Feature film review
A Lesson In Cruelty
Written by: Gregory Wolk | Directed by: Alex Salazar | Genre: Dark Comedy | Length: 72 minutes
Julian is getting a birthday party. Just not the one he expected.
Dark comedy, as a genre, really doesn't do justice to this movie. I suppose technically, the category works well enough. There is comedy. There is darkness. The two don't really coexist at the same time though, as the person watching the onscreen shenanigans, you either get one or the other. Especially during the final act. This title gets really dark. "A Lesson In Cruelty" starts off, a-la "House On Haunted Hill" with a bunch of party invitations being sent. The guest of honor? Julian Hassole, the boss everyone loves to hate. Or maybe better described as, the boss everyone hates and despises. Having been raised to be an asshole and take what's thought to be his, that is everything, Julian is on top of the world as he receives the invitation to his very own birthday party. Hosted by his lowly employees - and did I mention it is his very first birthday party? That's right guys and gals, this is Julian's very first birthday party. Only... It's not going to be quite what he expects. Definitely not one to remember all things considered. As we get into the second act things start off well enough. Some entertainment for the themed party followed by the opening of the gifts. This is when things take a dark turn. If you think you can guess what's waiting in the "gift" line, you'll probably be mostly correct. Julian's employees are taking the time to let him know exactly what they think of him. Nothing held back.
"A Lesson In Cruelty" was a fun comedy to watch - all the way until it wasn't. I'm not writing that in a bad way. I'm just saying that everything shifts so fast. The playful, comedic atmosphere quickly changes and what's left is a completely different beast. Still a good movie by all means, just not the same. My eyes were still glued to the screen from start to finish. I'm simply writing about the change of pace. From fun and funny to dark and even horrifying. Anyone who remembers watching "From Dusk Till Dawn" for the first time, will know just what I'm trying to say. From an action, crime film, it quickly turned into a supernatural romp about vampires. The dynamic was completely changed. Same for this film. A complete one-eighty. Personally? I thought it was great! The signals of coming events were all in place, it's not like this was straight out of left field. Writer Gregory Wolk and director Alex Salazar took a chance and for me, it paid off. However, when it was all over I was left with one burning question. What lesson was actually learned? Surely Julian himself never learned it... considering how things ended. I kept expecting the party-goers to pull back at the very end, leaving Hassole to rethink his outlook on life. That never happened. I guess the lesson was for us. The people watching. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, especially when you're having fun chuckling - or feeling that tinge of horror during some of the darker scenes. Especially... the final solution to the problem with the dog. The implications of that entire scenario are cleverly disturbing. To write the least. It occurs to me that the entire film could almost... almost not be about Hassole at all. Rather the makings of a serial killer. At the very least, "A Lesson In Cruelty" could make a case for life experiences, and how they can change people. I will admit that up until the final few minutes of the movie, I wondered how the teenage girl fit into the plot. Now I know, and that's just as scary as Julian's birthday party itself. "A Lesson In Cruelty" was an interesting and entertaining walk onto the darker side of things. A little something for everyone... if not a tad over the top.
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