Standards of Living (2012)

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Director : Aaron Mento

Stars : Scott Yarborough, Bill Ferris, Derek Houck

IMDb

In order to enhance his ability to make people laugh, a struggling comedian takes part in a teleportation experiment that “improves” whatever cargo is being teleported… but the results are no laughing matter.

So, you set out to make a supernatural horror film based on teleportation, with a budget of $12,000 and you’re going to shoot it all on an iPad 2.. What can go right? Well, quite a lot actually, here’s why.

Firstly, going into this I really didn’t know what to expect from the quality, as I’ve never seen a film shot solely on an iPad 2 before (I believe this is the first feature length film to have been done so), so when I started watching, I was pleasantly surprised at how it looked and sounded, the pessimist in me was expecting less. I’ve certainly seen a lot worse shot films on digital lately, especially in the found footage/mockumentary genre I’ve recently become hooked on (I make it 190 films seen now, I keep a list), and with top directors such as David Lynch seemingly favouring digital cameras over film lately, maybe the iPad 2 will have more of a say in the future of film making… Who knows?

Our hero Peter doing what he does best (worst).

Our hero Peter doing what he does best (worst).

There was one part where a character pics up a picture and we’re seeing out from the picture’s POV where I thought, “Oh yeah, he’s holding the iPad” but apart from that I didn’t think of it at all. Anyway, that’s the last I’m going to mention of the iPad 2 as there’s so much more to this film than how it was shot.

At the beginning, we’re introduced to Peter “The Soothsayer” (Yarborough), a failing comedian with a quite frankly, weird stage act that involves a “lucky circus peanut”. We meet him during the middle of said act, where he eventually get’s booed off stage before being attacked by a pregnant lady. The next morning, Peter is awoken (he sleeps in a bath) by a phone call from a Mr. Randall (Ferris), who mysteriously offers to hire him for $100 after seeing him perform the previous night. A slightly confused Peter eventually accepts the offer and goes to Mr. Randall’s home later that night where he is greeted by Stu (Houck), Mr. Randall’s personal assistant.

Touching cloth.

Touching cloth.

After delivering some awkward jokes Stu’s way, Peter is  invited inside, and immediately rushes to the bathroom to perfect his routine. There, he finds blood in the toilet, and after an incident with his dropped lucky peanut, he ventures back to the living room where he is met by Mr. Randall, who immediately starts to berate him, telling him his comedy will get him nowhere. As Peter angrily starts to storm out, Mr. Randall takes his lucky peanut in his hand and makes it disappear. After being told it will return in ten minutes, Peter agrees to wait and watches closely, trying to figure out how this trick was pulled off. Eventually, the peanut returns but it is now gold plated and an impressed Peter asks if he can be taught the trick. Mr. Randall tells Peter it isn’t a trick and explains how he got this power from a mysterious man with black teeth, and how he used it on his unborn daughter, but was knocked unconscious by the man before he could bring her back. As Peter and Mr. Randall are talking, Stu takes some “time out” in the hallway where another mysterious man tells him to get back out there..

After making a crumpled $100 note disappear and reappear crisp, Mr. Randall tells Peter why he called him over. He wants to use his powers on him so he can figure out what happened to his daughter. So will Peter agree to be made to disappear? If so, where will he end up? What did happen to Mr. Randall’s daughter? Who are these mysterious people popping up all over the place? Why was there blood in the toilet? Why did the peanut become gold plated? Well, thankfully all these questions are answered through out the film.

Hmm, I'm not sure I fully trust this guy.

Hmm, I’m not sure I fully trust this guy.

To be fair, I really didn’t mean to ramble on so much about the story. I do try not to be one of those people that thinks just stating what happens in a film constitutes a review, most of the time, but the main strong point of this film is the story, it really did impress me, and after 20 minutes in I was basically hooked and needed to know what was going to happen next. Like I said, all the questions are answered, so there isn’t that frustration you get from the ending of a film that poses many questions, but isn’t so hot with the answers. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate open ended films that make you think, but this film didn’t need any of that as all the answers are pretty satisfying.

The acting is also above average. Obviously it’s not The Godfather, but it all works. The way Scott Yarborough plays Peter “The Soothsayer” is perfect for the whole feel of the film, and the same can be said for all the other characters, particularly Emily Marsh who plays Mariella. Who? Watch it!

I'm gonna take his face... off!

I’m gonna take his face… off!

So yeah, I really enjoyed “Standards of Living”, I love being impressed by a film that I knew absolutely nothing about going into it, I might even go as far as to call it a “gem”. It’s got some bloody scenes for the gore hounds and the effects are done well. I think it’s rewatchability factor is also rather high. As I write this, I just finished watching it about an hour ago and could maybe give it another whirl tomorrow, maybe even pick up on something I missed the first time round I’m sure. And one final thought on the ending. I didn’t see that coming. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t…

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One Response to Standards of Living (2012)

  1. vinnieh says:

    Excellent work as always Damian.

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