Although it’s in way credited as such (probably due to rights issues which it cannily avoids by being inspired by the same true-life case), RSVP is essentially yet another modern remake, this time of Hitchcock’s classic Rope. Of all the Hitch classics, Rope seems like one of the more suitable for remaking, given that it’s not without its problems. The trouble is, Rope’s greatest strength is its technique, its “one-shot” one-set technical challenge that appealed so much to the director, rather than it’s narrative. And so by keeping the weaker parts of Hitchcock’s film & ditching its best parts, RSVP gives itself something of an uphill challenge to struggle against, & unfortunately it’s one it can’t quite overcome.
Nick (Rick Otto) is a criminology student, who decides to celebrate the end of semester by throwing a party for his friend. The guests arrive, but there’s no sign of the guest of honour. And so the guests start to leave – or are they being killed one by one?
Yes, there is more to RSVP than simply Rope, as the film pretty radically builds up a body count in typical slasher movie style, albeit pursuing a tone more in keeping with American Psycho, a similarity heightened by Otto’s pretty lazy impersonation of Christian Bale in that film. The really big problem with RSVP is that it thinks it’s being incredibly intelligent, witty & edgy, when actually it’s incredibly smug, self-satisfied & pretentious. As indicated by the Production Notes, the makes clearly think that this film is so much superior to most of modern horror (things like The Faculty & I Know…), when actually it’s not – it’s just different, that’s all. Instead of having a group of annoying, self-obsessed teenagers whining about their problems, we’re stuck with a group of annoying, self-obsessed young twenty-something’s, who sit & regurgitate a load of “witty, intelligent” conversations about the nature of fame & infamy, & other such bollocks. Fair play to the makers for wanting to address serious & intelligent themes in the film (I rather wish more films would have this ambition), but dealing with these themes by having a group of entirely annoying, pretentious wankers sitting around talking about them in between drinking, smoking pot, & dancing around to Madness is clearly not the way forward.
It’s a bit of a shame, because there is some real potential on display here. Galluzzo clearly knows what to do with the camera, & delivers some lovely moments, including some highly impressive roving steadicam work, which hints back at the Hitchcock film as well as the likes of Altman, Scorsese & PT Anderson. Plus, Jason Mewes is always eminently watchable, even if he’s just playing the same character as usual (basically himself if the behind the scenes stuff is anything to go by), albeit slightly more chilled out than in the Kevin Smith films. There are a couple of nice songs on the soundtrack, although too often it’s used in an overtly ironic manner, to play in humorous counterpoint to the onscreen actions. A grating rock version of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is just plain annoying.
A slightly unusual technique means that from very early on we know who the killer is, so that we can enjoy his witty double-entendres as he talks to the rest of the guests. This does, however, severely drain the film of any kind of tension or suspense, as we watch one annoying character slowly killing off a load of other annoying characters in blood-free manners. By refusing to make the killings too graphic (the UK 18 certificate is due primarily to the large amount of drug usage), RSVP quite plainly aims to be a thriller, rather than full-on horror, but they also make the killings much more blasé, superficial exercises in refined black humour. They totally lack any of the nasty edge that made American Psycho so satisfying. The notes say that the question is not who – or where, how, with what or whatever – by why? Well, as far as I’m concerned the question is very much who cares? I certainly didn’t.
The UK DVD is in R2/PAL format, & has a strong anamorphic widescreen picture, & great sound. For extras, there’s a trailer, 11 deleted or extended scenes, extensive Production Notes (with behind the scenes stills), & some filmographies. There’s also around 20 minutes of random behind the scenes footage, much of which is shot by Mewes (making it something of a must for his fans). Sadly, he also left the tape out in the sun, so it’s now of extremely poor quality. It’s by no means a terrible collection, but it’s certainly no showstopper either, & with the frankly supremely annoying nature of the film itself, I’m afraid I must RSVP in the resounding negative.