there, and that emotion was also very real.

Toward the end of her imprisonment, I thought I saw a glimmer of forgiveness in Riley. You could catch her smiling as she was dancing with Otis during their "prom," and I felt like she didn't want her parents to do what they had planned. There was one point, where her brother mentioned Otis raping her, and she said..."He didn't rape me. He wanted to, but he couldn't. He just...danced with me." I think that quote adequately sums up the tragedy that was Otis. He was a monster, there's no doubt about that. But this character was so sad that I felt bad for him. I can see his life as vividly as if they'd shown it to me on screen; that's how much emotion I felt from the character. In high school, there was a cheerleader named Kim. Otis was in love with her, but she barely knew he existed; and if she did, she was probably cruel to him. I think he probably tried out for the football team as well, and was rejected. There were scenes with him and his brother, who was also very cruel to him. He called him names, shoved him around, and made him feel like the lowest form of scum on the planet. Even though most would agree that he was indeed all of those things, his brother didn't know anything about the girls in the basement. He simply did not respect Otis at all. I'm sure his childhood was much the same, and his parents were probably just as cruel to him as his brother was. Otis was extremely lonely, and I think Riley could see that.

So, this is a movie that I expected to be very silly. Turns out, it wasn't all that silly after all. Some parts, yes, but mostly it was a disturbing and sad story about a lonely man who would do anything for some love. It left a mark on me, emotionally, which is very rare these days. If anyone knows the song "Prom Queen" by The Insane Clown Posse...This movie is that song come to life. I think it would be incredibly disturbing to watch Otis with that song playing in the background...Something I might have to check into one day.

On a brighter note...Remember the little baby sister in "Growing Pains"? Well, she's all grown up now and looking pretty darn cute.

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