Saturday, June 01, 2013

DWF ’13: Channeling

In the very near future, about five minutes from now, people will become even more exhibitionistic.  Personal internet reality shows are the thing, made possible by special contact lens cameras.  Channelers broadcast themselves snowboarding, booty calling, and navel gazing.  Some also broadcast criminal activity, such as an Army sergeant’s estranged brother.  When the punk winds up dead, his avenging sibling assumes control of his channel in Drew Thomas’s Channeling, which screens tomorrow during the 2013 edition of Dances With Films.

The Maddox family was always pretty dysfunctional.  The death of Wyatt, the Fast & Furious wannabe, does not help much.  Returning on a bereavement leave, Jonah soon starts nosing around with the help of Tara, his brother’s on-camera co-host, sidekick, or whatever.  Essentially, this leaves all the responsible stuff to his younger sister, Ashleigh.  She broadcasts her life too, in hopes of finding validation from voyeuristic netizens.  That is really the wrong place to be looking.

It is always pretty obvious who the bad guys are, but it is never clear why they had it in for the Brothers Maddox.  Wyatt’s ratings were always pretty good by channeling standards, unlike the late Howard Beale in Network.  Regardless, it offers Jonah an excuse to boost some fast cars.

Channeling is a serviceable enough b-movie, but it pales in comparison to Bertrand Tavernier’s thematically similar Death Watch, which remains an eerily prescient critique of the media-driven society over thirty years after its initial release.  It is also hard to compete with Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, and Romy Schneider.

Regardless, as a leading man, Dominic De Vore seems to have graduated from the Caspar Van Dien school of acting.  He is adequately square-jawed in the action scenes, but that’s about what you get.  However, Kate French (probably best known from The L Word and One Tree Hill) lends the film some style and presence riding shotgun as Tara, while Taylor Handley does a presentable James Dean impression as the ill-fated Wyatt.

Thomas and cinematographer Andrew Huebscher keep things looking slick and cool throughout.  Cars will be wrecked and thugs will get their beatdowns.  It is a cut above SyFy Channel original movies, but those primarily intrigued by the premise should checkout Tavernier’s underappreciated gem instead.  For French’s fans, Channeling screens tomorrow night (6/2) as part of this year’s Dances With Films in Hollywood, CA.