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'Otis' More than Meets the Eye

10 Mar, 2008 By: Stephanie Prange

The cast of Otis

AUSTIN, Texas — Like its sadsack serial killing lead character, Otis isn't exactly what you expect.

The latest entrant in Warner Home Video's “Raw Feed” label — a midnight premiere March 7 at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival — walks the line between horror and comedy.

Bostin Christopher (who plays the titular killer Otis) admits the genre is actually hard to classify.

“You think, ‘I just laughed at that. Should I laugh at that?’ he said.

“I kept on waiting for the movie to jump the shark and it didn't,” said Kevin Pollack, who plays Otis's irascible brother.

The story follows a family whose daughter Riley (Ashley Johnson) is kidnapped by Otis, who uses young girls to create his high school dream date. But the victims turn vigilante, turning the movie on its head.

Illeana Douglas plays the suburban mom who takes bloody revenge.

“Even though the stakes are pretty high, you play it straight and that sort of makes it funny,” she explained.

Shot in 18 days, the film benefitted from director Tony Krantz's calm focus, cast members said.

“He never got angry,” Johnson said.

Actor Jere Burns, who plays a rather clinical FBI agent, said of the time crunch: “You get it. You got it. You move on.”

Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen had more in mind than black comedy when they crafted Otis. An underlying theme is the effect of unreasoned revenge, punctuated by a music score that includes tracks from The B-52s and The Talking Heads.

“America went after the wrong people,” Krantz said. “We went after Iraq. They had nothing to do with 9/11.”

The country “sunk to the level of the tormenters,” Jendresen said.

Krantz admitted all audiences won't get the political undertones, but said they'll find the movie entertaining nonetheless. There are also ample extras on the DVD, due June 10 (prebook May 6), including a featurette that further explores Otis's psychosis, “Suite 16”; a commentary with Krantz and Jendresen; and an alternate ending shot specifically for the DVD that many of the cast members actually prefer.

“I honestly don't know why they changed it,” Christopher said.

Krantz's Flame Ventures is heavily involved in not just the “Raw Feed” direct-to-video project with Warner, but DTV titles for MTV, The Weinstein Co. and others.

It's a market nobody else is adequately mining, he said.

Why not?

“They are all idiots; they are not getting it,” Krantz said. “We serve a niche.”

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