Every once in a while you face plant into a movie that is so bad it’s good and The Emeryville Experiments (Pritesh Chheda, For Sale by Owner) is kind of like that…except it’s more of a tumble…Er…maybe a stumble? Actually no, you’re still standing…
Warning: Do not, and I repeat, do not watch this movie sober. You will likely regret it.
The only way I was able to stomach the blundering acting performances and the oafish cinematography was with a three foot bong by my side. The Emeryville Experiments boasts a cast list of nobodies which I am always down for but unfortunately, this round-up of misfit toys couldn’t act worth a nickel (which is probably what he paid them). Where to begin…
Four friends follow their GPS on a shortcut off the highway to an undisclosed destination (who cares, am I right?) and end up crashing their sedan right into a tree. The hood was up and everything. After careful speculation the team determines they’re royally fucked and need a mechanic. Luckily there’s a town 1 mile down the road that isn’t shown on any of their maps so they follow the post nailed into the tree and head to Emeryville (the town of zero bar cell service). Once there, they encounter a wild western type of village whose residents live in simpler times but all seem to be keeping quite a secret. The next hour or so is stuffed with scenes of the four trying to figure out what’s actually going on in Emeryville while simultaneously being hunted and turned into zombie drone things one by one.
I know what you’re thinking, sounds a lot like the plot to Wrong Turn (2003) and they thought the same thing because they make a super meta joke about it at one point (it’s probably the highlight of the entire film). Other examples of clever writing are hard to come by and that mixed with the consistently sub par acting is what really drags down this title. The plot line is actually unique-ish (and subtly similar to a title I’m currently developing, ironically) and steers very far from what you would expect from a synopsis like that…which you’ll soon find isn’t always a good thing.
In The Emeryville Experiments you get very little concrete creep factor throughout the film. Sequences are loosely tied together and you’re face fucked by the editing into understanding something isn’t quite right but you just don’t know what that is yet. I was expecting freakshow type deformities and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) sort of vibe based off the description I read before viewing but none of that was delivered. In fact, they signed it away and replaced my expectations with lazy writing, wonky camera work, and unfortunate acting. They give you literally almost nothing to work with besides your imagination and not in a good Rosemary’s Baby type of way but a poorly thought out and I’m trying to cover up plot holes and lack of genuine terror. Everything is just so unkempt and effortlessly sloppy.
For example, Cole (Jacob Bitzer) happens to be a hacker type hottie (and he looks sexily reminiscent of Eric Northman from True Blood) and there just happens to be an electronic safe that needs breaking into at the town (and you never actually even find out what’s in the safe now that I think of it). Another lame line occurs when the four friends are wandering down memory lane talking about prom and Christie (Tess Cline) responds with “oh please, that was middle school.” Maybe I’m nitpicking but shit like this and loose ends that don’t do anything but fray and fester really get on my nerves (and I was a die-hard Lost fan) and blatantly display the ineptitude of the writing. Prom happens in high school. We all know that. The characters have basic back stories with inappropriately placed flashbacks that lend little to no relevance to the themes or tone of the film. Chheda should have had someone double down on his script and make a few edits. He also should have got a better editor. And cinematographer. And gaffer. Another creative idea lost to poor execution.
IMDB: 7.8/10 (2,061 votes) ⬅I completely do not understand this rating. It should be half of that and that’s being generous.
Rotten Tomatoes: 🍅No Critic Rating 🍿57%
DEAD🐶PUPPY: 1 shitty shortcut off the highway/5