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May 9, 2014

Movie Review: Tin Can Man (2007)

Directed by Ivan Kavanough

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Peter (Patrick O'Donnell) is a working class schmoe with a boring office job. His non-committal girlfriend has rebuffed his recent marriage proposal. One evening, while he listens to Depression Era jazz there is a knock at the door of his gloomy apartment. An unctuous weasel-like man (Michael Parle) asks to his use Peter's phone as “there has been a terrible accident” (shades of A Clockwork Orange!). Taking Peter's phone in the hallway, he roars with malefic laughter. Returning Peter's phone, the overbearing gentleman makes inane chit-chat until he reveals the inevitable: There was no terrible accident, and he's there to whisk Peter away for an evening of horrible adventure …

The two pay a visit to Peter's drunken sot of a father. The man ingratiates himself to tipsy old dad, but then announces that Peter must accompany him to the restroom in order to hold his penis. Ordered out by the seething father, the man suggests to Peter that he should just up and put his father out of his misery.

There are more strange visitations that evening, the most terrifying being Peter's introduction to the “Tin Can man” of the title. A masked, mute figure covered with tin cans, the pathetic creature is made to dance and sing at the man's command. The man then introduces Peter to his “family,” two Irish lasses and “mother,” a woman with pancaked makeup. The three sexually humiliate Peter, who has taken all the evening's abuse without complaint or trying to physically escape his host's clutches. There is a rather predictable ending.

Tin Can Man, according to press releases, has been compared to David Lynch and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Huh? True, the film is shot in black-and-white – as Lynch did with Eraserhead (1977) and The Elephant Man (1980), but Tin Can Man is shot with a series of sloppy, hand-held cameras, often completed in a single take. Lynch's confident mise-en-scene is nowhere to be found. As for Texas Chainsaw, it's true that the male lead is subjected to abuse, but all of it so light and ridiculous, it's a wonder he just doesn't get bored and walk away! All of the scenes in Tin Can Man are slack and obviously improvised, with no tension generated by the mild scares.   

Another example of Irish genre fare, similar to The Looking Glass (read my review here), Tin Can Man in technique is at best, “sloppy casual.” Scenes are shot in high-contrast black and white, with what is presumed to be video cameras that are then “film-looked” in post-production. It may very well have all been shot in the time it takes to sit and watch it. Many first-time filmmakers fall in the predictable trap of just gathering some friends and just filming what happens, hoping or the best. The end results are often just boring scenes that add no momentum to the story.

The one thing that Tin Can Man does have is a fine, grandstanding performance in the form of Michael Parle. Dapper and slicked back, Parle is adept at milking a scene for its potential. Perpetually smiling with a mouthful of jagged teeth, no one but the most na├»ve – i.e., Peter – would ever take him up on his offer for an evening's “entertainment.”

Among the extras included on the DVD are the film's trailer, and an all-too obviously staged collection of audience testimonials on how Tin Can Man's premiere at the Dublin Film festival “was the most horrifying film they've ever seen!” The audience members are doubtlessly friends and family of the filmmakers, although it's not as obvious as one other filmmaker I know – I won't be naming names – who passes off his terribly amateurish features with similar tactics. This director in question, who makes extremely low-budget films with limited cast members, film reactions of audience members leaving his features at theaters where they were “four-walled.” All the ersatz audience members talk at length about how wonderful and psychologicalyl astute the movie is – hoping against hope that no one recognizes them as being ACTORS IN THE FILMS THEMSELVES! Yes, Virginia, there are people like that out there …

Director Kavanough is set to return with yet another horror feature entitled The Canal. I think I'll pass.

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