Movie Review: “All I Need”

   Rabies and germs, welcome to the third edition of Ever Dafter, a segment here on YouTube and Readers Digested where we strive to offer a thoughtful and insightful look into the hidden depths of the horror genre, in search of unsung classics.

   All I Need is absolutely an ideal candidate for an edition of Ever Dafter, a low-budget horror film written and directed by a man named Dylan K. Narang. At least at first glance. The film is available for everyone to watch free-of-charge on the Tubi TV streaming service.  The cast comprises itself, dominantly, of an actress named Caitlin Stasey and Markus Taylor.

   The film is Dylan K. Narang‘s directorial debut, at least, for a feature length film, with a handful of short films under his belt, as well. Since this film, he has went onto direct the 2018 science-fiction film Soundwave, which appears to have been a better received feature, earning a high Rotten Tomatoes percentage and a middling response from moviegoers on IMDb.

   I was eager to watch All I Need for a handful of reasons: (1) for starters, as I prefaced in the outro for my review of The Final, I am developing lists among categories, hoping to develop a certain definitive hierarchy for what my favorite films are in each subgenre. All I Need’s interesting cover work suggested it may possibly lead to an interesting slasher film, the subgenre I have reviewed the most on Readers Digested. (2) Secondly, I wanted to dive into the unknown and challenge myself a little bit. Frankly, I have become too cynical and picky about the films I watch, and, I will be honest with you, a lot of that cynicism is justified. The horror genre brings with it one of the most loyal fanbases you will ever come by. For many of us, our affection for horror is evergreen and can’t be waivered, which is why I created Readers Digested, and is why you are likely watching me talk about an obscure horror film.

   Unfortunately, that loyalty is not always returned in kind. I love writing about horror films, but I also realize I have likely written more middling or negative reviews than I have ones that are glowing or oozing with affection. That is okay though, like a good sport, I have learned to just enjoy playing the game and not always having to win.

   A lot of things were unraveled as I began watching the film, however. For starters, in spite my earlier perception, All I Need is not a slasher film, but is, rather, a horror thriller film, akin, perhaps, to something like M. Night Shymalan’s Split, in a way. I like the cover artwork for the film. I think it is slick and nostalgic even, harkening back to the foregone era of 1980‘s slashers like The Burning or The Mutilator, but, the film is not like that.

   The ensemble donned by our antagonist is not even witnessed on display until the very end of the film, and we are never offered an actual explanation for why he decided to wear something so unmanageable and contrived. This matters, because I think it is something you would most likely overlook in a slasher film. Instead, with the way the story is executed, it feels like a glaring disproportion.

   All I Need is about a woman who wakes up in her underwear with her body restrained, alongside several other women in the same predicament. As she awakens, she discovers a burly man is coming in and snatching them up one by one. This is a standard horror motif. Scantily clad women in a dire situation. It is a motif, but it is more often than not a bad motif. Obviously, there is an audience for such content, and I am not offended by it. Attractive women de-clothed and done away with, assuming a person can wrap their head around why a person is murdering someone, it is easy enough to also understand why that would be their preferred victim. I can understand that and I can accept it.

   However, it has to be an ingredient to a film, doesn’t it? But Beef Wellington, this film is not, and I never would have expected that, but I would have expected proper characterization and better development. The characters have no substantive reason to be there and they are not fleshed out beyond a superficial surface level.

   The camerawork is shot relatively well. I would not single out any shot as feeling particularly noteworthy, but it does operate functionally on a technical level. The incorporation of sound and music from a thematic standpoint is also beneficial to the film. Again, this is not some elaborate orchestral sound sent from the heavens, but it does operate with a basic understanding and subsequent deployment of that understanding. The film secludes itself to only a handful of locations. The first is where our female protagonist is confined for the film – which is simple, but effective. The bathroom is bloody and most of the windows are boarded up with wood. They obviously had limited resources, and I think this would have been satiable had the writing been able to do the heavy lifting.

   All I Need wraps itself up in about 85 minutes, counting credits, and I like that, for a film with such a basic concept, 85 minutes is, ahem, all I need. And yet, the film feels very, very padded. Scenes are drawn out ad nauseum, where scenes that could have taken seconds can take actual minutes, and that’s a difficult pill to swallow for what was already a short film.

   Scenes, for the most part, although slow and humdrum, are, at least, competent. They are effective soundbites if paired separately, but don’t build a lot of momentum as a feature film. I honestly think you could downsize the film into a smaller, ten minute short, and not only would you have gotten all the information you needed, but it would have been a tauter, more effective piece as a result of that decision.

   Certain scenes, in-particular, stand out, but, for the wrong reason. In one instance, a woman crawls into a ventilator and is stabbed by a pitchfork. The woman covers her mouth as a way to suppress her scream. However, you would think the bloody pitchfork might be a dead giveaway in itself that he struck gold. Or, this huge man struggling to open a door that has been barricaded by a small dresser the petite woman was able to move around by herself. Scenes where she is in the bathroom struggling to open a flimsy window that feels like it could very easily be broken, if she were to merely turn around and look for a blunt object to wail on it with. And it isn’t because she is afraid to make a sound, because she screamed at the top of her lungs right afterward to try and alert someone.

   These are aspects that could have likely been explained away given the proper attention to detail. Have her wedge the door shut in some way, maybe by propping up a wooden chair. Have her break open the window, but discover she can’t actually fit through it. But, this film simply didn’t have that.

   The other subplot of the film involves a man who is down on his luck, so to speak. He and the mother of his child are not on good terms and he evidently owes a considerable amount for child support. The man finds himself contacted by a mysterious man with a foreign accent, and is pitted with tasks to help himself earn money. It is clearly meant to be a reveal in this film, but it is pretty common sense where they are headed with it. As a matter of fact, it is so on the nose and obvious that I was certain it was a bait and switch deal. And, for what it is worth, the film far too hastily strews together its explanation for the man’s action, failing to drive home the desperation he feels and explain why he might be compelled to make some of the decisions he makes.

   Something I pride myself for on Ever Dafter, or, at least, try to accomplish with the best of my ability, is that I don’t punch down. I am not a funnyman who’s bashing a film for the sake of a few clicks, I am generally thoughtful and genuinely try to see the best out of every film. And, for what it is worth, this is not what I would call a terrible film. It shows a level of competence to it, for certain, but is otherwise bogged down by underdeveloped contrivances and drawn out scenes. One day, this film might later be a time capsule of a great director’s early work, but, for a regular moviegoer, it is a dud I can’t personally recommend.

   If you agree or disagree, as always, I would love to hear your opinion or counterargument against what I have said. As I delve through the genre, I understand that I won’t like everything I watch, and I hope you can understand that as well.

Rating: – Do Not Recommend

Offer Food for Thought

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