Written by Diane Tillis
I will admit, the moment I saw the cover of the DVD I was already convinced this was going to be one of the worst films I have ever seen or a close second. The cover has a dark figure cloaked in a blue throw blanket and is holding a leaf blower as a weapon… a leaf blower?! Four Boxes turned out to be one of those independent thriller films that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Trevor (Justin Kirk), Amber (Terryn Westbrook) and Rob (Sam Rosen) work together collecting people’s possessions after they have died and have no one to claim them. They search the deceased’s home and put any possessions up for auction on Ebay. Trevor and Rob come across the home of a disturbed loner. He keeps collections of cleaning products, photos of people with their faces cut out, porn, and wires in large individual plastic containers. The home is bare of decorations and furniture except for the random containers, two air mattresses, a desk, and computer. Next to the computer, Rob finds a sticky note with ‘fourboxes.tv’ written on it. At one point the site was a live streaming video look into the apartment of a single woman. Then she moved out, and a man moved in who did not know about the hidden cameras in the apartment. Trevor and Rob become obsessed with the bizarre behavior of the creepy individual they call Havoc.
Havoc sleeps in a cage, builds bombs, and tests poisonous gas on kittens. He has rigged a leaf blower as a weapon to expel this gas. Havoc also has a partner in crime named Zip Lock who wears a turban with metal links daggling in front of his face like a veil and a plastic jumpsuit similar to a scientist’s uniform. Together the partners test the gas on an innocent female victim. Then they build several pipe bombs and ship them off to different major cities in the United States. As they manufacture these weapons, the friends debate over whether they should try and stop them or enjoy the show.
While this film has an interesting concept, it fails in the delivery. I am a firm believer that every film needs a strong script; without one the film is a failure even before production. Four Boxes made no sense to me. It relies on the techno-talk language of the early 21st century. Techno-talk is expected to come from young characters whose lives are dominated by the internet, like the teenage characters of Juno or Jennifer’s Body. Four Boxes has this type of speech come from 30-something adults. At one point Rob says to his fiancée, Amber, “I don’t even understand what you are saying. You’re not making any sense. You are just talking nonsense.” Wow, sounds similar to how I felt about the film’s script! The script makes the film awkward and impossible to connect with the characters.
The climax of the film presents the twist of the concept. The characters have been watching Havoc build the bombs and ship off the packages, and then several movers help Havoc move out of his apartment. They remove the furniture and walls as if it was a staged set. Next the movers re-stage the apartment with objects that are very familiar to the objects of the house the friends are auctioning off. Trevor finds the hidden cameras in smoke detectors and wall clocks. He discovers the steaming video feed was from days ago and calls his friends to tell them what he has learned. Then Trevor switches it over to the live feed and finds Zip Lock standing in one of the rooms, holding the gas-expelling, leaf blower weapon. After Zip Lock has killed Trevor and dragged his body to the garage, the twist is revealed.
The friends have staged everything! Trevor, Amber, and Rob decided to create a web show that would make them famous and hopefully lead to greater acting careers. Havoc and Zip Lock were just made-up characters, the four cameras were staged, and everything the trio said while inside the house was part of a script. Rob undresses as Zip Lock and gives the costume to Trevor. Rob and Amber return to the house, acting as scared friends after Trevor’s phone call. Zip Lock, now played by Trevor, kills Rob and Amber to conclude the story.
Once the filming was complete, Trevor put the video on line under ‘fourboxes.tv.’ The website’s name comes from the four cameras simultaneously shooting video in different rooms of the house and was set up as four boxes on the computer screen. The trio waits as more people log on to watch the video and prepares their concluding speeches to their audience.
The ending comes out of nowhere. It was ironic, but it doesn’t connect with the concept of the film. Before the ending happens, you believe the film is trying to take a critical look at how the internet has taken over our lives. We spend hours each day checking our email, watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, and playing games. However, the ending comes out of left field and contradicts this supposed interpretation.
The video aspect ratio is 1.78:1. The video quality is similar to low-budget 90s films even though the film is set in 2005. The screen transitions are also straight out of the 90s, using a whitewash technique that dilutes the picture quality.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio is not equalized throughout the film. Frequently I had to raise the volume to hear the actors talking; then I would have to lower it when the background music played because it was too loud. Also, whenever the background music played over the dialog, it was difficult to make out.
The only special features on the disc are the Deleted Scenes and Bloopers. There are only two deleted scenes, and the bloopers are not funny.
Bad acting + a bad script + a confusing ending = one of the worst films I have ever seen. It takes a lot for me to dislike a film, but this film has it in spades. I couldn’t find one redeeming quality that would make me want to recommend it to anyone. Well, maybe if you have insomnia and need something to help put you to sleep, then this would be the perfect film for you.