(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: What begins as a dark comedy becomes a grim psychological horror film with a battle of wits between the Hutchins couple who perform ancient Mesoamerican blood rituals including cannibalism and their captive, a man of whom they intend to make a meal. From his cage, a prison cell set up in the Hutchins house, Richard Reubens plays a cat-and-mouse game. Written and directed by veteran TV actor Henry Olek, the film has moments of tension, but moves too slowly in the middle act. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Richard (played by Ross McCall) had thought the dog-eat-dog world of finance was bad. Now he is in a world of people-eat-people. Until recently Richard worked for a failing Wall Street firm. He had kept secret from his fellow workers that the company was going under and they were all to lose their jobs. The collapse came and Richard feels guilty. Wanting to distract himself from his guilt he is getting himself a flashy vintage Ford Mustang. He is going to answer an ad for the car, and as he later reflects "the smallest decisions lead to your biggest mistakes." The Mustang is being sold by Everett Hutchins (Jude Ciccolella) an anthropologist and expert on pre-Columbian Zapotec culture. The offer is, however, a trap and a blowgun dart puts Richard in a prison cell built in the Hutchins house. The Hutchins it seems have revived and perform Zapotec rituals here in the comfort in what seems like a pleasant suburban house. Susan Priver, the executive producer of SERVING UP RICHARD, plays Glory Hutchins, a sort of child-woman trying to be as pleasant as possible to the man she will be preparing as food. Richard immediately sees her childish qualities as useful and may be the key to a possible escape. This possibility becomes even more promising when Everett goes alone on a six-week trip leaving Richard in the custody of Glory. But the question is whether Glory is strong enough to be of any help and at the same time impressionable enough to be turned to being willing to help Richard.

SERVING UP RICHARD is at its best when it seems to have a sense of humor in the first act. It effects something of the tone of EATING RAOUL (1982). But there is nobody in this film who can sustain the gruesome silliness like Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov did in that film. So there is a bit of fun with the concept, but that dries up and is replaced by a serious contest of wills between Richard and the Hutchins. The film is a little slow in the second act then, waiting for tension to grab the viewer, though little true tension is generated. The script, written by director Olek from a story by Jay Longshore, hints at undefined supernatural shamanist powers from Everett, but the evidence is ambiguous. This film is clearly shot on a low budget with very little shot outside of the films main set, apparently a living room cut in half by prison bars. Almost all could have been filmed in and around a real suburban home. Beyond that the film has only four characters who interact and are around for more than a moment. The film could very easily be adapted into a stage play.

SERVING UP RICHARD is something of a mixed bag of an apparently whimsical film title and concept, some over-the-top gory images, and a serious conflict of attitudes and acting. To some extent it has the feel of an old EC comic like "Tales from the Crypt". A man does some bad things and then is thrown into a horrific situation completely unrelated to his crimes, but indicating that the Universe has a nasty sense of justice. At the same time it is a film of the present where the crime is topical financial chicanery. This is not the stuff of a solid, serious film. But SERVING UP RICHARD has its moments of fun and does keep the viewer guessing where it will be going. I rate it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper