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Starring Edward Furlong, Jaime Pressly, Andrew Keegan, Susan Ward, Sanoe Lake, Laura Ramsey, Aimee Garcia
Directed by Kelsey T. Howard
The reality TV-themed horror flick Cruel World is only now finally seeing the light of day after spending the last three years stuck in distribution limbo. My personal guess as to what really took so long to finally get the film out there - the distributors actually watched it. I don't know what it is about reality television-themed horror movies but they are almost consistently bad and Cruel World is one of those movies that's just plain old' bad. A polished production with an attractive cast and a premise that held loads of promise, yes, but the film is simply an abject failure any which way you cut it.
A rather bloated-looking Edward Furlong giving a terrible performance of drunken Matthew Lillard proportions stars as a former reality show contestant who got his heart broken on national television by Jaime Pressly as part of some "Joe Millionaire" meets "The Bachelorette" sort of program. Though the footage of his humiliation didn't seem all that humiliating compared to some of things we've probably all seen on actual reality TV shows, getting dumped in front of television audience caused him to go psycho nonetheless.
Anyone picking up this flick just for Jaime Pressly should expect to be sorely disappointed because she's not long for this cruel world; her role is really little more than a glorified cameo and she's gone by the 15-minute mark.
Turns out Furlong has also been putting out ads in a bunch of college papers around the country to lure a group of attractive coed dimwits (including Susan Ward, wasted in a role gives her nothing to do except look pretty and talk with a phony Texas twang) to Pressly's extravagant reality TV house in the middle of nowhere still adorned with the close circuit camera system. Why? So he can fool them into thinking they're taking part in a phony reality show where, unbeknownst to them, those eliminated are legitimately eliminated. Why? Because he's a psycho, I guess. Fortunately for Furlong, his contestants are so stupid it takes them an unrealistically lengthy amount of time to think anything's at all strange about a reality TV show that doesn't have a camera crew anywhere and the host is merely an unseen voice who talks to them over an intercom.
Furlong will spend the majority of the film sitting in a darkened room in front of a microphone and monitors looking disheveled with a cigarette in hand as if he were starring in a dinner theater production of Talk Radio. He'll give them instructions and provide us with an uninteresting commentary track on the events he's watching unfold until the deception is revealed at which time he'll just yell at them and do a fair amount of taunting, also uninteresting.
Furlong's inactivity requires a manservant to do his real dirty work (i.e. kill the losers), and it just so happens Furlong happens to have at his disposal an easily manipulated big, bald, mongoloid willing to do his bidding in exchange for the promise of getting to keep a pretty contestant, The Ruins' Laura Ramsey. The way the character is written I'm amazed his dialogue didn't consist of him just saying "yarp" every time he opened his mouth.
From what I knew of Cruel World going in I was expecting it to be about Furlong as a disgruntled reality TV contestant seeking revenge on Pressly under the guise of a deadly reality show he'd orchestrated for her and other unlucky wannabe TV stars. Instead he gets that revenge in the opening minutes and then spends the rest of the film tormenting a random sampling of vacuous reality TV wannabes all of whom are as short on substance as the DVD is barebones. One thing reality television is good at is manipulating reality, making real people into almost fictional caricatures of themselves. Cruel World fails to make anything out of its potential victims. Worse yet, the competitions they're forced to compete aren't terrible gross or imaginative, especially when you consider theyre the creations of a madman. Lame personalities. Lamer stunts. Not exactly Mark Burnett's Saw, that's for sure.
It's clear the makers of Cruel World wanted to make a horror movie that has something to say about the mental vulnerability of people taking part on a reality show and how so many are often callously manipulated by the show's producers in order to make for a more compelling program, as well as wanting to play up the old adage of how far a person will go when pushed to their mental extremes, particularly in life or death situations. It's clear the filmmakers wanted to make all these points but they fail miserably. Like any good reality competition show you have to feel something, anything, for the people involved and the tasks they're competing in have to be imaginative, really extreme, crazy fun, or somehow, in some way, suspenseful. Even with the life or death motif, psycho Furlong's mock reality show is so devoid of entertainment value if it were an actual reality TV program I strongly suspect it would get cancelled after one episode.