'Arletta Ave' a slow trip to nowhere

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:03 PM ET

The most interesting thing about the low-budget suspense thriller 388 Arletta Ave. -- maybe the only interesting thing -- is the elephant-in-the-room that is Nick Stahl.

Stahl (Carnivale, Terminator 3) plays an ad exec who's being stalked and generally mind-futzed by person(s) unknown, and who can't convince the world that his wife's disappearance is for real.

You may recall that Stahl himself was reported to have mysteriously disappeared several weeks back. After a time, there were reports that friends had received e-mails claiming he was in rehab. But at least one news report said police weren't entirely sure they believed the e-mails.

This real-life mystery contaminates the one onscreen. It might even give 388 Arletta Ave. a frisson of legitimate tension it doesn't otherwise merit, given its plotholes and strained credulity. It is also a particularly egregious offender in a shaky-camera era that is the cinematic equivalent of a multi-year plague of locusts.

Shot in a stalker's-eye-view reminiscent of Joel Schumacher's claustrophobic gem Phone Booth (but minus the surehandedness), 388 Arletta Ave. opens with video angles of young married couple James (Stahl) and Amy (Mia Kirshner), dealing with almost poltergeist-like occurrences in their home (unlocked doors, alarms going off by themselves, think Paranormal Activity).

The audience doesn't share their cluelessness, however, getting a view from inside the stalker's car throughout (that's when we're not getting our brains rattled by the perp running, video-camera-in-hand).

After a seemingly mild argument, Amy disappears, leaving a vague note. Not believing she could have actually left him, James sets off on a self-analytical quest to figure out who he could have ticked off enough to set off a stalker-psychosis. Candidates include a ticked-off ex-girlfriend, and, seemingly most likely, a troubled young man named Bill (Devon Sawa) that James bullied in high school.

As unimpressed as the police initially are by Amy's disappearance, stuff happens -- some of it right on computer hard-drives -- that should convince even the most jaded cop that there may be something nefarious going on. But no, the authorities are pretty much out of the picture until the predictably improbable last act.

Derivative and devoid of character development (for someone who spends the entire movie regretting his past, James is still pretty much a cipher in need of a shave), 388 Arletta Ave. is a slow boat to nowhere.

 


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