Customer Reviews: 388 Arletta Avenue
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On first blush, 388 ARLETTA AVENUE might seem like a clever idea: the motion picture is yet another of the `found footage' flicks, a story edited together from multiple independent cameras videotaping the life and times of a young couple trapped within a curious set of circumstances. However, on closer inspection, I thought much of the decisions made by writer/director Randall Cole were slightly off-kilter to produce anything greater than a bloated vanity project, a curious failure worth watching for curiosity's sake but perhaps little else.

[NOTE: for the record, ARLETTA is one of those films that has an ending that makes it difficult to discuss the plot/premise without some modest spoilers. I've done the best I can with the material, but be warned: there will be minor spoilers contained below.]

James Deakin (played by Nick Stahl) eeks out an existence as an advertising executive. He's married to a lovely woman, Amy (Mia Kirshner), and, while they're not living the `dream life,' they certainly appear happy on the surface. Hidden cameras begin to show the "cracks in their relationship," and, before the viewing audience knows what's happened, Amy's gone, possibly abandoning her husband or perhaps abducted by the curious stranger videotaping their lives. Left on his own, James struggles to uncover what happened to his young wife, all the while growing more desperate in a race against time to put things right.

As a `found footage' film, Mr. Cole goes to great lengths to produce a coherent narrative, and, so far as the story presented here is concerned, he does a better-than-middling job. The audience is never told "why" they're watching the young couple, though we're lead to believe (maybe by our own ability to `fill in the gaps' in the story) that James has a secret in his past - some dark transgression - and it's all coming back to haunt him now. Certainly, that's what James concludes, and he begins to go out and re-establish dialogues with people he's wronged. Little does he know, he's actually way off base in that assessment.

And therein lies the curious weakness to ARLETTA: it all flows organically on its own by the direction of the faceless voyeur, a cinema creation of Mr. Cole. It's the ultimate hat trick - the man behind the curtain - so there's no real legitimacy to the story. It's the audience - not the characters - who end up being pawns to Cole's vision. Indeed, in the brief interview segment on a special feature, Cole talks about the fact that he'd always wanted to do a film about stalking, as well as tinkering with `found footage,' and ... voila! Now, he's fulfilled both projects in one fell swoop, showing the viewer a tale entirely of his design but maybe kinda/sorta not a legitimate story.

In reality, characters are put up against circumstances in order to show how they'd react normally. In 388 ARLETTA AVENUE, nothing unfolds naturally - every event is driven by the designs of a stalker - and, without spoiling the "big reveal" of the conclusion, let's just say that I found it mostly unsatisfying. In my estimation, it all ends up being a trick of the storyteller - Mr. Cole - and not a development of characters trapped within a story. Now, don't get me wrong: it's all exceedingly well-made, and, yes, I'd give it a respectable three stars because I think it works loosely as a character study for James Deakin (loosely, not definitively) ... but I can't dismiss the fact that everything which transpires does so entirely by creation of the writer/director, not the character as he's been presented here. Had there been more time with Amy - the wife - then I might have more to go on in terms of evaluating the story, how James and Amy choose to live their relationship (here, it's reduced to a single narrative `beat,' that being their mutual frustration with one another), how James gets along at work, etc. There are hints - subtle threads of the man's less-than-stellar work performance, the inkling of a former workplace romance, the hint of some spousal abuse - but it was all too small and too inconclusive for my tastes.

If a voyeur chooses his subject randomly, then the portrait of that random choice says something about our society. Am I to believe that every man has a past like James? That's a deduction I just can't support, not given the scraps presented here.

388 ARLETTA AVENUE is produced by Copperheart Entertainment. DVD distribution is handled through New Video. As to the production quality of the DVD? Well ... to be honest, I had some problems with the video and audio, but I know it all relates to the nature of the beast here. As a `found footage' picture, ARLETTA is entirely filmed and recorded with tiny hidden cameras, all equipped with small microphones. One could make the argument that the audio should've been heavily remixed in post production in order to bring some clarity to ALL of the dialogue, not just the snippets that the Mr. Cole wanted or needed as the writer/director, and that's a big miscue. Simply, there are way too many sections of dialogue that I had to turn the audio all the way up to get any possible idea of what was being said. Stylistically, that was possibly Cole's intent; however, I thought it was a big mistake. I shouldn't have to watch a film and repeatedly keep adjusting the volume in order to understand the happenings. The disc boasts only a single special feature - a behind-the-scenes "interview" with the cast and crew - but be warned: it's only 3 minutes in length, and there's really nothing substantive learned from it. Disappointing.

RECOMMENDED, especially for fans of `found footage' pictures. While it's little more than a variation on the `found footage' premise - a jazzy riff on a familiar tune - it's certainly well done enough to keep others interested, though I don't know that they'll hang with it OR be entirely excited by its conclusion. On the plus side, most of these cameras are mounted to tripods, so you don't get the usual herky-jerky videotaping commonly associated to other flicks in this genre; on the down side, the story really asks the viewer to suspend disbelief quite a bit by failing the true identity of a compelling villain with a compelling mission, and, apparently, that was all by design. Sorry, creative people, but I don't know anyone with this much time and this much money to invest this much of his life into simply eeking out his days as a routine stalker ... except, maybe, Bruce Wayne. Last I knew, his days and nights were already tied up with some other personal mission.

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video provided me with a DVD screener of 388 ARLETTA AVENUE for the expressed purposes of completing the review.
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Randall Cole's "388 Arletta Avenue" is an interesting idea of a movie, but that's about all it is. Beyond the initial premise, the screenplay doesn't even attempt to provide much story and/or characterization for its audience to grasp onto. It is an unconventional choice, but one that left me completely disconnected to any potential tension or thrills in this half-baked and vague idea of a plot. Styled similarly to the "found footage" genre of filmmaking, every scene in "388 Arletta Avenue" is grainy, unfocused, and captured from a distance. As a young couple (played by Nick Stahl and Mia Kirshner) is watched by a mysterious stranger, their lives are being taped and this scrutiny starts to unnerve our pair (and rightly so). Just who is this intruder into their lives and what is his goal? And does it matter? Ultimately, Cole seems to think that motive or ANY type of back story is completely unnecessary--so you'll just have to go with the flow as the unseen villain gets closer and closer to the couple.

While the idea of unwanted attention can be unsettling, I never thought this movie went anywhere original or intriguing. When Kirshner disappears, Stahl is left to wonder if something nefarious has happened or if it is just the product of their increasing discord. The paranoia that might have fueled the story doesn't have much impact, though, because the obvious stalking makes one conclusion the most likely. As the unpleasant games intensify, Stahl is pushed precipitously close to a breaking point. Although seen only from a distance, I did appreciate the intensity of Stahl's performance. The movie might have been truly electrifying had we known or cared anything about the protagonists (or the villain for that matter). Again, though, we don't. So as the movie heads for its "dramatic" conclusion," I really didn't have much interest. The disconnected feel of the experience made everything seem drawn out and tedious for me.

I also had a intellectual problem with the visual style of the movie, if that even matters. To create this voyeuristic vibe, it seems that every scene is filmed through hidden cameras as well as the stalker's handheld camera. Are we supposed to believe that Stahl's house, car, and office are wired with equipment? Or is that just a movie-making style we should accept? I felt like Cole was implying that every moment was being watched by the unseen menace. But it seemed a bit odd that Stahl's car, for example, had three different camera angles shooting the interior. You can't create this type of visual style if it doesn't make sense in the logical realm. Maybe it's a small point. But as I was never really involved with this thriller, it made these questions more glaring. 1 1/2 stars, I'll round up for Stahl. I've always liked him and hope he gets his life and career back on track. KGHarris, 9/12.
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on June 1, 2012
Is worth watching. I didn't love it but it was interesting enough all the way through. Nick Stahl was great. I liked it but a movie has to be really bad for me not to. Voyeurism at it's creepiest! This movie is a weird, fun ride.
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This is a good movie but I feel it would've been much better if told like a normal movie, rather than only from a voyueristic viewpoint. The 'Blaine Witch Project'/hidden camera viewpoint is getting a little overused and seems like a lazy way to make a movie. It's very restricted and doesn't allow you to follow the storyline in depth, which can be very frustrating. Overall a good story, but the way it was filmed leaves a lot to be desired.
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on April 11, 2014
This movie over, you feel all sticky, like you look down in you BASEMENT. Maybe that where they action take down, I cannot say, I should not spoil, I just want you get comfortable sit tight in they BASEMENT, cause they movie take a lot time you maybe don't have!
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on November 3, 2012
388 Arletta Avenue tells the story of a young couple, James and Amy, as they are stalked by an unknown person; this mysterious person has entered their home and car to set-up hidden cameras to monitor their actions without reason. When Amy disappears to "clear her mind", James becomes paranoid as he is tormented by the stalker. This is another film that uses the found-footage style.

The story and the concept are creepy. Unknowingly being watched and recorded is a creepy concept; there's a chilling scene where the stalker records James as he sleeps, which can send many ideas through your mind. (Have I ever been recorded as I slept?) Unfortunately, this film doesn't have many of these chilling scenes. It actually has a very slow pace, especially in the first half; there isn't enough dialogue or genuine suspense to really immerse you into the film. It's not really thrilling, or scary. The acting was great, it basically got the job done. It somewhat uniquely uses the found-footage style, which is another plus. Although a bit predictable, the ending was great.

Overall, the movie is decent and has a creepy concept; it doesn't really engage or immerse the audience and probably would've been more effective as a short film, though. As of 11/3/12, this film is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video, I recommend streaming or renting before purchasing.

388 Arletta Avenue has blood and violence, has no sex or nudity
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on January 2, 2014
I can't imagine this film getting more than one star. I had no interest in it what-so-ever. James knows someone has been in his house and on his computer. Does he... Change the locks? Look at computer cookies? Nope. The movie is more about bad amateur camera angles attempting to creep us out in a genre that is already full with far better films.

I feel like I saw a different film from the other reviewers. At no time did I feel engaged, creeped out, thrilled, or even interested the real time slow moving actions of James. Hey Look! He just rolled over in bed and we get to see it from two angles!!! Whoa!
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on May 19, 2012
what a creepy little movie..........fresh new way to make stalkers seem creepier than they already are............i liked how the movie was the perspective of the stalkers view from his was done very was subtle but got the point across & was a good suspensful ride.....stalkers so have the advantage with all our wonderful technology...yikes......a bit too real....makes u wonder if anyone is watching "you" now.....check this movie out !!!!
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on September 16, 2014
Excellent. Original plot but very disturbing. Not for the faint of heart but if you like psychological thrillers this is for you. Nominated for the Tribeca Film Festival so you know it has to have met high standards
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on October 14, 2014
Awful, awful movie. Please don't waste your time with this, there are literally no redeemable qualities about this film. I mean seriously the thing with found footage movies is that they have to be as realistic as possible in order for us to buy into that this is real, but the cops in this movie are anything but. Inept doesn't even begin to describe them I mean he has a video of a hooded stranger entering his house after his wife's disappearance and his cats head in the mailbox and they still think hes lying and blowing thingss out of proportion. WHAT?! Terrible all around, the director and producer should feel bad.
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