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Saturday, May 4, 2013

CLONED: The Recreator Chronicles DVD Review

I’m a sucker for films that play with the theme of identity, and obviously any movie that is about clones is going to fit right in with that. CLONED: The Recreator Chronicles is a science fiction horror film about three friends who go camping on an island and end up meeting duplicates of themselves, clones that are stronger, smarter and more arrogant.

The movie begins on a dark and stormy night. Lightning hits…well, it’s unclear at first just what it hits, but later it turns out to be some sort of cesspool. Anyway, lightning hits it, and a hand reaches out. Hey, isn’t that how Jason Voorhees is brought back to life in Friday The 13th Part VI? Not in a cesspool, of course, but…

The film cuts back and forth between the scenes that night, and scenes from a later day when the three friends arrive by canoe at Brewster Island Campground. It’s actually an interesting way of presenting the information. Tracy, upon arrival, needs to use the bathroom and decides rather than digging a hole in the ground she’ll go up to the house in the distance. So her approach to the house is cut with the previous tenants of the house (Frank and Elizabeth Miller) meeting their fate. By the way, Dr. Frank Miller is played by John de Lancie (who will be well known to fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Tracy (Stella Maeve) is able to find a hidden key to the house and uses the bathroom without being disturbed by any occupants. Then that night it rains. Uh-oh, another storm. In the tent that Craig and Tracy share, we’re treated to some awful exposition. Craig says, “You did the summer abroad thing. I stayed home and worked in a hardware store.” A little later Tracy says, “I told you, I’ll go to community college for a year and then we’ll see.” I always feel that when characters deliver lines like that, they should just turn to the camera and say them straight to us. Anyway, when lightning begins striking near the friends’ campsite, the three decide they’ll spend the night in the house.

Craig (Alexander Nifong) is the only sensible one of the three, reminding the others that this house isn’t actually theirs, as Derek builds a fire in the fireplace and Tracy goes to take a shower.  The next morning they wake inside the house, in the owners’ beds. And of course the owners return. Or, rather, clones of the owners return. And though the three friends hide, they are soon discovered.

The clone couple makes Craig and Derek bury the bodies of the original couple. And we learn that they were not the original owners of this house. An atomic scientist lived there in the fifties (and of course performed some of his work there). Ah-ha! When it becomes clear that these clones aim to kill the friends, they run. And are saved by their own clones.

One thing I like about this film is that once the three clones show up, it doesn’t become a long, drawn-out fight between them. Clone Craig tells real Craig to make breakfast. Derek (Jamal Mallory-McCree) takes off, and then the film cuts to real Craig and real Tracy holding plates of pancakes. Tracy says, “What are we doing?” And Craig responds, “I don’t know, but it’s getting cold.”  I love that sense of humor that the film has. Also, it’s not like they’re terrified of the clones; they’re more curious. They actually want to learn how this all came about rather than just get away from them or kill them. And that gives this film a much different feel from most films of its genre.

The clones have the friends’ memories, and so they begin revealing things about them. For example, clone Tracy says that real Tracy came on this trip only to break up with Craig, that she’s been seeing someone else. Craig begins getting close to clone Tracy, and she tells him that she and the real Tracy aren’t exactly alike. And though the clones are supposedly smarter than the real people, clone Tracy then says this: “More like cousins separated at birth.” Wait, are cousins usually together at birth? (My friend Devon Kurtz and I used to do a routine where we played evil twin cousins.) Clone Tracy continues, “Except she got the good genes and I got the bad.” She and real Craig then go skinny dipping.

However, what’s actually interesting is that what she said about the bad genes isn’t quite true. And you begin to actually like clone Tracy more than the real Tracy. Especially when she wears that cute maroon sweater.  Meanwhile real Tracy is messing around with clone Craig. Can it really be considered cheating when the person you’re cheating with is a clone of your partner? There’s a moment when real Tracy hands real Craig a shirt like the one that clone Craig wears and tells him to put it on. I love twisted stuff like that. And Stella Maeve does a particularly good job creating two characters who are similar, yet distinct.

This film makes one interesting use of split screen. Clone Derek is outside, and he looks in through one panel of a window. The other panels then go dark, and another image appears there while we still see Derek. It’s a cool shot, but oddly it’s the only instance of split screen for the entire film.

There is some interesting stuff with the reflections of the clones that’s never quite explained. And of course the friends discover the underground laboratory of the atomic scientist. And when Tracy figures out how the clones came to be, it’s, well, quite absurd. And it perhaps gives a clue as to why the clones seem to be the exaggerated cases of their lesser qualities (with the exception of Tracy, of course).

But while the film has its shortcomings, I actually enjoyed it. At the end of the closing credits it says, “To be continued.”

Special Features

The DVD has some bonus material, including The Making of CLONED, which features interviews with a lot of the cast and crew, including Stella Maeve, Alexander Nifong, Jamal Mallory-McCree, John de Lancie, Laura Moss, Mary Frederickson and Lynn Appelle. Writer/director Gregory Orr talks about the idea for the film, and says that the theme is that no one wants to be replaced, whether it’s by the younger generation or by having one’s job moved overseas. We all want to think of ourselves as unique.

There are also two deleted scenes. The first is a scene of clone Craig talking with real Tracy in the bedroom. The second is a scene of the Millers (John de Lancie and Laura Moss) before they were replaced by their clones. It basically sets up their relationship on the night of the first storm. It’s their anniversary, and the hospital calls him in. She doesn’t want him to go, reminds him they’re on an island, but he decides he must go. Just how he would get to the hospital in time isn’t quite clear, and maybe that’s why this scene was cut.

And the film’s trailer is included. (By the way, there are trailers for a few other films as well, including one about Nazi tea that I just have to see.)

CLONED: The Recreator Chronicles was released on April 23, 2013.

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