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Fantasia Review: There’s Not Much Depth to The Man in the Orange Jacket

review score 5jacketThe Man in the Orange Jacket takes a familiar scenario and turns it on its head. And writer-director Aik Karapetian brings plenty of visual flare to this Latvian slasher/home invasion entry, but there’s a lot of posturing on display here that doesn’t amount to much in the end.

Seemingly inspired by the menace of Philippe Nahon’s costume in High Tension – work garb, hat pulled down low – Karapetian introduces us to the harbor worker (Dan, per the credits, although he’s never identified). There’s something about his anonymous visage – with his orange safety vest and hat pulled down low – that sets off a red flag. And it works quite well when, only moments after meeting him, we see Dan creeping around a giant, isolated mansion and slaughtering an old man and his young wife with whatever Dan has in his toolbox (he’s a toolbox murderer!). This old man is responsible for laying off Dan and many others from the harbor and Dan is clearly a disturbed individual who was out for revenge.

That’s about all we know of our protagonist and Karapetian appears to favor beautifully composed shots over granting us any more insight into this Dan’s warped head. Perhaps it’s because the film is far too smug with its concept that it feels there’s enough here to get us through the story. But there really isn’t.

Here we have a home invasion in which the killer actually makes the home he has invaded his own. It’s clever in that Dan is clearly someone who is not accustomed to the riches he forcefully inherited and that once he gets it…he doesn’t really know what do with himself. He settles into a a state of ennui quite quickly, in fact. He rests on the expensive couches, he dines on fancy meals, he clothes himself in a comfortable robe and saunters around the house – all the while, two bodies are left to rot in the bowels of the mansion. Soon, however, paranoia begins to creep in with mysterious phone calls and a stranger who comes a-knockin’ looking to make a purchase. Dan feels like he’s being haunted, complete with creaking doors and odd footsteps.

Is he genuinely being haunted, though? Or, is his mind playing tricks on him? Has guilt for the crimes he’s committed taken over? Or is the house and all that it has to offer simply too much for him? There’s lots to explore in his madness and the clearly-defined economic divide that’s at play in the film, but it’s not. Karapetian presents four chapter breaks throughout the film. Why? Not entirely sure. But I will commend his directorial eye and editing. It’s classy and confident. Newcomer Maxim Lazarev delivers on the creep value as Dan, too, which truly shines when he frantically dials a call girl service looking for companionship. The scene paves the way for a nasty fantasy that involves him slaughtering the prostitutes yet, again, it only serves to push the shock value button and nothing more.

I wish I could recommend this one given the advance praise I read about how it redefines the slasher genre, but this one is all style over substance (not to mention it has very little actual killing thus making me wary of even calling it a slasher film).

The Man in the Orange Jacket made its premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival