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STATE’S EVIDENCE (directors: Benjamin Louis/Mark Brown; screenwriter: Mark Brown; cinematographer: Brandon Trost; editor: David Gati; music: Steve Yeaman; cast: Alexa Vega (Sandy), Douglas Smith (Scott Byers), Majandra Delfino (Trudi), Kris Lemche (Patrick), Cody McMains (Brian), Drew Tyler Bell (Rick), Andrew McFarlane (Tyrone Johnson), Beth Broderick (Scott’s Mom); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mark Brown/Breht Gardner/Jack Janda/Stephen L’Heureux; Terra Entertainment; 2006)
“Does some good work showing contemporary problems in high school such as teenage violence.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Benjamin Louis and Mark Brown helm this direct-to-DVD thriller, that’s scripted by Brown. It opens with a goofy suicide premise that is attention getting and has some bite but eventually degenerates into a bloody wake-up call to America that seems implausible even if such things do happen in reality.

It’s set in the middle-class community of Glendale, California. The 15-year-old Scott Byers (Douglas Smith) is a smug public high school student from a happy middle-class family who says he found his destiny and plans to kill himself today. We know he’s smart because he tells us he reads the philosophers Hume and Kant. He brings his camcorder to school to document every move he makes and tells his five closest friends of his plan, who think it’s such a great idea that they want to get in on the action and make it a suicide pact of six–delaying the suicide plans of Scott for another day. They all get camcorders and start documenting their last day alive (the title is derived from these tapes being used as state’s evidence after the suicide). The film lost me when it tried to show how they were all disgusted with life and suddenly just want to leave the planet with the bored Scott because of the following reasons: a dysfunctional family (Majandra Delfino), couldn’t find a love mate (Alexa Vega), has a screw loose (Kris Lemche), thought it would be a good journey (Drew Tyler Bell) and the last one seemed too brainless to have a reason except to conform with his peer group (Cody McMains).

The film falters further by going the exploitation route into violence and sex–taking us far away from the suicidal students’ everyday problems. This comes after it does some good work showing contemporary problems in high school such as teenage violence, a white male conflict over a black jock bullying and taunting him over his foxy white girlfriend, the general tedium of school life, bad cafeteria food, how underfunded education has become and a long laundry list of other student complaints.

As a plea to society for more attention to our children and more money for education, the film made sense. But when it moves into the third act everything falls apart and is only made worse because it becomes its most preachy just before it moves into Columbine massacre territory. Van Sant in his Elephant (2004) drove home the point further and in a more cogent way that there is no place in America to hide from the society we created.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”