Released: 13th March 2019
Seen: 4th April
In my review of The Platform I mentioned that I had a fair amount of films sent to me for review purposes. These films were supplied by The Movie Agency who have given me a total of 6 films I’ll be going through over the coming weeks. I wanted to pick something light from the selection to begin with, so I picked the shortest one of the bunch because I knew I had less time today than I would normally like to have which is how I ended up reviewing a movie from 2018 called Rutabaga, a film I can genuinely say I enjoyed but probably not for the reasons I was supposed to.
Rutabaga centres around Adrien (Julien Botzanowski), a writer who has been tasked with writing a promotional article about a little remote hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel he starts to notice that something is a little off about the staff and about the land itself, noticing some of his devices don’t work and there seem to be some strange rules laid out by the person in charge. Eventually, Adrien’s fears are realised and he must escape this little hotel or else… dun-dun-duuuuuun.
This is one of those slow burn films that really tries to set a mood and let it linger as long as it can and for the first 40 minutes, this film does that admirably. You slowly get used to the weirdness of the hotel, it’s never over the top but there is a certain unease behind everything which is helped considerably by a very good score that does help. The problem is that the slow burn turns into a bore, 40 minutes of the film is dedicated to this gradual tone building and while there are some shots that’re interesting and some genuinely good performances, it just lingers too long in this build-up without anything to really justify what happens at the end.
I won’t spoil specifics here but I will say that this film builds up to something magical, but not the kind of magical I feel like they were going for. This is the kind of film that spends 40 minutes on buildup so the last half hour can be an over the top horror show where the characters we’ve spent ages developing get thrust into hell and I was fully expecting that. The problem is I don’t think there was enough of a budget or time to create the effect that they wanted so it honestly just ends up being hilarious. I found myself howling with laughter when a specific character turned up to start the chaotic third act which just keeps upping itself for batshit crazy.
You can absolutely tell that there’s a good idea here, films about people going out into the middle of nowhere and experiencing hell when they get there is a horror movie staple for a reason. It has a good idea but it’s rushing through it, even when it’s at its slowest it doesn’t take time to really lean into how weird this all should be. Not shocked that it feels a little rushed, it’s 70 minutes so there’s no real room to breathe or even get to know the characters beyond surface level. Heck, there’s one character right at the end that I forgot was in the film up to that point because she’d made her hair go all frizzy.
Rutabaga might not be great, but I can’t deny I enjoyed it for what it was. A 40-minute build-up was worth the wait for the final 30 minutes of genuine insanity. It clearly needs a bit of work but you can see some potential here and it gives me hope for the future of this film makers work. Once this writer/director has a budget to execute his ideas to their fullest extent, there won’t be anything stopping them. As it is, this film is certainly entertaining, but it’s not exactly good.