Review by Robert Beveridge
Lockout (Ricardo Islas, 2006)
While Lockout does not have the lowest rating on IMDB, not by a longshot, a trip through the comments section is quite telling. This is a movie that seems to be universally loathed. And I don't mean it's just people saying "you know, this movie kinda sucks." This is a movie that inspires passionate hatred in those who've seen it. Seemingly all of them. And I think I understand why; while it is labeled as a horror film, and was marketed as a horror film, Lockout really isn't a horror film. In fact, with the exception of a very few scenes, nothing about Lockout says "horror film" in the least. If you approach it as a kind of "minority drama" (for lack of a better term), on the other hand, Lockout, with its white-flight-leading-to-weird-goings-on plot and closet-racist protagonist, is an immensely satisfying journey. As a low-rent art film, as a friend of mine always said, "that [censored for Amazon consumption] is boss." It reminds me of--and I kid you not here--Jon Jost. Yeah, it's that good.
Dan (Kris Desautels) is not all that likable a guy, but you know, you can kinda identify with him. He's having a pretty bad time of things. After an opening scene which doesn't seem to connect to anything (be patient), we look in on Dan's life as he's being laid off by his Hispanic boss because his job's been outsourced to Mumbai ("India. That's where Mumbai is."). After he leaves work, he starts noticing the number of people around him who talk in accents, or in foreign languages.
Dan's the kind of guy who thinks that maybe these folks oughta all go back where they came from. At least, that's the idea you get...until he gets home and you find he's married to Chris (Cyn Dulay), a Hispanic Pacific Islander, and they're living with Chris' sister Rowena (Claire Davenport). Concerned about money now that he's laid off, Dan suggests the family rent out the place in the big city and go live in the big ancestral pile in rural Wisconsin (see the white-flight thing?). Rural Wisconsin, as it turns out, is a pretty darned weird place.
Toss the idea of this as a horror film. Really, just eliminate it from your skull. Think of Dan as a modern variation on Tom, the protagonist of Jost's Last Chants for a Slow Dance. He's maybe a little more sympathetic, since Jost offers us no way to ever empathize with Tom, while Islas actually seems to go out of his way to present Dan as a multi-faceted, eminently empathetic (if not likable) character. I mean, you've got a racist (and when I call Dan a racist, bear in mind that I'm talking about the normally-unconscious kind of stuff that is normally referred to as "white privilege" attitude) who's married to a minority character. She may be drop-dead gorgeous, but she's not passing. We've already got a guy who's got to be conflicted, and you put him in a situation (and a realistic situation it is; I'm sure we all have at least an acquaintance who's faced this circumstance) that exacerbates that conflict. Then you simply let him go and see what happens. Sure, there are other pieces of this that don't have anything to do with Dan and his whiteness complex. Rowena was trying to eke out a living as a professional dominatrix in the city (while hiding the income from her sister), and wants to try and keep up the practice in Wisconsin; her first tentative step towards that puts both her and Dan at odds with a strange local family.
This seems to be the root of the horror-movie storyline in the film, but it's almost treated as an afterthought here (another reason why this should have been marketed as an indie art film rather than a low-budget horror flick). There's also some oddness about a body in the basement and a festering spider bite (and, of course, the spider bite is yet another symbol of Dan's conflicted spirit). But none of this stuff necessarily points to a horror film. I'm serious--watch this as a double feature with Last Chants for a Slow Dance and it will suddenly all become clear to you. It's not even that there's a brilliant movie lurking under the surface here; it's right out there for everyone to see, and the only problem with it was the marketing. See this movie, and combat those on IMDB who castigated it because it's not a horror movie. ****
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