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Featured DVD Review: Removal

January 1st, 2012

Removal - Buy from Amazon

Removal is the feature-length debut for writer / director Nick Simon. It is also a low-budget horror film that was made a year or so ago under a different name before Lionsgate picked it up for a direct-to-DVD release. All of this screams lowered expectations. But will it be a pleasant surprise? Or should you lower your expectations even more?

The Movie

The film begins with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, before we are introduced to Eric Kershe, an investment banker, a former investment banker, whom we meet in the process of being fired. He deals with this setback by taking some pills and washing them down with a tiny bottle of alcohol before coming home. The next day Eric calls Cole Hindin (Mark Kelly) and asks him to come over. Eric has killed his wife and kid and kills himself right in front of Cole.

When we next meet up with Cole, he's in a mental institute about to get out after 30 days of observation. The trauma of seeing his friend kill himself was too much and it caused hallucinations. Now he is telling his doctors, Dr. Segal and Sandra (Sharon Omi), that he thinks he might be ready to leave. He promises to take his medication and he's even got a job lined up, so he will have some structure in his life. His wife, Jennifer, has reservations. His wife is still not sold and even admits she doesn't feel safe around him. His doctors want him to stick around for another 60 days, but he leaves anyway.

Flash forward a year and Cole's working as a cleaner at Mahoney's Carpet and Floors. He's finishing up for the day, but despite working double-shifts all week, his boss, Mike, sends him on another call. Worse still, it's way outside of town and it's going to take him all day just to get there and back. At least he's getting a bigger commission. It could be quite a pay day, because it's a huge house. The prospective client, Henry Sharpe, is, well, there's a number of ways to describe him, none of them pleasant. Henry's got his own problems. His wife has been gone for a week, but miraculously showed up that day to sign an important paper, at least that's what he tries to tell his real estate agent, Kirby (Kelly Brook), but she's not buying that story.

Cole gives Henry his estimate and tells him he can setup an appointment for next week. But Henry wants it done, now, that night. It's a three-person job, but Henry offers him $5000, under the table. Despite his long day, his obvious fatigue, and the fact that he's out of medication, he takes the job. It isn't long before he begins to regret that decision. There's definitely something strange happening here, and it begins to remind him of his own family life disintegrating. That would be bad enough, but he starts to think Henry's marriage didn't fall apart like his did, but it ended like Eric's did.

And then Eric shows up. Or rather Cole starts to hallucinate and Eric makes an appearance.

Like I said, Removal is the feature-length debut for writer / director Nick Simon, so going in I had no expectations. In fact, I had only heard about the movie from trailers I had seen on other Lionsgate DVDs I've reviewed. I was pleasantly surprised. The film is a horror film that uses mood and tension more than gore or jump scares, and it is effective in generating the tension necessary, for the most part. Also, the acting by the three main leads is excellent. (Despite the fact that Emma Caufield and Kelly Brook are on the DVD cover, they both have rather limited roles.)

I do have two complaints about the movie. Firstly, it had some pacing issues early in the movie. It takes a little too long to get going and too much of the movie is spent watching Cole clean the mansion. Secondly, there's a surprise twist that is not unique. It probably wouldn't take that long to come up with a list of a dozen or so films that have the same, or very similar, twists.

That said, it is executed well and there is good attention to detail. For instance, there's a scene late in the movie where Cole is talking to Eric, after we've learned the big twist that they are the same person. Eric is smoking a cigarette and after Eric takes a toke, Cole breathes out the smoke. It's a little detail, but it is really well done.

The Extras

The only extras on the DVD are an alternate opening, one deleted scene, and some outtakes. A lot of similar DVDs have no extras, so something it better than nothing, but there's not a lot of substance here.

The Verdict

Removal will likely slip beneath most people's radar, which is a shame. It's not perfect; it takes a while to get going and it has a plot twist that is overused. However, overall it is worth checking out, but with not a lot of extras on the DVD, it's a solid rental / soft purchase.


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