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Overall Rating
2.75

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average75%
Pretty Crappy: 25%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Kovak Box, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Not all it wants to be, at least unti the old guy pops up."
3 stars

The makers of "The Kovak Box" likely thought it to be a little more clever than it actually turned out, at least at some point. There are, after all, bits about characters controlling the writer in there, although director Daniel Monzon and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria don't go fully literal with it. Instead, they put together a decent little thriller with some nice parts, though it doesn't really start to get rolling until the end.

We start with American science fiction writer David Norton (Timothy Hutton) on a plane to Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain, where he's to lecture at a conference. With him is his longtime girlfriend Jane (Georgia MacKenzie); back in economy class, we meet Silvia (Lucia Jimenez), a Spanish girl with a nosy middle-aged American seatmate, Kathy (Annette Badland). It's a wonderful getaway, at least until people start killing themselves. Silvia survives throwing herself out a hotel window, only to be attacked and drugged by a mysterious man (Gary Piquer). Then David's host, Frank Kovak (David Kelly) puts his cards on the table, giving him a box that connects the deaths to David's first novel.

There is, no question, a little mileage on The Kovak Box's main plot device. The movie acknowledges this, to a certain extent - the suicide circuit is presented as something that David had in his novel thirty years earlier, and that feels like about the right provenance. It's still a good horror plot that's not yet ready to be retired. Monzon and Guerricaechevarria modernize it a little, using a pop-cultural tie-in to the "Gloomy Sunday" legend and going a bit meta by having the story, in some ways, be as much about fandom and how writers often cannot escape their first or most famous works. Unfortunately, it's got a tendency to fall between its two hot spots - the satire's not as sharp as it could be, and the idea that someone could flip a switch and send a person out of their mind should come across as much creepier.

Part of this, I suspect, comes from Monzon and company working outside their native language. Timothy Hutton is fine as David, not giving a bad performance at all, but he seems to be just a bit off, not quite so emotional as one might expect, given the circumstances. It's a noticeable disconnect, not that of a man mailing a horror film in, but just one not hitting quite the right tone either in the light-hearted opening or more tense finale. Lucia Jiminez tends a little toward the other side of the ledger, portraying Silvia's panic nearly without restraint, although that's certainly a much more easily understandable way for someone to act.

On the balance, though, it works, because Monzon makes a few decisions that can counter a protagonist who seems too laid back or a plot that requires Kovak to have a much larger support network than seems reasonable. First, he sets the film on Mallorca, which is not just beautiful in general, but it offers a setting called "The Caves of Hell", and it is just exactly as perfect a location for the movie's climax as it sounds. More importantly, he casts David Kelly as Kovak and has him show up early. The frail old villain is usually something unveiled in the last act; instead, we get half the film featuring Kelly acting deliciously monstrous despite being no sort of physical threat. It's a marvelous combination of weakness and malevolence.

Kelly's Kovak isn't the only thing memorable about the movie, but it's enough that "The Kovak Box" is more more than an "X-Files" episode. There are a few sequences demonstrating that while this particular script may have its issues, Monzon can put together a creepy scene and deliver a shocking moment or two.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14770&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/26/10 00:11:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantasia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/31/15 Jordyn I have no idea what the kovak box actually even is or how it relates to the movie. 2 stars
6/15/07 Indrid Cold An incorent story, but unusual enough that one might find it interesting. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  DVD: 15-May-2007

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